Socorro Ramírez

Colombia is the only country in the world where, instead of defending its people caught in the cross-fire of the Drug War, for the past three decades these people have been subjected to measures which have forced them to leave their homes due to the poisoning of their habitat with potent chemical mixtures —first Paraquat and later on with RoundUp—which damage their health, biodiversity, water sources and crops.  

It’s hard to understand how President Santos can accept the disaster of the drug crusade while failing to listen to entreaties demanding an end to aerial spraying; entreaties underlined by indigenous, afro-Colombian and peasant marches and strikes by those being subjected to this toxic spraying without even being forewarned nor listened to when they complain; while failing to respond to human rights and environmental organizations’ demands for a moratorium on aerial spraying pending his government’s studies on the environmental, humanitarian and social and economic impacts of this measure and on the means to repair the damages.    

It’s hard to understand how the Santos Government can have resumed aerial spraying with Glyphosate in 2014 as per the demands of the USA, Monsanto and the Colombian Police while disregarding numerous appeals requesting that it stop spraying —in 2013, the State Council compelled the government to stop spraying stating that aerial spraying violates the Precautionary Principle and causes irreversible and disproportionate damages to rich and fragile ecosystem—; while paying Ecuador reparation for the repercussions in Ecuadorian territory of Colombian spraying; while having been warned since 2001 by the European Union regarding the ineffectiveness of aerial spraying, its negative impacts and the need  to implement a joint monitoring system with the UN and PAHO.

It’s hard to understand how the Santos Government can have underestimated two other appeals launched in March 2014 when it resumed its poisoning campaigns: the Constitutional Court ordered the Ministry of Environmental Affairs to control the hazards of aerial spraying and two UN Special Rapporteurs asked the government to answer questions regarding the measures adopted to prevent these hazards; comply with environmental and human rights conventions in their antinarcotics strife; and to guarantee non-repetition by means of the reports by those in charge, to be submitted to the Human Rights Council on the 17th of September.

It’s hard to understand how the Police can insist on speaking of “the success” of this strategy and measure this success by the number of hectares sprayed when substantially documented studies show the failure of having poisoned over two million hectares (approximately 30 hectares have to be sprayed to eliminate one hectare). Success? The Southern part of Colombia, where a greater portion of these toxic substances have been sprayed, still has the largest number of coca crops; these crops are simply replanted elsewhere, thus increasing deforestation. Biodiversity and the funds invested —USD$-57.000 to spray just one hectare— could have been saved, and the funds used to protect and promote the sustainable development of these marginal regions.  

It’s hard to understand how, despite its futility, the government can have included poisoning in the Drug Bill; can reserve itself this poisoning option in its pre-agreement with the FARC; and can continue insisting on reducing the extension of the buffer area which it has been banned from spraying on the border with Ecuador.  

President Santos much like you have said that you are in favor of the medical and therapeutic cannabis initiative, and have started addressing drugs as a public health issue, you should free the Colombian State from its USA addiction to aerial spraying of crops destined for illicit markets. This would open the way to solutions to the country’s agrarian issues, which are essential to the effectiveness of drug policies and achievements in the post-conflict era.

Translated by Maria Mercedes Moreno