“As I decompress after completing a one-year tour in Afghanistan, I often find myself mulling these words by the great English historian Edward Gibbon: “I shall never give my consent to exhaust still further the finest country in the world in this prosecution of a war from whence no reasonable man entertains any hope of success. It is better to be humbled than ruined.”
A 2011 ranking of private USAID partners by devex.com lists LBG as the third largest USAID private-sector partner that has contracted some of the government’s largest post-conflict redevelopment projects in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Bloomberg, Louis Berger International, a unit of Louis Berger Group, got about $736 million to modernize a power system and rehabilitate the Kajakai Dam in Afghanistan. Whoa! We thought that dam only cost $305.5 million! Plus cost of fuel that US taxpayers also had to shoulder.
What is missing from this announcement? How much was the total contracts that LBG received in the last 20 years? Who’s paying the independent monitor? And for heaven’s sake, what lessons are we sending to other reconstruction capitalists doing awesome work for love of god and country?
The former president, chief executive officer, and chairman of the board of a New Jersey-based international engineering consulting company was sentenced today to 12 months of home confinement and fined $4.5 million for conspiring to defraud the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) with respect to billions of dollars in contracts over a nearly 20-year period, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Derish Wolff, 79, of Bernardsville, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Anne E. Thompson to a superseding information charging conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims. Judge Thompson imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Wolff, the former president and CEO of Morristown, New Jersey-based Louis Berger Group Inc. (LBG), and the former chairman of LBG’s parent company, Berger Group Holdings Inc. (BGH), led a conspiracy to defraud USAID by billing the agency on so-called “cost-reimbursable” contracts – including hundreds of millions of dollars of contracts for reconstructive work in Iraq and Afghanistan – for LBG’s overhead and other indirect costs at falsely inflated rates.
USAID, an independent federal government agency that advances U.S. foreign policy by supporting economic growth, agriculture, trade, global health, democracy, and humanitarian assistance in developing countries, including countries destabilized by violent conflict, awarded LBG hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in other nations. LBG calculated certain overhead rates and charged USAID and other federal agencies these rates on cost-reimbursable contracts, which enabled LBG to pass on their overhead costs to the agency in general proportion to how much labor LBG devoted to the government contracts.
From at least 1990 through July 2009, LBG, through Wolff and other former executives, intentionally overbilled USAID in connection with these cost-reimbursable contracts. The scheme to defraud the government was carried out by numerous LBG employees at the direction of Wolff.
Wolff targeted a particular overhead rate, irrespective of what the actual rate was, and ordered his subordinates to achieve that target rate through a variety of fraudulent means. From at least as early as 1990 through 2000, Wolff ordered LBG’s assistant controller to instruct the accounting department to pad its time sheets with hours ostensibly devoted to federal government projects when it had not actually worked on such projects.
At an LBG annual meeting in September 2001, Salvatore Pepe, who was then the controller and eventually became chief financial officer (CFO), presented a USAID overhead rate that was significantly below Wolff’s target. In response, Wolff denounced Pepe, called him an “assassin” of the overhead rate and ordered him to target a rate above 140 percent, meaning that for every dollar of labor devoted to a USAID contract, LBG would receive an additional $1.40 in overhead expenses supposedly incurred by LBG.
In response, Pepe and former controller Precy Pellettieri, with Wolff’s supervision, hatched a fraudulent scheme from 2003 through 2007 to systematically reclassify the work hours of LBG’s corporate employees, including high-ranking executives and employees in the general accounting division, to make it appear as if those employees worked on federal projects when they did not. At his plea hearing on Dec. 12, 2014, Wolff admitted that Pepe and Pellettieri, at Wolff’s direction, reclassified these hours without the employees’ knowledge and without investigating whether the employees had correctly accounted for their time, and at times did so over an employee’s objection.
In addition to padding employees’ work hours with fake hours supposedly devoted to USAID work, Wolff instructed his subordinates to charge all commonly shared overhead expenses, such as rent, at LBG’s Washington, D.C., office to an account created to capture USAID-related expenses, even though the D.C. office supported many projects unrelated to USAID or other federal government agencies.
On Nov. 5, 2010, Pepe and Pellettieri both pleaded guilty before then-U.S. Magistrate Judge Patty Shwartz to separate informations charging them with conspiring to defraud the government with respect to claims. Also on that date, LBG resolved criminal and civil fraud charges related to Wolff’s and others’ conduct. The components of the settlement included:
a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), pursuant to which the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey suspended prosecution of a criminal complaint charging LBG with a violation of the Major Fraud Statute; in exchange, LBG agreed, among other things, to pay $18.7 million in related criminal penalties; make full restitution to USAID; adopt effective standards of conduct, internal controls systems, and ethics training programs for employees; and employ an independent monitor who would evaluate and oversee the company’s compliance with the DPA for a two-year period;
a civil settlement that required the company to pay the government $50.6 million to resolve allegations that LBG violated the False Claims Act by charging inflated overhead rates that were used for invoicing on government contracts; and an administrative agreement between LBG and USAID, which was the primary victim of the fraudulent scheme.
In the settlement, the government took into consideration LBG’s cooperation with the investigation and the fact that those responsible for the wrongdoing were no longer associated with the company.
Looking at an American intervention that’s going to end, not with a bang, but on a deadline, it can be tough to find the silver lining.
This week Forbes contributor Loren Thompson tried to do that in a piece called “Five Signs Afghanistan Is Becoming An American Success Story,” making the case that staying the course in Afghanistan is “paying off.” His premise that Americans can hold their head high on Afghanistan is based on five points: the solid performance of Afghan forces, the country’s improved political climate, Islamabad’s renewed interest in cooperating with Kabul, a booming Afghan economy, and popular support for Afghanistan’s national institutions. It’s a concise, readable assessment, with one problem: The country Thompson describes doesn’t exist.
Gary Owen is a veteran, development worker, and blogger at “Sunny in Kabul.” He is also a regular contributor to the Afghan Analysts Network and Vice News. Gary Owen is a pseudonym. Follow Gary Owen on Twitter @elsnarkistani.
We asked about consular staffing support because we anticipate that the evacuees coming from Yemen would have a good number of undocumented family members. Not all embassy staffers are well-versed in citizenship and passport regulations. So we are pleased to hear that reinforcements are there with more in the works.
Ambassador Kelly was nominated to serve as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti on On April 7, 2014. He assumed the ambassadorial duties on September 8, 2014. Prior to this appointment, he served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs from August 2011 to September 2014.
Updated with details from April 8 Daily Press Briefing:
QUESTION: Right. The ambassador said today earlier, I think, that they were getting reinforcements to help. What does that mean?
MS HARF: Yeah, so I have some – yep, I have some more information on that. So while awaiting security screening and processing by Djiboutian immigration officials, U.S. citizens and their families have been offered food, water, medical attention, hygiene items, infant care items, access to phones to contact relatives, and when feasible, a place to – it’s quite hot there; I think a place to stay and remain that’s out of the heat and a little more comfortable. These have been – much of this food and the items have been provided by embassy employees and local staff, which I think is important. The Department of Homeland Security has granted exceptional authority for the consular team in Djibouti to accept and approve immigrant visa petitions for spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens. The State Department is working to transfer immigrant visa cases for recently arrived refugees to Djibouti. We are also increasing consular staffing in Djibouti in order to process petitions for immigrant visa cases as quickly as possible; also to help Yemeni – help U.S. citizens with Yemeni family members find long-term housing while they work through their options here.
So we are doing a number of things in Djibouti. This is where many of people – the people leaving Yemen have gone. Our ambassador, I think, is sharing some of these experiences on Twitter, so I’d check those out as well.
QUESTION: Yeah, that’s where that came – but do you have a rough estimate? Is it a couple hundred people? How many are we talking about?
MS HARF: We’re not exactly sure. We’ve – I think he tweeted something like 149 or something like that. We know of a couple hundred; we just don’t know if that’s everyone.
MS HARF: So we don’t know how accurate it is.
QUESTION: But that doesn’t – that’s only the ones who have American citizenship. That might not include —
MS HARF: Correct.
QUESTION: — their families and spouses.
MS HARF: That is my understanding.
QUESTION: And so when you have – DHS has given your – are they sending people there, or is it they’ve just basically delegated —
MS HARF: Our – I think our consular team is sending additional people there.
QUESTION: So if you are a – the wife of an American citizen who is trying to get an immigrant visa, what’s the timeframe we’re talking about – looking at here?
MS HARF: I don’t know what the timeframe is. I’m happy to check. I don’t know.
QUESTION: But they would have to stay, though, in Djibouti until —
MS HARF: Well, they couldn’t come to the United States, ostensibly.
QUESTION: Okay. So —
MS HARF: Right.
QUESTION: But the process, though, is not a short one, is it? I mean, it’s —
MS HARF: I – Matt, I —
QUESTION: I’m not saying – I’m not making the argument that it is.
MS HARF: I don’t know. I’m happy to check. I don’t know.
Another insider attack out of Afghanistan is in the news today. According to media reports one U.S. service member is dead. The number of those wounded is reportedly between 3 to 7 Americans. The US Embassy in Kabul released the following brief statement:
We are aware that there was an exchange of gunfire involving Resolute Support service members near the provincial governor’s compound in Jalalabad. The incident took place after a senior U.S. official held a meeting with the provincial governor. All Chief of Mission personnel of the visiting party are accounted for.
Afghan soldier opens fire on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, wounds 3 US troops before being shot dead, official says: http://t.co/1fopiPQf4M
“The incident took place after a senior U.S. official held a meeting with the provincial governor,” embassy spokesperson Monica Cummings said. “All chief of mission personnel of the visiting party are accounted for.” The U.S. ambassador in Afghanistan, P. Michael McKinley, was in Kabul and not part of the visit to Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, embassy officials said.
The attack occurred after a meeting between U.S. Embassy officials and local Afghan leaders at the provincial governor’s home in Jalalabad, said Hazrat Hussain Mashraqiwal, police spokesman for Nangarhar province. An Afghan soldier suddenly opened fire on American and NATO troops providing security for the embassy team. The gunman and a member of the security team were shot dead during the exchange, Mashraqiwal said.
According to Afghan officials, Ambassador Michael McKinley was not present at the meeting. The U.S. Embassy did not provide further details on which senior U.S. official was meeting with the governor. But Afghan officials in Jalalabad said it was Donald Y. Yamamoto, who also holds ambassadorial rank.
Yamamoto, a former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and principal deputy assistant secretary in the State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs, served as a senior U.S. civilian representative to Northern Afghanistan, based in the U.S. Consulate in Mazar-e Sharif, where he was sent during last year’s elections. He now is the senior civilian representative in Afghanistan for Regional Command North, the State Department said.
According to USCG Mazar’s FB page, the Senior Civilian Representative to northern Afghanistan as of March this year is David Birdsey. Donald Y. Yamamoto currently serves as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs. He was previously ambassador to Ethiopia and Djibouti.
The Indian-assisted evacuation is not the first time Americans are evacuated by a foreign mission. According to the GAO, in 2004, about 400 American citizens from West Africa were evacuated on foreign government-arranged aircraft. That unnamed post “extensively coordinated and communicated with foreign missions” presumably because its operation had not been suspended or its staff relocated elsewhere, unlike the case in Yemen. Although not identified by the GAO report, we think this was the French Government-assisted evacuation from the Ivory Coast in 2004.
A second embassy update on April 6 indicates another departure option from Yemen though the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Below is part of the message:
April 6, 2015 | The International Organization for Migration (IOM) is planning to arrange a flight from Sana’a to Djibouti the week of April 6. U.S. citizens in Yemen who wish to avail themselves of this opportunity should contact the Mr. Anwar Alhakami of the IOM at email@example.com or 967-7155-55033. The Department of State cannot guarantee that all U.S. citizens seeking to depart via an IOM flight can be accommodated. All U.S. citizens seeking to depart require valid U.S. passports.
image via IOM click for larger view
According to IOM, while a number of governments have taken steps to evacuate their nationals from Yemen, whether by sea or air, many have not been able to do so, and have instead called on IOM’s assistance to extract their nationals who remain stranded there. As of 1 April, over 11,000 such requests had been received by IOM. IOM is now seeking an initial USD 10 million in funds to enable it “to deliver humanitarian evacuation assistance to a first caseload of 5,000 stranded and vulnerable migrants.”
To date, IOM has received requests to support the humanitarian evacuation of over 11,000 nationals from 22 governments.
Responding to Member States’ requests for IOM’s assistance, the Director General has approved the mobilization of the Organization’s Migration Emergency Funding Mechanism (MEFM) with an initial loan towards the initiation of evacuation operations. The MEFM, however, does not have sufficient resources to meet the requirements presented by the scale of the operation that would need to be established.
IOM’s Humanitarian Evacuation Cell has been activated and surge support has been deployed across the region to help coordinate and organize these efforts. IOM has identified air charter service providers who are able to operate between Yemen and concerned countries. All-inclusive, per capita air transportation costs, for such an operation amount to approximately USD 1,100, based on quotations so far received from aircraft operators, though at this stage IOM continues to consider all potential options, including air and land routes.
With this appeal, IOM aims to launch immediate evacuation operations in a manner that complements efforts so far undertaken by concerned governments, and has set an initial target of 5,000 stranded and vulnerable migrants to be transported from Yemen to their respective countries of origin. IOM will be working closely with authorities in receiving and transit countries, airlines, civil aviation and military authorities of involved countries, and consular authorities in both Yemen and countries of origin to ensure that assisted migrants have adequate documentation, are registered (manifested), are able to depart from Yemen and return to their countries of origin in a seamless manner.
Provisions are also being made to cover the provision of pre-departure assistance within Yemen through the mobilization of IOM’s 200+ staff within the country. Assistance will include ground transportation, medical assistance and basic supplies for migrants awaiting departure and logistical support at points of embarkation. In countries of origin, assistance will need to include onward transportation from ports of entry to final in-country destinations. This additional assistance is estimated to amount to USD 400 per capita.
IOM also says that among its lessons learnt from the Libya evacuation in 2011 is the critical importance of “establishing adequate support measures in countries of origin to receive migrants at ports of entry and provide basic support packages on arrival and, in partnership with country-based stakeholders and authorities, address prevalent reintegration challenges. In so doing, IOM considers in-country on-arrival assistance an intrinsic part of humanitarian evacuation operations, while also taking into account reintegration challenges in areas of return to ensure the sustainability of returns, prevent secondary displacement and mitigate potential social tension that may arise.”
An American who recently fled Sana’a estimated that there are “perhaps 300 Americans” stranded in Yemen. According to the Guardian, the State Department said it cannot estimate how many Americans are in Yemen.
Asked if the State Department has a sense of how many U.S. citizens are in Yemen, State’s acting spokesperson Marie Harf told the press corps yesterday, “We don’t.” She also explained that the State Department has issued 24 Travel Warnings on Yemen in the last 10 years, “so this is not a surprise that the security situation was a poor one.” As of April 6, the United States does not have a third party in Yemen to act on its behalf as protecting power.
Ms. Harf may not know this but we should note that the State Department requires overseas posts to produce estimates of the number of private American citizens in country. When surveyed by the GAO in 2007, more than three-quarters of posts said their last estimate was, at best, only somewhat accurate. State officials also told the GAO that these estimates were best guesses and not based on a particular methodology.
The annual State Department report of potential evacuees from each post overseas is called the F-77. In the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon evacuation of over 15,000 Americans, a State official told the GAO that State was in the process of updating the instructions for producing F-77 reports to improve the preparation of estimates of American citizens at post. If an estimate is not available, does that mean Embassy Sana’a did not have an updated F-77 prior to its suspension of operation in February 2015? Or does that mean, the challenges identified in 2008 for estimating U.S. citizens at post continue to this day: fluctuation of citizen population, non-registration, dual nationals? Or — does it simply mean that the State Department is not willing to make public its estimate of potential evacuees from Yemen?
The State Department suspended embassy operations at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen and American staff were relocated out of the country on February 11, 2015. This followed the previously announced suspension of all consular services on February 8 (see State Dept Suspends US Embassy Yemen Operations, Relocates Staff Until Further Notice). There was no USG-sponsored evacuation for U.S. citizens residing in the country. At that time, and many times previously, the State Department urged U.S. citizens to defer travel to Yemen and those U.S. citizens living in Yemen to depart the country (see here, here, here, here, and here).
On April 3, the State Department issued an updated Travel Warning for Yemen that says in part:
The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain severe. There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. We encourage all U.S. citizens to shelter in a secure location until they are able to depart safely. U.S. citizens wishing to depart should do so via commercial transportation options when they become available.
Yemen is unsafe for US soldiers, spies, diplomats, but “US citizens are encouraged to shelter in place.” http://t.co/ORb6dhH5Kx
Today, April, 6, the US Embassy Sana’a issued an Emergency Message advising U.S. citizens in Yemen that the Indian Government has offered to evacuate U.S. citizens from Yemen to Djibouti:
The Indian government has offered to assist U.S. citizens who want to depart Yemen for Djibouti. This potentially includes flights out of Sana’a and ships from Aden. U.S. citizens wishing to take advantage of this opportunity should contact First Secretary Raj Kopal at the Indian Embassy in Sana’a at 00967 734 000 657; you may be required to present a valid U.S. passport for boarding. The next flights from Sana’a are scheduled to depart early on April 7. The Department of State cautions that U.S. citizens should consider carefully the risks of traveling to or within Sana’a and Aden in order to board evacuation transport given security conditions in both cities.
On February 11, 2015, due to the deteriorating security situation in Sanaa, the Department of State suspended embassy operations and U.S. Embassy Sanaa American staff were relocated out of the country. All consular services, routine and emergency, continue to be suspended until further notice. The Department notified the public of this move, and its impact on consular services, and urged U.S. citizens in Yemen to depart while commercial transportation was available.
The level of instability and ongoing threats in Yemen remain extremely concerning. There are no plans for a U.S. government-coordinated evacuation of U.S. citizens at this time. If you wish to depart Yemen, you should stay alert for other opportunities to leave the country. U.S. citizens who are able to depart Yemen for another country and are in need of emergency assistance upon arrival may contact a U.S. embassy or consulate in that country.
U.S. Embassy Djibouti is a small post with a low consular workload. At least, until 2010, the consular section there consisted of one entry-level officer (who occupied an FS-03 position) assisted by three local employees (source-pdf).
We don’t know what is the current US citizen population in Yemen. A State/OIG report from June 2010 estimated that the U.S.-Yemeni community there numbered at least 55,000. The report also noted that the serious threat of terrorism in Yemen has put “Sanaa’s visa and passport services in the homeland security cross-hairs.”
We have reached out to Consular Affairs but have not heard anything back.
We’ve used the USAID OIG website but it does not have a smart nor responsive search function. We wanted to know how many inspections, audits, whatev reports the Office of the Inspector General at USAID did on IRD over the years. If they were rigorous in their oversight and USAID and the State Department did not do anything about it, that is an important component to this story. And if that is true, we wanted to see just how rigorous based on the reports the oversight office put out through the years, because how else can we tell but by the number and quality of their output?
We sent a direct message to USAID OIG via Twitter and we got a response back:
You click on that link and you’re told that “for media or general information inquiries, contact the OIG’s Immediate Office by mail, telephone, or fax. Whoa! The Immediate Office, apparently, is not immediate enough.
@USAID_OIG Txs for the DM. Do you only entertain snail mail or do you have a public affairs ninja with email who can respond to inquiries?
Late last year, following a Washington Post report on a USAID program in Pakistan, USAID OIG released (pdf) a statement with the following:
OIG is committed to providing products and information that are responsive to the needs of external customers and stakeholders. In responding to questions posed by Members of Congress and congressional staff, OIG has always endeavored to provide complete and accurate information based on the documentation and information available to us.
This is USAID’s largest nonprofit contractor. According to WaPo, USAID suspended IRD this past January from receiving any more federal work. The suspension came in the wake of allegations of misspending highlighted in a Post investigation in May 2014. USAID told the Post that they are cracking down on contractors who misspend tax money.
Hookay. So let’s start with finding out what type of oversight USAID OIG provided on IRD contracts since 2006. This is one time when those USAID OIG Fact Sheets would really be helpful.
Somebody just wrote us a note saying “It’s not clear why the Department has such a hard time with the facts … Colombian academics and others have offered convincing evidence that spraying roundup in their country is a major health issue and yet the Department resorts to ad hominem attacks rather than dealing with the facts.”
Two academics were allegedly “treated poorly” when they tried to discuss their findings with the INL staff at the U.S. Embassy in Bogotá in 2013. We have no way of confirming this either way but given the recent news from the World Health Organization, we wanted to know what happens now. The embassy’s aerial eradication page appears to be outdated by several years. Its Public Affairs Office does not have a publicly listed contact email. We have reached out to a couple of offices in Foggy Bottom but have not heard anything back.
In 2012, Jenny O’Connor wrote a piece in CounterPunch about Colombia’s Agent Orange. She noted that a core element of U.S. anti-drugs policy in Colombia has beenthe destruction of coca fields by aerial chemical fumigation thus impacting the cocaine trade at its source. She cited the Chaco Government investigation in 2010 where its report found that “since the use of glyphosate based herbicides began in 2002 the communities most exposed had experienced an alarming increase in birth defects, spontaneous abortion and leukaemia, brain tumours and lymphomas in children under the age of 15.”
In 2013, WOLA described the coca fumigation in Colombia:
Aircraft, mostly piloted by contractor personnel, fly over coca-growing zones spraying “Round-Up Ultra,” an herbicide including the active ingredient glyphosate, over about 100,000 hectares per year of Colombian territory. Between 1996 and 2012, aircraft have sprayed herbicides over 1.6 million hectares of Colombia—an area equivalent to a square 80 miles on each side. The corners of such a square would stretch from the Washington suburbs to the Philadelphia suburbs. That’s the equivalent of one hectare sprayed every 5 minutes and 29 seconds since January 1, 1996.
While fumigation has contributed modestly to reduced coca growing, it has done so at a steep cost, both in dollars and in goodwill toward Colombia’s government in conflictive territories where it is most needed.
Testimonies of health and environmental damage from fumigation have proliferated, but are hard to verify. Still, the damage to the government’s credibility is already done when the local population believes them to be true. And nearly everyone in affected zones can cite a case of legal food crops destroyed by spraying, forcing families to confront hunger.
Memorandum of Justification Concerning the Secretary of State’s 2007 Certification of Conditions Related to the Aerial Eradication of Illicit Coca in Colombia
The Secretary of State determined and certified in 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 that the herbicide mixture, in the manner it is being used, does not pose unreasonable risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment. After previous consultations with EPA, the Department of State and the Government of Colombia have incorporated all EPA recommendations to strengthen spray program controls and ensure increased protection against adverse effects to humans and the environment. The Department of State is not aware of any published scientific evidence of risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment that have surfaced since the 2006 certification. Included below is a brief review of the conditions that allow the Secretary to recertify to Congress in 2007 that the herbicide mixture, in the manner it is being used, does not pose unreasonable risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment.
In the 2004 EPA report, EPA offered the following assessment of human health concerns related to the spraying of coca in Colombia: “Despite an aggressive search for cases, there does not appear to be any evidence that glyphosate aerial spraying has resulted in any adverse health effects among the population where this spraying takes place.” EPA also concluded “that an aggressive program to identify glyphosate poisoning has been implemented in the areas of Colombia where illicit crop eradication spraying programs are prevalent.” A significant number of health care providers have received training and additional training is under way or planned.
We have been unable to locate a more recent justification for the use of glyphosate in aerial spraying. If there is a more recent one, please send us a link.
Colombian Ministry of Defense authorities reported seizing over 207.4 MT of cocaine and cocaine base in 2014, and eliminated tons of additional potential cocaine through the combined aerial and manual eradication of 67,234 ha of coca over the year.
In areas where Colombia allows aerial eradication, coca fields are less productive than they were when eradication operations began in the late 1990s. Nevertheless, illicit cultivation continues and is increasing in Colombia’s national parks, indigenous reserves, the department of Norte de Santander, and within a 10-kilometer zone along the border with Ecuador, where Colombian law or international and regional agreements prohibit aerial eradication.
In late 2014, the governments of Colombia and Ecuador implemented an agreement to reduce the border exclusion zone to 5 kilometers which permits expanded aerial eradication along the Colombian-Ecuadorian border. Colombia aerially eradicated 55,532 ha of coca in 2014, surpassing its goal of 55,000 ha. Colombia manually eradicated 11,702 ha of coca in 2014, falling short of its goal of 14,000 ha. Numerous local level protests blocking access roads to coca fields were a major obstacle to manual eradication’s ability to operate in major coca growing regions.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the EPA concluded in a 2012 study that glyphosate meets safety standards for human health when used in keeping with its label. The agency is reportedly conducting a scheduled review of glyphosate in conjunction with Canadian regulators.