Sunday, March 15, 2009

A War on Drugs, Or On Peasants?

A good article in the Guardian describes how US-funded aerial spraying of coca plants in Colombia is poisoning people, crops and livestock, while cocaine production continues to increase. Grace Livingstone, who has visited and interviewed Colombian coca growers, reports information received from a parish priest in Caquetá that spraying of herbicide is having a marked effect on human and animal health. As she notes:

The US focuses on one element of the trafficking chain, the poverty-stricken peasant. But the policy is not even effective. When their land is poisoned, peasants migrate and start growing coca again. They have no alternative. Spraying simply displaces the problem. Despite decades of spraying, coca cultivation in Colombia has grown by 500% since the 1980s, according to US state department figures. US politicians heralded a drop in cultivation after the launch of Plan Colombia, but the area of land covered by coca crops is now larger than when the plan was launched. Perhaps the clearest indication that the policy is failing is the falling price of cocaine, suggesting more, not less, of the drug is entering the US market.

To quote a previous post, "there's little that's more perverse than a social problem in the rich world being tackled by spraying poison all over environmentally fragile land in a much poorer country".

1 comment:

Paola said...

You're right Simon. The US is attacking only one extreme of the chain. What about the consumers? If there is not market, there is not porduct, so... US is also part of the problem, and very risponsible as the producers. How the US government controls the market? I don't have any idea.