Colombia’s government announced its second counternarcotics strategy change in half a year, but appears to be confused over what the strategy entails.
Duque presented a policy based on four pillars, while media received an executive summary of a policy based on five pillars.
The pillar that the president and his office omitted was the “transformation of the countryside” where extreme poverty and chronic state neglect have spurred more than 120,000 families to grow coca, the base ingredient of cocaine.
Colombia’s counternarcotics pillars
- Reduce drug consumption
- Combat drug availability
- Dismantle organized crime organizations
- Curb organized crime profits
- Transform countryside in transition to legal economies
According to local media, Duque signed off on the return of the controversial aerial fumigation of coca.
The president did not mention this in his speech as authorities reportedly do not know which chemical to use without jeopardizing public health and legal crops.
The government announced half a year ago it would begin using drones that would allow the use of the controversial chemical glysophate, but was forced to admit last month that the pilot project failed to produce the promised results.
US ambassador Kevin Whitaker insisted on Thursday that the US-produced glysophate is both “safe and efficient,” despite the World Health Organization and Colombian counternarcotics experts claiming the opposite.
To further undermine the ambassador’s claim, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) bashed the US government’s failure to adequately measure the effectiveness of its counternarcotics operations in Colombia.
Both Bogota and Washington DC have been reluctant to support an ongoing counternarcotics strategy based on crop substitution and the development of the countryside that is monitored by the United Nations.
This PNIS program is supported by the UN, the EU, coca growers and social organizations, but violently opposed by drug traffickers and, ironically, shunned by the governments of Colombia and the United States.
According to Whitaker, the US government can’t support the program that is part of a broader peace process because it employs 55 former FARC guerrillas.
The FARC is considered a terrorist organization by Washington despite the group’s demobilization, disarmament and transformation to a political party last year.
Duque has long opposed the peace process and has tried to defund it.
The transitional justice element of the historic peace deal signed by his predecessor Juan Manuel Santos and the FARC could link hard-line supporters of the president, and the companies and businessmen to anti-leftist death squads that fought in the more than 50 years of armed conflict.