After much delay, Colombia’s Constitutional Court publishes the final text of its July 2019 decision on aerial spraying of coca-growing areas using the herbicide glyphosate. The decision laid out the steps that the government must take to re-start such a program, which was suspended due to public health concerns in 2015.
The Constitutional Court conditions the government’s plan to implement a rapid increase in state presence in five “Strategic Comprehensive Intervention Zones” (ZEII, or “Zonas Futuro”). It requires the Zones to take into account the mandates of the peace accord and to include, explicitly, the participation of communities.
The five small zones, just getting underway with the December emission of a decree, overlap with the peace accord’s Territorially Focused Development Plans (PDETs) in five regions: Catatumbo; the Pacific zone of Nariño; the Bajo Cauca region of Antioquia and Córdoba; Arauca; and the zone around the Chiribiquete National Park in Caquetá.
The law and decree had placed the zones under the purview of the government’s National Security Council, which is made up entirely of government bodies. The modification is the result of a suit brought by several human rights groups.
Senate President Lidio García raises the possibility that the body might re-visit legislation, foreseen in the peace accord, that would create 16 temporary congressional districts for conflict victims, not political parties. Though legislation to create these districts won a majority of Senate votes in late 2017, the absence of senators from the chamber raised questions about whether a quorum existed. A quorum did exist if one excluded the seats of senators who had been suspended, for corruption or similar reasons, but the legislation was ruled as failing to pass, and the special districts were not created for the 2018 legislative elections. In light of a 2019 Constitutional Court decision on the quorum question, Senator García signals an intention to send the 2017 bill to President Duque as approved legislation. If Duque signs it, the temporary seats for victims, representing 16 conflict zones, would be created.
High Commissioner for Peace Miguel Ceballos casts doubt on the temporary congressional districts, contending that the Constitutional Court’s 2019 decision cannot be applied retroactively to a vote that took place in 2017.