Colombia’s President Ivan Duque has said security forces will resume the aerial fumigation of coca “within weeks”, with the defense minister adding that the banned substance glyphosate will probably be used.
Whether the plans announced by the president and Defense Minister Guillermo Botero are legal is disputable; the Constitutional Court suspended the practice of aerial fumigation using glyphosate until the government could convince the court otherwise.
So far, this has not happened, but Duque is under pressure from the US, whose President Donald Trump has threatened to decertify Colombia as a cooperative country in the US war on drugs.
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Both the US government and the Duque administration have been reluctant to execute a crop substitution and rural development program that was agreed as part of a peace process with some 100,000 coca farmers and is widely considered more effective.
The president told the Guardian that he was considering tougher measures against coca cultivation, not to please any other countries, but it was his country’s “moral responsibility to act.”
While Duque wouldn’t mention glyphosate, the chemical that was banned because of broad concerns over public health, Botero did in an interview with Blu Radio.
According to Botero, he believes that the National Drug Council will approve the proposed protocols to resume aerial fumigation using the chemical that, according to scientists, significantly increases the chances of cancer among those exposed to it.
I believe that in July the authorization will be given. Once given, the environmental license has to be processed and between 12 or 16 weeks we would begin with the aerial spraying.
Defense Minister Guillermo Botero
The National Drug Council suspended the use of glyphosate in 2015. The Constitutional Court subsequently ruled that aerial fumigation using glyphosate may not be resumed unless new evidence could prove its harmlessness.
The court heard the government and experts on the issue in March and was informed by the latter about the mounting scientific evidence that the chemical poses a serious health risk.
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Botero has previously made announcements he was forced to retract because carrying out his promises would mean breaking the law.
But with the US government breathing down their neck, Duque and Botero must demonstrate that the government is doing everything it can to please Washington, even if this means another clash with congress or the court.