With statistics showing that coca plantations in Colombia have seen a startling increase since 2015, the United States is putting pressure on Colombia’s government and President Juan Manuel Santos to resume fumigations to neutralize coca plantations. However Santos has thus far resisted pressure and remained firm, proposing instead a strategy based upon forced eradication and voluntary substitution of coca cultures.
Santos’ position aligns with his recent concessions to and treaty with the FARC terrorist group, who were actively involved in producing and trafficking in the Andean nation.
The strategy is seen as risky by observers. Once staunch allies under former US President George W. Bush and former Colombian president Álvaro Uribe, relations between the United States and Colombia have cooled since the election of current presidents Santos and Trump.
The United States, under former president Obama, pledged financial support for Colombia’s treaty with the FARC terrorist organization. However that pledge is no longer guaranteed under Trump’s leadership. Trump is a populist who stormed into office with his America First doctrine.
Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State of the United States, recently told the U.S. Senate that the Trump’s new budget will reduce aid to Colombia to 251 million dollars, compared to the 450 million dollars assigned by President Obama’s government.
Trump has demanded that Colombia restart fumigation activities due to the increase in illegal coca cultivators in Colombia. The United States is the principal market for illegal cocaine exports from Colombia. Reports indicate that coca plantations have increased from 116,000 acres in 2012 to 240,000 acres in 2015, a stunning 2x increase, and that there will be 465,000 acres by the end of 2016.
The Colombian government suspended fumigation operations in October of 2015, after the World Health Organization declared glyphosate, the active component in these fumigations, as a possible carcinogen and as a possible causal agent for other diseases. The Colombian government argues that the continuation of these fumigations is not viable from a preventive point of view, particularly when health and environment are at risk. However, both countries have considered the usage of a safer compounds for fumigation.
If Santos continues to resist U.S. pressure, there is a strong likelihood that the country’s alliance with the United States will suffer.
Some in the U.S. congress, including influential Florida Senator Marco Rubio, have insisted that Tillerson tie any financial aid to Colombia to a renegotiation of their treaty with FARC terrorists. There is widespread agreement in U.S. political circles that the treaty was a bad deal for the Colombian government, forgiving decades of war crimes and atrocities with very little in exchange. The United States is still insisting on the extradition of FARC terrorists, a non-starter under the current agreement.