A Small Part Of Congress’ Defense Bill Could Have Big Stakes For The War On Drugs

by | Nov 22, 2022 | Politics

A seemingly minor provision of the massive defense spending package currently under consideration in Congress could have major implications for the war on drugs in Latin America — if it manages to remain part of the final bill.An amendment to the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) would bar the Pentagon from funding, conducting or assisting aerial fumigation operations in Colombia, a practice the country has used to target the lucrative coca crops that are harvested to produce cocaine.Colombia suspended aerial fumigation operations that used the chemical glyphosate in 2015, after the World Health Organization produced studies linking it to cancer. But the Colombian government has at times sought to restart the practice in response to spikes in cocaine production — moves that have won support from the United States, one of the largest markets for illegal Colombian cocaine.AdvertisementColombian President Gustavo Petro, a leftist who took office this year, has promised to maintain the current prohibition on aerial fumigation as part of a broader overhaul of the country’s approach to illegal narcotics and cocaine in particular.The amendment, however, would effectively give U.S. blessing to Petro’s prohibition against aerial fumigation. The U.S. has been a staunch supporter — and funder — of Colombia’s aggressive war on drugs, and it does not regard glyphosate to be as cancerous or as dangerous as WHO and many European countries do. The U.S. has in the past stood by the safety of aerial fumigation programs, and former President Donald Trump pushed Colombia to resume the operations to curb cocaine production.The amendment is one of two related to Colombia that Ocasio-Cortez attached to the House version of the NDAA; another would direct the State Department to produce a report on the United States’ role in the brutal civil war that engulfed Colombia for more than 50 years as the government battled narcotraffickers and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, a communist rebel group.The United States spent billions of dollars funding Colombian military and police efforts during the conflict, and it continued to support the government’s efforts even as U.S. officials feared that the Colombian military was involved in extrajudicial killings and was working with right-wing paramilitaries, as The New York Times reported this year.AdvertisementBoth amendments were part of the defense authorization bill passed by the House in July. But neither is in the Senate version, and it’s unclear whether they will survive negotiations between House and Senate leaders over the final text of the NDAA that could ultimately become law. A coalition of progressive organizations this week pushed lawmakers to keep the amendments in the final version of the bill, arguing in a letter that they would help “strengthen the United States partnership with Colombia by taking steps to rectify harmful policies of the past.”The aerial fumigation amendment …

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