Colombia shelves its air war on cocaine

ALJAZEERA: The futility of Colombia’s two-decade air war on the cocaine trade was laid bare on Thursday when the government, following President Juan Manuel Santos’ recommendation, agreed to halt the aerial spraying of coca crops with the herbicide glyphosate — a pillar of Plan Colombia, the multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package to fight drug trafficking.

Drug war opponents and environmentalists have long panned the use of aerial spraying in Colombia. Ironically, though, it’s the U.S. government that recently shed light on the policy’s impotence. The U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy announced last week that the cultivation of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, had spiked 39 percent in 2014 over the previous year — despite the U.S.-funded aerial spraying program that has fumigated 4 million acres of crops at a cost of nearly $2 billion since it began in 1994…

Ongoing peace talks between the Colombian government and FARC rebels — a more than two-year-long effort to end the civil war that has afflicted the country for five decades — likely also played a role in Thursday’s announcement. Aerial spraying has been widely used in the country’s south where there are swaths of rural land and a stronghold for the rebel group, which the government accuses of financing itself with drug money. During talks last May, Santos and FARC leaders agreed on a plan to tackle the drug trade. The plan rests largely on FARC demands to halt aerial spraying as part of any final peace process… (more)