Criticism of Fumigation Grows in Colombia as Cocaine Trade is Undiminished

Criticism of Fumigation Grows in Colombia as Cocaine Trade is Undiminished

BOGOTÁ, Colombia -- After seven years of ineffective drug policies, Colombia is questioning whether America's coca fumigation strategy is really the answer to their drug problem. From sharp criticism in the Colombian media to Colombia's own defense minister admitting that the country's drug progress resembles a "stationary bicycle," new solutions are rapidly being sought.

Since 2000, under the banner of, "Plan Colombia," the American government has spent $4.7 billion fighting drugs and helping the Colombian military counter armed groups in the country. More than 900,000 hectares of coca, the base for cocaine, have consequently been fumigated or manually eradicated. Yet, according to the U.S. State Department, there is 27 percent more coca in Colombia today than at the onset of Plan Colombia. White House Drug Czar John Walters also recently admitted that the price of cocaine in the United States fell 11 percent from February 2005 to October 2006, with a gram now available in cities like New York and Los Angeles for $30 or less.

Meanwhile, the American-backed efforts have proven costly for Colombia. Although Plan Colombia has helped strengthen state security in main cities and along principal roads throughout the country, the billions spent on aerial fumigations remain controversial. Although it took 3 hectares of fumigated land to successfully eliminate one hectare of coca in 2001, five years later it has taken 21.5 hectares to accomplish the same goal. The consequent bombardments of glysophate chemicals have destroyed licit and illicit crops alike, threatening Colombia's vast bio-diversity, and exacerbating poverty and displacement in a country that already suffers from the largest displaced community in the world.

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