U.S. President Donald Trump defended aerial spraying of illicit crops in the fight against drugs, during his meeting with Colombian counterpart Iván Duque at the White House, March 2. The Duque government wants to resume the controversial aerial method.
The Duque government hopes to resume aerial fumigation to counter narcotrafficking, an initiative the United States welcome, but that farmers and human rights organizations strongly resist.
“Well, you’re going to have to spray. If you don’t spray, you’re not going to get rid of them,” Trump said, in reference to drug cartels, when answering a reporter’s question.
In 2015, Colombia suspended aerial spraying with glyphosate to counter drugs, when the government of former President Juan Manuel Santos complied with a warning from the World Health Organization (WHO) that considered this herbicide as “potentially” carcinogenic.
This controversial herbicide is associated with carcinogenic effects and genetic risks, and many European nations seek to ban it for its threat to the population.
The Duque government said it is preparing reports on health and environmental impacts, in an attempt to comply with the requirements set forth by Colombia’s Constitutional Court to resume aerial spraying, and commit to minimize the adverse effects.
Colombia is the largest coca leaf producer in the world, with 169,000 hectares planted in 2018 and the potential to produce 1,120 tons of cocaine, the United Nations (U.N.) says.
“We have to work with every element, and we need to be tough on crime,” said Duque, who launched an anti-drug plan that seeks to reduce coca crops by half between 2022 and 2023.
He told the press that the strategy consists of combining “multiple tools,” such as substitution, eradication, alternative development, and “precise spraying, based on the terms expressed by the Constitutional Court.”
In early 2020, the United States announced that it would send Colombia — its closest partner in the region — $5 billion to invest in areas affected by coca crops, some of which were considered a priority in the 2016 peace accord that disarmed the former FARC guerrilla.
Duque denounces Maduro-Hezbollah connection
Earlier, Duque met pro-Israel lobbying organization AIPAC and denounced the support of the Nicolás Maduro regime in Venezuela to the Shiite militia Hezbollah.
“They have opened the door to Hezbollah, so the group can help them in the crimes they commit against their own people,” the president said about the Lebanese Shiite militia, which the United States considers Iran’s “terrorist” arm.
During his speech at the AIPAC meeting, an annual event that gathers Democrat and Republican politicians, Duque also denounced the “anti-Semitic attitude” of the Maduro government.