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August 2, 2001

Narco News 2001

Bad Beginnings

Aerial Fumigation in Colombia

By Alfredo Molano Brava

Alfredo Molano

Publisher's Commentary: A year ago, Narco News interviewed exiled Colombian journalist Alfredo Molano in Barcelona on the hidden agendas of Plan Colombia. The predictions that Molano made in that interview have proved frighteningly accurate.

Now, as Colombian Civil Society, including the nation's courts, rise up against the herbicide spraying element of the U.S.-imposed Plan Colombia military intervention, Molano reports that the issue is converting into the cutting-edge battle against imposed globalization in our América.

Meanwhile, corrupt officials are becoming more rapid in accusing all critics of Plan Colombia of doing the bidding of the very same narco-traffickers that those officials protect. This column, from the daily El Espectador in Bogotá on Sunday, July 29, was translated by The Narco News Bulletin.

The aerial fumigation of illegal crops has complicated things for the government. First, were the residents of Guaviare who complained about the arbitrary nature of the fumigation, but no one paid attention to them, not even mobilizing massively in 1996 when it left a brushfire of death.

"They are," some general repeated, "instruments of the guerrilla."

Journalists like Antonio Caballero and Daniel Samper insist that ever since the years that fumigation began, beyond being brutal, it has been ineffective. But the Right always accuses them of being spokesmen for subversion. International institutions like the Transnational Institute demonstrate with great detail the noxious effects of fumigation and point out its perverse logic: more fumigation, more destruction. But few believe them, thinking that this institute is over there in Holland, where nothing is known about Colombia. Later, Senators like Rafael Orduz and Piedad Córdoba brought the debate to Congress and showed the irreparable damage that fumigation was causing in peasant communities and to the environment. But the politicians didn't believe them, because such accusations don't generate contracts for their friends.

Now, the governors of the south have united with all these voices that have opposed fumigation with reasonable and valiant arguments, proposing manual eradication as the alternative. The Indians of Cauca, echoing this entire story, and based on their own experience - protests, treaties, mockeries, protests, treaties, etc. - have decided to paralyze the South. As if this were not enough, the Public Defender, the Controller General of the Republic, Ecuador's Secrataries of Health and State, and the European Parliament, one after another, have emphatically rejected fumigation.

Some Police commander has said, however, that this entire quantity of sane people are backed by the drug traffickers. Finally, the United Nations opted to ask for an international study to analyze the case, and no even the U.S. Senate has frozen the aid destined for fumigation, while its environmental effects are left unclear.

For the President, who without a doubt as a person should not be a friend of fumigation, he has had to follow the preemptive orders of Mrs. Anne Patterson, the gringa Ambassador, without being able to say boo. Where the captain leads, the sailor does not. Marulanda, for his part, pushes Pastrana and places the so-called Los Pozos Accord on the table, in which the National Government promised eradication that doesn't affect the environment or the communities. Maybe, in a laboratory in Georgia, the U.S. government can demonstrate that the poisons are inoffensive, but it can't do the same in the social and political reality of the country.

Because, as is more and more evident each day, the true objective of the fumigation is the displacement of the peasant farmers from the regions where the guerrilla operates, and, in this sense, the effect is like that of a chainsaw: remove the water from the fishes. It is a displacement that seeks to complicate - as it is complicating - the situation of our borders to impose that Andean Initiative of Bush, which means, more or less, expanding the violence to the entire Andean-Amazon area, a region that every day faces more vicious orders from Washington.

The Pentagon knows about the metastasis that fumigation produces - and in general the repression of supply without control over demand - but utilizes this method for its own interests. It would be tragic for its strategy if the fumigation would have permanent results in diminishing illegal crops, because it would weaken the arguments for war against the FARC, it's immediate objective. And it would make even more fog of the justification of our new regional security doctrine in order to guarantee the viability of a Free Trade Agreement.

Without a doubt, the theme of fumigation will become, in the coming years, the apple of discord between a grand sector of regional public opinion and the North American hegemony. The next president, for example, will face the problem of Fusarium Oxysporum with which the DEA hopes to replace Glyphosate, given its very "limited" effect in the reduction of the supply. It could then be that the theme of fumigation with fungus - a species of biological warfare - will become the cutting-edge of the battle by the movement against extreme globalization.

The Cutting-Edge of the Battle