Colombia’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday failed to decide on the government’s request to loosen its ban on the aerial spraying of glyphosate in coca-growing regions.
The court began its debate behind closed doors after media reported that magistrate Alberto Rojas, who had studied the arguments matter, advised his colleagues to maintain the ban.
At the end of the day, the court had not been able to reach a decision and the session was adjourned until Thursday.
According to newspaper El Tiempo, sources close to the high court said that Rojas received the support of three magistrates while four others were in favor of loosening the restrictions imposed in 2017.
Because magistrate Cristina Pardo was impeded to vote, the court may decide to call in a supplementary judge in order to break the deadlock, El Tiempo reported.
The court’s apparent deadlock maintains hope for President Ivan Duque and the US government, who have defied the United Nations’ counternarcotics chief in Colombia and local experts, who oppose aerial spraying.
Short-term results vs long-term solution
Duque, who has been under tremendous pressure from the US government, asked the court to loosen the restrictions on the aerial fumigation on coca in March, claiming it is a necessary tool to curtail coca cultivation that reached record levels in 2017.
Local experts and the UN oppose Duque and his American counterpart Donald Trump. They claim that aerial spraying is notoriously ineffective compared to the strategy of crop substitution and rural development.
According to the UN, more than 30% of coca farmers reseed the illicit crop after a forced eradication through glyphosate spraying, while this is 0.6% of farmers taking part in the crop substitution program begun in May 2017 by former President Juan Manuel Santos.
The president said earlier this year he has continued carrying this so-called PNIS programs, but failed to mention his administration has made an utter mess of this.
When Duque took office in August last year, more than 83,000 families had registered to the PNIS, but the government abruptly suspended promised payments, leaving many who had already removed their coca to literally starve.
The administration changed its mind in January, but six months later had only paid 22,600 former coca farmers of the 100,000 families that had registered to remove almost 58,000 hectares of coca crops.
Consequently, less than 2,400 crops have voluntarily been removed since December last year, the UN said late last month.