By Jorge Enrique Robledo Castillo,
Senator of the Republic of Colombia
Bogotá, March 11, 2004
As if it were a great contribution to environmental care and to the democratic conceptions on which norms should be founded upon, the U.S. and Colombian governments celebrated the “success” of having sprayed from airplanes 132 thousand hectares of Colombian territory in 2003. And without all the usual fuss, the Uribe Velez administration and the U.S. congress and Government made the decision –illegal, to top it off- to spray with the very harmful Glyphosate, Cosmoflux and Poea over the Colombian national parks. Not even the universal infamy that this last measure portends against one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world was enough to dissuade them from their barbaric purpose. Is there a limit they are not willing to trespass? How high will they escalate in their so called fight against the narcotics trade?
I say “so called” fight because it can be proved that poisoning the coca and the opium poppy as well as other plants and people, animals and water does not even begin to touch the narcotics trade. If this policy has been applied for two decades, why is it then that in 2002 there were still 102.071 hectares of coca planted in Colombia if the aerial spraying that year got to 130.364 hectares and in 2003 another 132.817 hectares were also sprayed? Why the authorities don’t inform about the existing area of illicit crops in Colombia? This is a fake battle and its inefficiency can be demonstrated in another way: the price of the drugs has not increased in streets of the U.S, a change that would have occurred had that strategy been productive.
But even if aerial spraying had been successful, it would have been unacceptable. In any moderately civilized country the state would act under the principle that it can not be a lawful method to pursue lawlessness. How long would it take for George Bush to back down if he were to decide to spray the extensive marihuana crops in the U.S. from the air? And what would happen to him if he tried to do it to the U.S. national parks?
Aside from the obvious environmental degradation that is being denounced, so obvious it’s silly denying it, this topic has other rough edges. It is well known that the farmers, the indigenous people and the laborers who make a living on this business suffer from a miserable existence. The narcotrafficker’s enormous profits can not be confused with the meager income of the coca and poppy growers. The high cost of living in these regions is also well known, and so are the scarce health, education and infrastructure services. What makes hundreds of thousands of working people abandon their homes in order to endure the risks of an illegality that won’t take them out of their misery? An important part of the answer is that farming and cattle imports have eliminated 800 thousand hectares of seasonal crops and that 200 thousand additional hectares of coffee were lost because of speculative maneuvers run by transnational corporations. And when these besieged families are forced to grow the forbidden coca shrubs, the same vision that leaves them cornered are the rationale for fumigating them like roaches. What else will happen if the Free Trade of the Americas Agreement and the bilateral free-trade agreement are signed with the U.S.?
On the other hand, it is well known, that the biggest profits in the drug trade come from the retail business carried out by the mafias of the consumer countries; that their financial systems profit from the enormous resources of the criminals, and that it is in the consumer countries that precursor chemicals– that make possible the conversion of coca into cocaine and poppy into heroin—originate. Likewise, it is in those countries that the weapons that protect the illegal crops are manufactured. Nevertheless, the “war” is not carried out there, but in the producing countries, that far from benefiting, are themselves victims of the demand pressures coming from drug users. A “war” that also serves as a pretext to submit them to a never ending list of interventionist measures of all kinds, just as the developed countries military and agrochemical industries benefit from it.
The decision to spray the natural parks of Colombia must and will be defeated not just because they deserve the utmost care, just for being what they are, in the same way that the democratic rights of the people that actually live in the parks are worthy of all respect. It’s also crucial in achieving a country and a world where ends, even in commendable cases, cannot justify the use of any means. This principle, like taking care of nature, belongs to the heritage of civilization.
(Traducido del español por E. B.)