Biden orders continuation of Colombian drug interdiction

U.S President Joe Biden/Department of Defense.

U.S President Joe Biden ordered in a memorandum that the Departments of State and Defense continue drug interdiction assistance to Colombia of aircraft “reasonably suspected to be primarily engaged in illicit drug trafficking in that country’s airspace,” given the “extraordinary threat posed by illicit drug trafficking to the national security of that country.” President Biden also noted that Colombia “has appropriate procedures in place to protect against innocent loss of life in the air and on the ground in connection with such interdiction,” and which includes “effective means to identify and warn an aircraft before the use of force is directed against the aircraft.”

The memorandum was issued three days after Colombian President Gustavo Petro was sworn-in and, during his inaugural address, referred to the U.S-led War on Drugs as “a complete failure.” President Petro claims that one million Latin Americans have lost their lives during the last forty-years with the proliferation of cartels and demand from consumer nations for illicit drugs. Petro affirmed that the majority of deaths are Colombians. He has also pledged to uphold a 2014 ruling by the country’s Constitutional Court that bans aerial spraying of coca plantations with toxic herbicides, including glyphosate, manufactured by the U.S chemical company Monsanto.

Colombia’s high court ruled during the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos that glyphosate produces blood-related cancers in humans, and targets the country’s biodiversity. A year before the Colombian Government signed the 2016 Final Accord peace agreement with FARC, the same court issued a new ruling on the possibility of resuming of aerial fumigation, based conclusively on “demonstrating the absence of harm to health and the environment.”

Aerial spraying of coca is carried out exclusively by Colombia’s Anti-Narcotics Police division.

In June, 2022, just two months before leaving office, President Iván Duque authorized the spraying of illicit crops in three townships in the department of Norte de Santander and secured the purchase of 263,000 gallons of glyphosate as part of the National Police’s 2022-2023 interdiction budget. Former Defense Minister Diego Molano justified the purchase, pointing out that the agrochemical would only be used for ground spraying during manual eradication of coca plants. “We are going to continue eradicating until August 7,” he emphasized.