July 23, 2001.

Congress of the United States of America

   DEAR CONGRESSMEN: You are debating the budget that would finance anti-narcotics strategy in the framework of Plan Colombia for fiscal year 2001-2002. As a Colombian Senator it is my duty to express the concern of millions of Colombians regarding the continuation of chemical fumigations (using Round-Up) to eradicate illegal crops in Colombia. Three arguments for suspending fumigation should be considered: 1. The strategy is not productive. Since 1992, the year in which the use of Round-Up for fumigations in Colombia was adopted, the total area has expanded by 400 percent (40,000 hectares in 1992, 160,000 hectares in 2001). You should consider the cost-benefit relationship on behalf of your electorate. American taxpayers are financing an inefficient strategy.

   2. Evidence exists of environmental damage from the application of the aerial fumigation. Legal crops meant to feed families are frequently fumigated and water sources are contaminated. The physical impossibility of acting with precision has led to the fumigation of agricultural projects financed with international technical cooperation. There are serious doubts regarding the effects of additives that are being used along with RoundUp (like Cosmoflux). I believe that given the uncertainty regarding environmental effects, in a society like that of the United Sated great caution would be exercised in deciding to fumigate without having in hand studies of environmental impact.

   3. The fumigations have generated the forced displacement of thousands of families toward the large cities, on the one hand, and toward areas of the Amazon where the cultivation of illegal crops is expanding due to the absence of alternative agricultural development policies. In a context of armed conflict and forced displacement in which the State must seek a monopoly on the use of force [by] combating groups outside the law, the fumigations are an attack on the civilian populations, especially indigenous, Afro-Colombian and humbles peasant communities.

   There exists in some sections of the Congress [of Colombia], for the reasons noted, the objective of reforming the anti-narcotics legislation. On the one hand, to de-criminalize the small producer with the objective of involving him in plans for alternative development and manual eradication of illegal crops, and on the other, to suspend the fumigations.

   The Governors of the south of Colombia, elected by popular vote, have serious proposals for regional alternative development and reject the fumigations.

   With other senators we have encouraged a public debate in Bogota for next July 31 on the inappropriateness of the fumigations.

   Your collaboration is very important. The tragic business of narco-trafficking involves demand and supply. You must examine the hypothesis that each dollar invested in prevention and treatment of addictions is more cost-effective. It is very importance to attack the financial aspects of the business on the supply side, while manual eradication accompanied by plans for alternative development will be more efficient for combating narco-trafficking.