A coca paste lab in Tarazá, Antioquia, that the Army alleges to have been property of the Gulf Clan.
May 8, 2020
A coca paste lab in Tarazá, Antioquia, that the Army alleges to have been property of the Gulf Clan.
May 8, 2020
Publicado por El Espectador el 7 de mayo de 2020.
A look at threats faced by social leaders in the Catatumbo region, with a thorough mapping of the security situation and illicit economies in each of 10 municipalities.
May 7, 2020
Publicado por El Espectador Colombia 2020 el 6 de mayo de 2020.
A discussion of the Colombian government’s continued coca eradication operations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with coca-growing community leaders from Catatumbo, Putumayo, Caquetá, and southern Córdoba.
May 6, 2020
Troops from the Army’s 4th Brigade eradicate coca in Antioquia department.
May 3, 2020
The Defense Ministry launches the “second phase” of its 2020 manual coca eradication effort. 76 mobile eradication teams, each made up of 21 civilians and 42 security-force members, are to deploy around the country.
May 1, 2020
Published by One Earth Future on April 30, 2020.
Nancy tells how she has implemented her leadership and gender-related insights in the municipal nursery of Anorí, Antioquia.
April 30, 2020
The following April 23, 2020 statement is cross-posted from wola.org. We are alarmed that Colombia is not only going ahead full-throttle with manual eradication operations in coca-growing zones during a pandemic, but that eradicators’ security-force escorts have killed two civilians in the past four weeks.
Washington, D.C.—On Wednesday, April 22, in an Indigenous community in southwest Colombia, public security forces killed one person and injured three others who were peacefully protesting a police operation to manually eradicate coca plants. Members of the police eradication team fired into a group of Awa Indigenous people, who were attempting to talk to them about why Indigenous authorities hadn’t been consulted about the planned eradication, as required by law. The death is the second related to manual coca eradication operations since Colombia went into national quarantine in late March.
Even while imposing a strict national quarantine, the Colombian government has launched more intense and aggressive coca eradication operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. These operations, which often require the deployment of public security forces without appropriate protective equipment, have sparked long-standing tensions in six Colombian departments. In addition to concerns about the spread of COVID-19 due to the deployment of eradication forces, the aggressive eradication campaign has ignored key elements of the historic 2016 peace accord.
In the operation that led to the death of one Indigenous community member and three wounded in southwest Colombia, the government had failed to consult with the community prior to the operation. Additionally, in many of the other municipalities targeted in the last month, the Colombian government has systematically failed to deliver payments and other productive project support for crop substitution programs as laid out by Chapter 4 of the peace accords.
The Duque administration’s push to intensify coca eradication has largely responded to an aggressive pressure campaign from the Trump administration. Citing rising rates of coca production and cultivation, the Trump administration has pushed the Duque government to expand its eradication teams from 25 in 2017 to nearly 150 today. This rapid expansion appears to have vastly outpaced any instruction in use-of-force protocols that the security forces accompanying the eradicators were receiving, heightening the risk that when these teams go into rural communities to destroy what is, for many families, their only steady source of income, the resulting confrontations involve excessive or even lethal force.
Beside increasing coca eradication operations during the nationwide lockdown, Colombia has seen no slowdown in the pace of attacks and threats against social leaders, including those who are advocating for implementation of the peace agreement’s illicit crops chapter. On April 22 alone, three people at a local community council in southwest Nariño department were killed by dissident fighters from the now-demobilized FARC guerrilla group; another social leader, who formed part of the leftist Marcha Patriótica political movement, was killed in Cauca department; and two more were killed elsewhere in Cauca. Various Afro-Colombian communities in Cauca and Chocó department have also expressed concern about eradication operations and threats by armed groups in their area. According to Colombian think tank Indepaz, at least 71 social leaders were killed during the first three months of 2020; at least another dozen have been killed since Colombia’s national quarantine began.
The Colombian government needs to rigorously and promptly investigate the killings of social leaders, securing convictions for those who carried out and those who ordered the crime. Additionally, instead of a drug policy that emphasizes forced eradication of coca, the Colombian government should uphold its commitments in the 2016 peace agreement and promote rural land reform, sustainable development, and the establishment of state presence in coca cultivation areas. Finally, given the number of leaders from farmers’ association the National Agrarian Coordinator (Coordinador Nacional Agrario) and the Marcha Patriótica who have faced violent attacks and threats, all armed actors—including FARC dissident groups and government forces—should avoid involving civilians in armed conflict.
April 24, 2020
Publicado por Semana el 21 de abril de 2020.
An update on armed-group activity and illicit economies in the conflictive region of Norte de Santander department, near the Venezuelan border.
April 21, 2020
Published by One Earth Future on April 20, 2020.
Emilse, from Caquetá, tells how after eradicating her coca plants, she joined with several neighbors to grow food and develop productive animal breeding projects.
April 20, 2020
Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo says that the government is forging ahead in the fulfillment of Constitutional Court-mandated requirements for the re-starting of aerial herbicide fumigation in coca-growing zones.
April 16, 2020
Publicado por la Fundación Paz y Reconciliación el 6 de abril de 2020.
A look at recent changes in Colombia’s cocaine market, coca production, armed group participation, and transshipment patterns.
April 6, 2020
Publicado por el Ministerio de Defensa Nacional en abril de 2020.
A regularly updated collection of official security, defense, and counter-drug statistics. (Link at mindefensa.gov.co)
April 1, 2020
On March 30, 2020, the Action for Change (Acciones para el Cambio – APC) coalition published a letter addressed to the Colombian government urging it to stop forced coca eradication operations amid the COVID-19 public health crisis. The letter encourages the government to instead enforce quarantine measures to prevent the spread of the virus among vulnerable farmer communities.
Despite calls to follow quarantine measures, the Government of Colombia has continued forced coca eradication operations in the Catatumbo region and the departments of Caquetá and Putumayo. These operations, the letter states, violate voluntary substitution agreements signed with farmer communities within the framework of the peace accord.
The letter also highlights the increased use of force and violence against farmers and condemns the murders of Marco Rivadeneira and Alejandro Carvajal. Here is the English text of the letter:
The COVID-19 pandemic places the Colombian State in a unique situation, in which it must implement rigorous measures to contain the spread of the virus and guarantee its citizens the right to life, health, and survival.
Despite the measures implemented by the national government to address the emergency, several organizations in the Catatumbo region and the departments of Caquetá and Putumayo have denounced intensified forced coca eradication operations, specifically in municipalities where collective agreements were signed under the Comprehensive National Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (Programa Nacional Integral de Sustitución de Cultivos de Uso Ilícito, PNIS). To date, the national government has not fully complied with these agreements. Such noncompliance, coupled with uncertain isolation measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, has in recent days caused a number of violations to rural populations’ rights.
Amid the national quarantine on March 19, Marco Rivadeneira was assassinated in the Nueva Granada territory, located in Puerto Asís municipality, Putumayo. Marco was a prominent leader who promoted the substitution of crops in the department and sought alternatives for those who had been left out of crop substitution programs. According to data from the Coordinator for Coca, Marijuana and Poppy Growers (Coordinadora de Cultivadores de Coca, Marihuana y Amapola, COCCAM), Marco Rivadeneira’s murder raises to 60 the total number of people killed for leading crop substitution processes in Colombia. Three days after that, on March 22, the arrival of state forces was denounced, as they began to fumigate coca crops with glyphosate using manual spray pumps.
According to public complaints from the COCCAM and the Departmental Coordinator of Social, Environmental and Peasant Organizations of Caquetá (Coordinadora Departamental de Organizaciones Sociales, Ambientales y Campesinas del Caquetá, COORDOSAC), since March 23 in Caquetá, members of the National Army have carried out forced eradication operations using force and gunfire against farmers. Despite the public health crisis, these operations are occurring in the Palestina, Inspección Unión Peneya territory in Montañita municipality.
Finally, according to information from the Peasant Association of Catatumbo (Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo, ASCAMCAT) and the COCCAM, Alejandro Carvajal was killed by members of the National Army in the context of forced and violent eradications last Thursday, March 26. This assassination occurred in the territory of Santa Teresita, La Victoria, which forms part of Sardinata municipality in Norte de Santander. The National Army has already assumed responsibility for said killing.
Faced with the aforementioned context, the APC coalition urges the Colombian government to:
THE ACTION FOR CHANGE (ACCIONES PARA EL CAMBIO – APC) COALITION
April 1, 2020
Publicado por Semana el 30 de marzo de 2020.
Ariel Ávila explains the stubborn persistence of coca cultivation in Colombia.
March 30, 2020
March 26, 2020
March 19, 2020
Published by Nature on March 18, 2020.
After the peace accord, “the national government failed to ensure a functional institutional presence in several PAs [protected areas],” and deforestation increased.
March 18, 2020
Here’s the text of a press release posted this morning to wola.org. (Versión en español) And below, a 2-minute video from Adam Isacson, WOLA’s director for defense oversight.
Washington, D.C.—On March 5, the United States and Colombian governments reaffirmed a bilateral agenda aimed at halving the cultivation and production of coca in Colombia by 2023. The announcement, which reflects growing alarm about record-high rates of coca cultivation and cocaine production, pushes an anti-drug strategy that includes the aerial herbicide spraying of coca-growing zones from spray aircraft dispensing the herbicide glyphosate. This policy risks causing serious harm: it may push some of Colombia’s poorest citizens deeper into poverty, generate violence and unrest, harm the environment, and detrimentally impact efforts to implement Colombia’s 2016 peace accords.
“It’s clear that the United States is pushing for aerial fumigation, and that they’ve found a willing partner in Iván Duque,” said Adam Isacson, Director for Defense Oversight at the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA). “What both countries are ignoring is the lack of evidence supporting aerial fumigation as an effective long-term drug control strategy. The plan also ignores the very real possibility that restarting fumigation will result in grave consequences for communities in vulnerable situations.”
For public health reasons, Colombia suspended a U.S.-backed aerial fumigation program in 2015, after 21 years and 4.4 million acres (1.8 million hectares) sprayed. But from 1994 to 2015, mass campaigns of aerial fumigation in Colombia were the cornerstone of U.S. drug policy in the region. It took at least 13 acres of spraying (some estimates go as high as 32 acres) to reduce coca-growing by one acre—and years of evidence showthose gains were not permanent. In areas absent of government presence, with no farm-to-market roads, land titles, or even basic security, replanting happens quickly after spraying, even if there is an initial reduction in coca acreage. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report published in 2018 found that coca farmers had adopted easy ways to counter mass campaigns of aerial spraying.
“Aerial fumigation is a short-term tactic with no long-term results, like losing weight on a crash diet only to gain it again,”said Isacson. “The regions where families plant coca need basic government services: roads, food security, an effective police force. Sending police and contractors to anonymously spray herbicides from overhead is the direct opposite of what those government services should look like.”
The potential costs of aerial fumigation are significant. Past WOLA research in the region has documented how aerial fumigation displaces ethnic communities and destroys food security. Another concern is social discord in coca-growing areas: about 120,000 Colombian households currently make a living from growing coca, earning an average of $130 per month. There is also the question of environmental harm and potential health damage, as a growing number of studies point to a potential link between glyphosate and forms of cancer. A 2015 literature review published by the World Health Organization found that glyphosate, the chemical used in aerial fumigation, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
“The accords already provide for crop substitutions, economic opportunities in rural areas, and social development. The Duque government needs to uphold these commitments, not restart a failed and risky aerial spraying program,” said Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, Director for the Andes at WOLA. “Rather than pressure Colombia to fumigate, the United States should instead encourage President Duque to quit dragging his feet on the full implementation of the 2016 peace accords.”
“It’s incredibly frustrating. We have this historic opportunity to provide avenues for economic and social development thanks to the 2016 peace accords, and both President Duque and the United States are ignoring it,” added Sánchez-Garzoli. “Instead, they want to bring back fumigation. Imagine, for some of the people living in these regions, a police plane dropping glyphosate on their communities could be the first evidence of state ‘presence’ they see since the accords were signed in 2016.”
March 6, 2020
March 5, 2020
Published by WOLA on March 4, 2020.
From their fight to assert the rights of coca-grower movements in Bolivia to their contribution to peace building in Colombia, women growers have been crucial agents of change in their communities.
March 4, 2020
Published by the State Department Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs on March 2, 2020.
The State Department’s annual worldwide overview of the drug trade and efforts to combat it. Includes a chapter on Colombia and mentions of the country throughout. (Link at state.gov)
March 2, 2020
March 2, 2020
Publicado por Colombia 2020 (El Espectador) el 27 de febrero de 2020.
Two women from Putumayo talk about how coca cultivation and related violence have affected their lives, and their leadership of efforts to turn away from the crop.
February 27, 2020
Publicado por la Corte Constitucional de Colombia el 27 de febrero de 2020 (aunque fechado el 18 de julio de 2019).
The text of the Constitutional Court’s July 2019 decision reinterpreting its 2017 suspension of aerial spraying of coca-growing areas using the herbicide glyphosate. (Link at corteconstitucional.gov.co)
February 27, 2020