Coca eradicators

With coca cultivation on the increase, the Colombia government may yet resume using a controversial herbicide to eradicate crops less than a year after halting its use over health concerns.

President Juan Manuel Santos ordered an end to aerial fumigation of drug crops using glyphosate last May after the World Health Organization (WHO) said that the chemical compound may cause cancer. 

However, during a recent radio interview, Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas said the government is considering deploying crop eradicators to manually spray coca with a glyphosate-based weed killer, reported the Associated Press

Villegas also said that "the suspension of aerial spraying caused an increase" in coca production, reported Vanguardia. According to the US and the United Nations, data from 2014 shows that Colombia is now the world's largest producer of coca. Villegas has also said that according to more recent data, 2015 also saw a significant increase in coca cultivation, although he has not specified by how much. 

Farmers' organizations in two coca-rich departments, Caqueta and Antioquia, have already protested the planned change in strategy, as have several members of Congress, reported RCN Radio.

InSight Crime Analysis

The return to using glyphosate for fumigating coca crops is important for several reasons. The Colombian government has repeatedly acknowledged its concern over the increase in coca production over the last two years, and may be struggling to come up with a strategy to keep those numbers from rising further. At the end of 2015, there were an estimated 80,000 to 100,000 hectares of coca in Colombia.

While all use of glyphosate was supposed to stop after October 1, 2015, according to RCN Radio, police were allowed to continue running pilot tests in which manual eradicators sprayed illegal crops with herbicide. This method allowed them to eradicate up to six hectares of illegal crops a day, compared to 1.5 hectares a day if they pulled coca up by the roots.

SEE ALSO:  Colombia News and Profiles

The argument that manually spraying coca with herbicide is more efficient may have convinced the government to once again approve the use of glyphosate. However, as the Associated Press pointed out, doing so is expensive, dangerous for manual eradicators, and does not stop the plants from growing back.

The glyphosate announcement might have been timed to coincide with the United Nation's Special Session on drug policy, which began April 19. President Santos is reportedly set to argue in favor of a flexible approach to drug policy, but the country may also feel the need to emphasize that it is doing all it can to get the coca problem under control.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...