Colombia’s defense minister on crash course with farmers over aerial fumigation

Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo (Image: President's Office)

Colombia’s defense minister is trying to get media support for his government’s desire to restart the aerial fumigation as farmers are doing all they can to stop him.

Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo‘s told Reuters on Sunday that “it is fundamental” to resume aerial spaying “because we need to create the the conditions to get investment, big investment.”

According to Trujillo, the investment is “for sustainable and profitable projects for Colombia’s farmers,” who don’t believe a word the minister and for a good reason.

For a week, the minister has been saying that the security forces will forcibly eradicate 130,000 hectares of coca this year, while his own eradicators told media Trujillo is cooking the books.

Monthly coca eradication

Source: Defense Ministry

President Ivan Duque claimed a year and a half ago already that the government met the court conditions to resume aerial spraying, which is still not the case, according to EFE.

One of these conditions is that Trujillo must prioritize voluntary crop substitution, which the government is doing, the minister told Reuters.

The latest report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, however, indicates that the so-called PNIS program has been in a virtual come since January last year.

Crop substitution

Both Duque and his US counterpart Donald Trump have refused to invest in the crop substitution program, which seems to be what is putting Trujillo in a fix.

Meanwhile, farmers in southwest Colombia have additionally been able to get a court order that banned also the forced eradication strategy until after the government to complied with agreements to substitute crops.

They have additionally been able to block two consultation meetings this year in which the government hoped to get the green light for spraying, another court condition.

Nineteen farmers organizations have now teamed up to also sink a third attempt on December 19, claiming that the government’s attempts to hold these meetings virtually doesn’t work in the countryside.

Meanwhile the pressure has been increasing for Trujillo, who promised former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper he would eradicate 135,000 hectares this year.

Counternarcotics experts generally agree this is a waste of time as farmers simply replant their coca once the eradication unit moves on to the next farm, but Trujillo needs to show something.

US President-elect Joe Biden is less than two months from taking office and Colombia’s defense minister’s head could roll.

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