By Ariel Ávila, EL ESPECTADOR, March 3, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

The Iván Duque administration seems to be determined to set the country on fire. He has announced, through his Minister of Defense, Diego Molano, that fumigating the crops being raised for illegal use will return in the next few months. The strategy is doomed to fail, and what it will do is increase the violence and set the country on fire. There are four reasons for that. On the one hand, the only thing that fumigations do is increase the price of coca paste, which, in turn, would mean higher income for the criminal organizations and illegal armed groups. The fumigations will contract the business by about 20% and that readjustment could increase the sale price of the coca paste that the campesinos produce, because it’s this product that the criminal organizations demand from them. In short, it will make the criminals richer.

In second place, the fumigations will cause a real environmental disaster and, what’s more, without any important decrease in the plantings of coca leaves. Historically, replanting after the fumigations is above 60%. That means, they fumigate in a perimeter or area and the campesinos transfer the plantings to two or three kilometers from the area, which in turn leads to the destruction of the rain forest. It’s not a very efficient policy.

In the third place, there have been jury verdicts that punish the use of the herbicide Roundup, made of glyphosate in the United States. It’s been demonstrated that it can cause cancer. Fumigating in Colombia with glyphosate would poison our society, and cause a legal and economic calamity for the Colombian government. The lawsuits would be filed in no time. With respect to health, we ought to halt any procedure with even one question. The mere possibility that it could be harmful to health ought to kill any intention of fumigating. It would be awful to have a policy of poisoning Colombia’s rain forests.

Finally, it’s a policy that has failed. Between 1994 and 2015, Colombia fumigated more than a million hectares, eradicated more than half a million hectares of coca leaves, and in the end, after 20 years, we were in the same position. You don’t have to be an expert in the area of public policy to conclude that that was a failure. Nevertheless, in Colombia, the authorities hope to achieve different results with a policy that has never worked. In the future we will see the data on aerial aspersion in Colombia.

The return of fumigations will set the country on fire, not just because it will increase the income of the criminal organizations, but also because thousands of campesinos will go out on the highways to block them, like in the cocalera marches in the middle of the ‘90’s in the 20th century, in the Samper administration. This time, the provinces of Meta, Guaviare, Caquetá, Putumayo, and others will be completely blocked; all of that in the middle of a country already convulsed both socially and politically.

I can’t understand why President Duque wants to set the country on fire more than it already is, but what I know for sure is that the return of fumigations will have only negative impacts; there will not be one single positive, and there are dozens of studies with data that show that. There are none so blind as those who will not see, nor anyone so deaf as the one that chooses not to hear.

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