Plan Columbia Update -
U.S. SHOULD SEEK BETTER OPTIONS
September 10, 2001
The ends don't justify the means when it comes to fighting illegal drugs in
With U.S. support, the Colombian government is spraying large swaths of
jungle territory with powerful chemicals to kill off drug crops.
But these chemicals also are making people sick and hurting the environment,
according to recent reports. In some areas, aerial fumigations have wiped out coffee and banana crops. Rural hospitals are reporting an increase in
skin rashes, diarrhea and stomachaches.
The controversy over Colombia's spraying campaign recently prompted the
nation's Comptroller-General Carlos Ossa to call for a halt in the program
until scientists could get to the bottom of the problem. The comptroller-general also reported that the sprayings have failed to decrease
drug production. The amount of acreage planted with coca and poppy has grown, and drug crops have expanded into Ecuador.
The Bush administration inherited a well-intentioned but poorly thought-out
$1.3 billion Colombia aid plan from the Clinton White House. Last week, a high-level U.S. delegation visited Colombia and recommended continuing U.S.
aid. The goal is still a practical one. Colombia is the largest supplier of
cocaine to the United States, and a drug-funded war between leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries threatens South America's
fourth-largest nation. A destabilized Colombia hurts U.S. interests in Latin
But now is the time to re-examine U.S. aid and to make sure American tax
dollars are not being used on drug-fighting measures that hurt innocent people and their environment.
For one thing, aerial sprayings should stop until scientists can figure out
the causes of recent health and environmental problems. Some experts think
that Colombia's use of a soaplike additive meant to help the U.S.-manufactured herbicide Roundup Ultra penetrate leaves actually helps it
penetrate human skin. Also, the practice of spraying drug crops from high altitudes -- done to prevent rebels from shooting at government
helicopters -- helps spread the herbicide into non-targeted areas.
Government sprayings may not be responsible for all cited health and ecological problems. Drug producers also use chemicals to process cocaine
and heroin and these may be seeping into the soil or the drinking water. All
the more reason why independent scientists should study the problem and come
up with solutions.
The Bush administration has an opportunity to craft a Colombia aid plan with
greater incentives for poor coca and poppy farmers who make the switch to legal crops. This would be far better than making them sick or leaving them
Newshawk: M & M Family
Pubdate: Mon, 10 Sep 2001
Source: South Florida Sun Sentinel (FL)
Copyright: 2001 Sun-Sentinel Co & South Florida Interactive, Inc