Colombia’s government said Thursday that it will resume the aerial spraying of coca with glyphosate despite a court ruling that upheld strict conditions, but left a tiny loophole.
Shortly after losing the appeal, Justice Minister Margarita Cabello told press that she believes the government meets the conditions imposed by the court in 2017 that would allow the National Narcotics Council (CNE) to approve and oversee the lawful resumption of glyphosate spraying.
The loophole she seems to have found was that the court allowed the CNE to supervise the government’s compliance to the constitution “in good faith.”
The Government will submit the protocol proposal to the National Narcotics Council, so that within the fulfillment of the Sentence and the Order, aerial spraying can be used as one more tool in the fight against illicit crops.
Justice Minister Margarita Cabello
How to pretend you won
Cabello ignored the additional condition that the government must also comply with a 2016 peace agreement with the FARC. This deal does not ban the use of glysophate, which is believed to be carcinogenic, but allows it only as a last resort in the event that crop substitution fails.
How Cabello plans to comply with the conditions imposed by the court is a mystery; the government never revealed a protocol proposal if there even exists one and has virtually halted the implementation of the crop substitution that is elementary in the peace deal’s counternarcotics chapter.
Constitutional Court conditions to resume aerial fumigation
- Provide scientific and conclusive evidence that aerial fumigation is no health hazard
- Legislation that includes coordination with rural communities to rule out damage to public health and the environment
- Include an ethnic minority representative to the National Drug Council
- Consensus with rural communities about the necessity of aerial fumigation
- Implement an alert system if aerial spraying turns out to have an effect on public health or the environment
- Comply with the counternarcotics chapter of the 2016 peace agreement
Additional conditions derived from the 2016 peace deal
- Formulate a new and more efficient criminal policy
- Execute a program called PNIS to substitute illicit crops with legal ones
- Guarantee food security for (former) coca farmers
- Include communities in crop substitution programs
- Legislation that shields small coca growers from criminal prosecution
- Include communities in rural development projects
- Adopts special measures in national parks and remote areas
- Prioritize formalization of land property in coca-growing areas
- Carry out demining processes
- Promote an international debate on new approaches to drug trafficking
- Combat corruption related to drug trafficking
The court imposed its conditions on the resumption of the aerial fumigation of coca with glyphosate in 2017 after a farming community from the west of the country complained about the fumigation’s effects on their health and environment.
The CNE of former President Juan Manuel Santos banned the practice in 2015 amid growing evidence of the health hazards of the herbicide.
Evidence of glyphosate increasing the chances of cancer has only accumulated since then and Congress, where Duque lacks majority support, has increasingly opposed the president’s hard-line approach.
Duque’s risky bet
While Duque put his money on repressive counternarcotics promoted by the US government, the administration has all but abandoned the strategy that is widely considered more effective.
Duque’s failure to execute the PNIS program or any of the counternarcotics elements of the peace process makes the government vulnerable to lawsuits the minute it resumes aerial spraying.
Earlier this year, the court sank two articles from the country’s police code that banned the consumption of alcohol in public that formed the basis of the government’s policy to counter drug use.
Disregarding Duque’s justice minister grandstanding, it would take only one legal appeal to pull the legs underneath the government’s plans to resume the aerial fumigation of coca.