Sunday, March 8, 2009

Plan Columbia

Of all the good and bad deeds the USA performs in Latin America, spraying herbicide on coca plants is, perhaps, the worst. Indigenous peoples chew coca leaves as part of their culture. Food is also grown in these fields and in adjacent fields, and herbicides are subject to over spray. The chemicals are carried by the wind into rural villages. Rains carry the poison downhill and downriver, tainting the soil and the water supply.

It is unethical and immoral to continue this practice. People live in these fields, as you can see in this photo from the highlands of Columbia, recently fumigated by crop dusters. For more on Columbia's resistance to coca fumigation, listen to this NPR report and check out related NPR stories.

The "war on drugs" has spent billions of dollars in the past decade with significant investment in the spraying of chemicals on rural food crops, women, children, and nearby villages. This practice is funded by the USA and is carried out by its agents, and agents trained by the USA. Between Plan Columbia and the Merida Initiative (Plan Mexico), the USA is now spending billions annually and accomplishing little outside of increasing violence in Latin America, moving coca production into national parks where aerial fumigation is banned, and filling courts and jails with peace-loving marijuana smokers.

The street price and quality of cocaine and marijuana remain unchanged. The current drug strategy amounts to prohibition. History is clear on how this strategy worked with alcohol - it failed. It is also unethical and immoral to continue wasting limited funds on a failed military strategy to continue this war indefinitely. The concept of legalizing or decriminalizing marijuana is gaining traction with many law enforcement policy makers given the failure of the war on drugs. The advantage of legalization is that it would provide a tax windfall for social programs and education.

In the meantime, it would be beneficial for the 111th Congress to make it illegal to spray herbicides on rural fields, regardless of what is grown there. Such a ban would logically extend to the USA funding fumigation. We have one planet and it came with marijuana and coca plants. It did not come with herbicides. Write your representatives in Congress. Chemicals sprayed on innocents and their countryside and crops should not be a strategy in the war on drugs. America is better than this.

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