Joe Biden, his wife Dr. Jill Biden,
meet with members of Colombia's Armed Forces
at an Air Force base in Bogota, Colombia,
May 27, 2013.
Fernando Vergara | AP
to a massive aerial campaign
of spraying Monsanto's glyphosate
across the country,
a plan Biden once fought hard
with his Republican colleagues to enact.
Defense Minister Diego Molano confirmed that the highly contentious practice of fumigation - shelved since 2015 - will resume in April.
How spraying a known carcinogen across a nation nearly twice the size of Texas would protect citizens, he did not explain.
The news was greeted with applause in Washington DC, a State Department report describing it as a,
The new administration also confusingly described Colombia as a "bright spot" in regional counter-narcotics, despite also noting that the country had seen "explosive growth" in cocaine production in recent years, rising to become,
The result was a nationwide chemical defoliation regime, not unlike that seen during the U.S. bombardment of Vietnam and other southeast Asian nations, forcing huge numbers of people off the land and into overcrowded urban slums.
A Colombian farmer shows skin problems
he developed after being sprayed by glyphosate
while working his rice field, May 11, 2015.
Fernando Vergara | AP
Under Plan Colombia, government troops and associated paramilitaries were given a free rein to kill whom they liked, later framing their victims as FARC guerillas.
Under Uribe's watchful eye, over 10,000 innocent people - many of them farmers' union leaders and indigenous activists - were slaughtered, the government only later admitting they had no connection to FARC.
The U.S. directly funded the slaughter:
Under Plan Colombia, the country also became the most dangerous place to be a trade unionist, according to Amnesty International, with more unionist murders happening inside Colombia than in all other countries combined.
The United Nations, estimates that 7.4 million people are internally displaced to this day because of the ongoing civil war and Plan Colombia, with millions more leaving the country altogether.
All the while, classified U.S. government documents identified Uribe as,
Bush - Uribe
While cocaine production did drop in Colombia (temporarily), producers simply moved across the unguarded borders to neighboring nations.
Cocaine is extremely portable and simple to produce, with barely more than a few cooking pots and household chemicals needed. Thus, the overall trade was largely unaffected by over a decade of bombing, spraying and violence.
What was achieved, however, was that,
"The guy who put together Plan Colombia"
...warning that if the bill was not passed, the hemisphere would turn into a haven for terrorists and drug dealers.
Biden is also proposing a plan for Central America based on his Colombian model.
It is therefore unsurprising that the new administration is welcoming the return to chemical spraying.
The War on Drugs gets a revival
Plan Colombia was ditched by President Juan Manuel Santos, in power between 2010 and 2018.
Santos stopped the defoliation campaign in 2015 in part of a broader move to negotiate with the FARC. The next year, his administration signed a peace deal with the guerilla group, which saw them formally disband and give up their arms.
Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
However, with the election of Uribe protégé Ivan Duque in 2018, the government began to renege on its promises, and a new wave of violence reemerged.
At least 259 have been killed, according to Colombian human rights group Indepaz, who notes that there have already been 17 massacres in 2021 alone, with many of the victims' social leaders and activists.
Ten former FARC members have been murdered in the past three months.
To this day, the Duque administration is still using them as a justification for violence against its own population. Earlier this month, it conducted an airstrike against a FARC splinter group in the southern province of Guaviare.
Defense Minister Molano confirmed the military knew there were children in the area, but insisted all those dead were forced child soldiers and part of a,
The news of a return to spraying is particularly striking, as Monsanto's parent company Bayer announced last year that it was putting aside up to $10.9 billion to settle lawsuits from cancer patients, a tacit admission that it knows its product is carcinogenic.
U.S. courts have already concluded the same.
Thus, the decision to expand its use in Colombia is yet another starling fact about the return to what amounts to chemical warfare.
Ultimately, very little about the war on drugs, from the demonization of Bolivia and Venezuela to propping up a known drugs trafficker as president to now cheering the return of the discredited and harmful practice of fumigation makes any sense, if we assume the U.S.' goal is to uphold human rights or reduce the flow of illegal narcotics.
However, if viewed through a cold realpolitik lens, where the U.S. is attempting to destroy resistance to its rule and keep the enormous wealth of the equatorial country in just a few - mostly Western - hands, then the confusing Colombian case becomes considerably clearer...