The United States House of Representatives passed a bill that banned American defense funds for the aerial spraying of coca, the base ingredient of cocaine, in Colombia.
The bill that was sponsored by Democratic House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez additionally bans possible US funds for arms and training of the National Police’s anti-riot unit ESMAD.
Last but not least, the bill by the New York Democrat asked the Department of Defense (DoD) to inform US Congress every six months.
Ocasio-Cortez specifically wanted the DoD to inform the US lawmakers on the human rights situation in Colombia and progress made in investigations into the mass killing of anti-government protesters earlier this year.
The increased scrutiny from US Congress comes months after the human rights commission of the Organization of American States put the Duque regime on a watchlist for despots.
Duque’s drug policy dead?
The financial restrictions on aerial spraying of coca are a major blow for Colombia’s far-right President Ivan Duque, who has expressed his desire to resume the controversial strategy since taking office in 2018.
In fact, the president has announced the resumption for seven times in April, despite fierce opposition against the counternarcotics even Duque’s own office called ineffective.
Both the president and Defense Minister Diego Molano have remained quiet about any kind of counternarcotics strategy since then, however.
Duque has consistently refused to implement a crop substitution strategy that is part of a peace process that has been fiercely rejected by the president’s Democratic Center party.
The United Nations on Drugs and Crime announced that Colombia’s estimated cocaine production reached a record high in June after the Defense Minister had been boasting about record coca eradication by police.
Throughout this year, police appear to have abandoned also this strategy, leaving the president and his defense minister without any coordinated counternarcotics policy.
The ban on defense funds does not mean no US funds will be available for aerial spraying, according to defense expert Adam Isacson of the Washington Office on Latin America.
A large chunk of the funding for the controversial strategy has always been provided by the US Department of State.
Duque’s police killings problem
Ocasio-Cortez’s approved proposal to also block funding for ESMAD is another disappointment for Duque, but with little consequences.
The US government wasn’t funding the riot police unit that Colombia’s opposition parties want dismantled.
These called have become louder after evidence indicating that police murdered more than 50 people to quell anti-government protests that kicked off in April.
The president has consistently defended the police while Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa has tried to downplay the number of people murdered by the cops.
Whether the House bill will make it through the Senate it uncertain as the US government, with the support of Congress, has historically supported the aerial fumigation of coca despite the evidence the strategy is all but useless.