Colombia’s Constitutional Court on Thursday reminded the government it can forget aerial fumigation of coca if it doesn’t help farmers substitute crops as agreed.
The court reminder comes days after the government reportedly ended a contract with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime that monitors the program to help farmers move into Colombia’s legal economy.
In this so-called PNIS program, farmers who voluntarily remove their coca crops will receive government support to switch to legal crops like cocoa or coffee.
Under US pressure, Duque said last year he would resume the aerial fumigation of coca “within weeks” and step up forced eradication, strategies that are widely considered ineffective.
The court almost immediately put the brakes on the government, which is trying to lower the highest cocaine production in history.
The reported end to UN monitoring of the PNIS triggered concerns the government may be trying to evade promises made with some 100,000 farmers who have signed up for the program.
Following a meeting with his US counterpart Mark Esper, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo said earlier this month the government was going to forcibly eradicate 130,000 hectares of coca this year.
The two countries made an agreement in 2017 to cut cocaine production in half before 2023, but could be left without the means to meet this target unless the government revives the PNIS program.
Without voluntary eradication or aerial fumigation, anti-narcotics police can only use manual forced eradication or manual fumigation, which is not only labor-intensive and dangerous, but widely dismissed as ineffective.
Consequently, Washington DC and Bogota risk missing their 2023 target despite plans to dramatically increase counternarcotics funds.