The State Department recently announced the opening of its Venezuela Affairs Unit (VAU) under the leadership of Charge d’Affaires James Story at the US Embassy in Bogota, Colombia:
The VAU is the interim diplomatic office of the U.S. Government to Venezuela, located at the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, and has been established with bipartisan support from the U.S. Congress. The VAU is continuing the U.S. mission to the legitimate Government of Venezuela and to the Venezuelan people. The VAU will continue to work for the restoration of democracy and the constitutional order in that country, and the security and well-being of the Venezuelan people.
The VAU interacts with the government of interim president Juan Guaido, the democratically elected National Assembly, Venezuelan civil society, and the people of Venezuela. The United States welcomes the support of the Government of Colombia, which is a further demonstration of its steadfast commitment to democracy and peace in the region.
The United States stands with interim President Juan Guaido, the National Assembly, and the people of Venezuela as they seek to regain their democracy.
Media inquiries about the VAU should be sent to VAUMediaUnit@state.gov.
- Pompeo Announces Departure of All Remaining U.S. Embassy Caracas Diplomats From Venezuela (March 2019)
- @SecPompeo Announces Withdrawal of All US Personnel From Venezuela, Also Who Needs the Next Curveball? (March 2019)
- Venezuela Special Envoy Elliot Abrams Gets a Protest, and a Grilling in Congress (February 2019)
- @SecPompeo Appoints Elliott Abrams, Iran-Contra Figure to “Help” Restore Democracy in Venezuela January 2019
- U.S. Sanctions Venezuela’s State-Owned Oil Company Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. January 2019
- Pompeo on US Embassy Venezuela: US to “take all appropriate measures to ensure that they’re protected.” And if they’re not? January 2019
- US Embassy Venezuela Now on Mandatory Evacuation For Non-Emergency Staff and Family Members January 2019
- @StateDept to Venezuela’s Maduro: You can’t break up with U.S. or PNG our unpaid diplomats! January 2019
- Maduro Breaks U.S. Diplomatic Relations, PNGs Diplomats But — USG Now Recognizes Guaido as Venezuela President January 2019
- Venezuela Expels US Embassy Caracas CDA Todd Robinson, DCM Brian Naranjo #48Hours May 2018
- @StateDept Orders Evacuation of US Embassy Venezuela Family Members, Authorizes Departure of Employees July 2017
- US Embassy Venezuela: Appointment Wait Time For Visas Now at 999 Days June 2016
- Venezuela Kicks Out Top US Diplomat, Two Other Officials For … Wait For It ….Blackouts! Oct 2013
- US Embassy Caracas: Where do I begin, to tell the story of how bad a post can get? (February 2012)
The #Venezuela Affairs Unit (VAU) will be headed by James Story, the U.S. charge d’affaires to #Venezuela, who was among the last American diplomats withdrawn from the U.S. embassy in #Caracas in March as conditions deteriorated in the country. https://t.co/BOGPp22DOg
— Reuters Venezuela (@ReutersVzla) August 28, 2019
#EXCLUSIVA | $ 200 mil millones se han sustraído de #Venezuela por el régimen y no se sabe dónde están. Esto según el encargado de negocios de #EEUU para #Venezuela James Story (@usembassyve) | Por: @jogonzalezc | Lee más "_ https://t.co/x6uJyUTqeL pic.twitter.com/3LYAh2Fcch
— CaraotaDigital (@CaraotaDigital) September 8, 2019
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) September 1, 2019
The diplomatic jujitsu is a reflection of a dawning reality: Maduro remains as in charge today as ever, conducting the nation’s business, despite recognition of Guaido by more than 50 capitals. @SamyAdghirni tells the story: https://t.co/ZM60kBgUbL (2/2)
— Patricia Laya (@PattyLaya) August 30, 2019
Posted: 12:27 pm PT
สุขสันต์วันปีใหม่ Happy New Year from U.S. Embassy Bangkok!
ปีใหม่ปีนี้ ชาวสถานทูตมาแบ่งปันไอเดียของขวัญปีใหม่กัน https://t.co/7gDj0fjoKZ
— U.S. Embassy Bangkok (@USEmbassyBKK) December 29, 2017
Toute la mission diplomatique américaine au Sénégal vous souhaite une très heureuse année 2018! https://t.co/N1TbOvGGzE
— U.S. Embassy Senegal (@usembassydakar) December 30, 2017
— US Embassy Bogota (@USEmbassyBogota) December 30, 2017
Muchos momentos emocionantes e inolvidables en el 2017 entre los Estados Unidos y Uruguay. Estamos listos para trabajar juntos en el 2018! #Celebramos150 #Democracia #Educación #Cooperación #Comercio #Emprendedurismo #DerechosHumanos #HappyNewYear pic.twitter.com/hCVMptPeUh
— Amb Kelly Keiderling (@USAmbUruguay) December 30, 2017
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As 2017 draws to a close, Ambassador Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir and the entire team at the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur want to thank our Malaysian friends and partners for a wonderful year. We’re looking forward to continuing our work together in 2018 and beyond. 2017年落幕之时，雷荷花大使及美国大使馆团队衷心感谢所有大马朋友及伙伴在这一年所给予的支持。期盼在2018年及将来继续与你们携手合作。 Tahun 2017 akan melaburkan tirainya. Duta Besar Kamala Shirin Lakhdhir dan seluruh pasukan di Kedutaan A.S. di Kuala Lumpur ingin mengucapkan terima kasih kepada rakan dan rakan kongsi Malaysia kami untuk tahun yang hebat ini. Kami tidak sabar untuk meneruskan kerja bersama pada 2018 dan seterusnya.
Thank you to everyone around the UK that has made 2017 such a memorable year! Looking forward to the New Year ahead and working together to strengthen the U.S.-UK special relationship. pic.twitter.com/K1BtEkC1B9
— Ambassador Johnson (@USAmbUK) December 28, 2017
Looking back on 2017 and my time in Japan since becoming Ambassador – off to a tremendous start, with a great Embassy team, and the strongest Bilateral relationship in the world.🇺🇸🇯🇵 #rewind2017 pic.twitter.com/2NlekjpwJA
— ビル・ハガティ米国大使 (@USAmbJapan) December 29, 2017
— David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) December 30, 2017
— Amb. Greg Delawie (@USAmbKosovo) December 30, 2017
— USAID (@USAID) December 27, 2017
Posted: 2:34 am ET
On November 21, the White House announced President Trump’s intent to nominate career diplomat Joseph E. Macmanus to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Colombia. The WH released the following brief bio:
Joseph E. Macmanus of New York to be Ambassador Extraordinary & Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the Republic of Colombia. Mr. Macmanus, a career member of the Senior Foreign Service, class of Minister-Counselor, has served as an American diplomat since 1986. He is currently Adviser to the Secretary of State, a position he undertook in June 2017. Previously, he was Senior Adviser to the Secretary of State and Executive Secretary of the Department of State from 2014-2017. A former Ambassador, Mr. Macmanus has been a senior aide to four Secretaries of State. He has served at five U.S. Missions overseas. Mr. Macmanus earned a B.A. at the University of Notre Dame and a M.L.S. at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He speaks Spanish, French, and Polish.
If confirmed, Ambassador Macmanus would succeed career diplomat Kevin Whitaker who was appointed chief of mission in Bogota in April 2014. The last seven chief of mission appointees to Colombia going back to the mid-1990’s have been career diplomats. According to history.state.gov, the last non-career appointee sent to Bogota was Morris Dempson Busby (1938–) who served from September 1991–July 1994 under George H. W. Bush.
— US-UN Mission Vienna (@usunvie) December 2, 2013
Posted: 1:02 am EDT
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US Embassy Bogotá’s Regional Security Officer – Investigator (RSO-I) and its Criminal Fraud Investigator (CFI) were awarded the Major Juan Carlos Guerrero Barrera Medal by Interpol Colombia for the return of 31 fugitives from Colombia to the United States since January 2014. Whoa! That’s like … almost two fugitives a month from January 2014 to June 2015!
Since January 2014, Antonio and his staff have investigated, located, and returned 31 fugitives who were wanted in the United States for a variety of crimes. One criminal was a former weapons officer on a nuclear submarine who had been charged with grand larceny for allegedly defrauding his acquaintances of more than $1 million. Another was a physician assistant who allegedly forged signatures and made up diagnoses to submit to Medicare and Medicaid for millions of dollars in reimbursements.
But Antonio’s most notorious case involved an accomplished academic who had been featured on his home state’s Most Wanted list for allegedly committing sex crimes against children. He had managed to evade authorities for 22 years by going to great lengths to alter his appearance, including undergoing oral and plastic surgery to change his facial features, and getting skin grafts done to obliterate his fingerprints.
Antonio says, “People under extreme circumstances are capable of committing all kinds of crimes. But the one thing I can’t comprehend is how a person can harm a child. Someone like that does not stop either. He will continue finding new victims. That’s why I made crimes against children a top priority for my team.”
“We’re just three people, and what we do is not glamorous like those TV police dramas. The secret of our success is having top-notch people and maintaining strong working relationships with multiple law-enforcement partners. Criminal Fraud Investigator (CFI) Eduardo, Investigative Assistant Olga, and I work daily with our colleagues in DSS and other U.S. federal law-enforcement agencies, as well as with our local partners.
“Our joint work with the Colombian National Police, specifically with the Directorate of Judicial Police and Investigation and Interpol Colombia, and also with the Colombian Immigration Service, has been vital to accomplishing our investigative mission here in Colombia. This joint work and the ‘One Team, One Fight’ concept have been key to our success.”
Colonel Juliette Kure Parra says in her six years as head of Interpol Colombia, she has never had a closer working relationship with any other foreign police unit, and her team has not captured as many fugitives as with Antonio and his team.
In recognition of their accomplishments, the Interpol National Central Bureau awarded Antonio and Eduardo the Major Juan Carlos Guerrero Barrera Medal, named in honor of fallen Colombian police officer credited with having conducted the investigation that led to the targeted killing of the FARC’s terrorist leader, “El Mono Jojoy.” This is a very prestigious award only ever awarded to three other Americans, and the first time to a DSS special agent.
Originally posted by State/DS, Game Over for 31 Fugitives in Colombia.
Posted: 1:18 am EDT
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Via Burn Bag:
The U.S. Government never discusses the fact that flows of cocaine to the U.S. and the coca crop in Colombia do not correlate. Since there is no science behind this, why is INL [Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs] so enamored with spray? What interests are driving this program?
Posted: 12:40 pm PDT
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We did a few posts on the aerial fumigation in Colombia last month. See: State/INL: Anti-Drug Aerial Eradication in Colombia and the Cancer-Linked Herbicide, What Now?; So, who wants to drink up or be in target area for next aerial fumigation in Colombia?; Colombia Counternarcotics Program Costs Over $8 Billion the Last 11 Years, Where’s the Audit Trail?
Last week, the Colombia Health Ministry recommended that the aerial fumigation in the country be suspended. The Colombian Defense Ministry was quick to pushed back.
This is the same week when Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Colombia for the U.S.-Colombia High-Level Partnership Dialogue and the Steering Committee for the U.S.-Colombia Action Plan on Racial and Ethnic Equality, and joined the High-Level Strategic Security Dialogue.
Colombian authorities call for end to glyphosate aerial spraying of coca crops http://t.co/D7qQeuuAse
— The Guardian (@guardian) April 28, 2015
— AIDA in English (@AIDAorg) April 30, 2015
Colombia Health Minister Wants Aerial Spraying of Coca Plants Suspended http://t.co/fu8dmMiixg Would be major shift in Colombia’s drug war!
— Drug Policy Alliance (@DrugPolicyOrg) April 29, 2015
Below is an excerpt from WOLA’s Adam Isacson, Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy: Even if Glyphosate Were Safe, Fumigation in Colombia Would Be a Bad Policy. Here’s Why.
Colombia is the only coca-growing country that allows aerial herbicide fumigation. Faced with the possibility that it may be aerially spraying carcinogens over its own citizens, Colombia’s Health Ministry issued a statement late Monday recommending that the aerial fumigation program be suspended.
Whether to suspend the program is up to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who has yet to make or schedule an announcement. Meanwhile, Colombian government agencies that carry out the fumigation program have been quick to push back. “We cannot permit losing the benefits [of spraying] on delinquency, crime and terrorism,” said Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzón, who oversees Colombia’s National Police and its counternarcotics division, which performs the spraying. “We will continue using all our tools that help maintain security for Colombians.”
U.S. government officials say that while they will respect Colombia’s sovereign decision, they insist that glyphosate is safe and that they’d rather not see the spray program end. The State Department’s International Narcotics and Law Enforcement bureau has spent somewhere between US$1 billion and US$2 billion on herbicides, contractor pilots and mechanics, police escort helicopters, fuel, search-and-rescue teams, and related fumigation costs since the program began in 1994.
The lesson of Colombia’s fumigation program is that there is no substitute for economic development and government presence in national territory. The opposite—flying anonymously above without any presence on the ground—causes the coca trade to migrate and alienates populations whose support is necessary amid an armed conflict. When not coordinated with food security and alternative livelihoods, fumigation also gives guerrillas a powerful propaganda tool: the FARC and ELN have heavily employed the argument that the spraying is proof that Colombia’s “oligarchy” either doesn’t care about peasants, or wants to use the spraying to dispossess them of their lands.
Read in full here.
Posted: 3:02 am EDT
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Last month, we’ve blogged about State/INL’s aerial eradication program in Colombia (see State/INL: Anti-Drug Aerial Eradication in Colombia and the Cancer-Linked Herbicide, What Now?). We understand that there was a cable sent through the Dissent Channel concerning this subject. We also received an allegation that the “OIG wouldn’t touch this issue last year.” So we asked the Office of Inspector General and here is its official response:
There is no Department program or operation that the OIG is unwilling to review. In fact, the OIG inspected Embassy Bogota, Colombia in early 2011. That inspection discusses counter narcotics programs, drug production and trafficking in Colombia. Additional pertinent, recent reports include a Compliance Follow-up Review of Embassy Bogota, published in December 2008 (ISP-C-09-08A), and an Inspection of Embassy Bogota published in March 2006 (ISP-I-06-16A).
That 2011 OIG inspection report is a 64-page document; the discussion on the counternarcotics program encompasses approximately four pages of that report.
We could not locate a recent OIG inspection/audit of the counternarcotics (CN) program in Colombia. By comparison, there are multiple audits for the CN program in Afghanistan (see related items below). The CN program in Colombia predates the one in Afghanistan, so makes one ask questions. We’ve also asked State/OIG if there is any plan to put this program in the IG’s inspection or audit schedule anytime soon? Here is the response:
OIG develops its work plans based on a number of factors – including, a program’s risk profile, its relation to the Department’s management challenges, mandated work, congressional requests, OIG resources, etc. Our FY 2015 Work Plan and 2015 Office of Audits Strategic Work Plan are on our website. I wouldn’t be able to comment on any work, in addition to that listed in the plans, which may or may not be scheduled in the near future.
Below is an excerpt from the Embassy Bogota 2011 report (pdf):
Since 2001, Colombia’s estimated annual cocaine production potential has decreased by 61 percent, from 700 to 270 metric tons. The United States has made a major investment in helping Colombia address the narcotics problem. The United States provided more than $7.4 billion (approximately $5.9 billion from the Department of State (Department) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and $1.5 billion from the Department of Defense for Plan Colombia and its follow-on programs from FYs 2000 through 2010.
Embassy Bogotá’s NAS is one of the largest in the world, with 134 employees and 664 contractors. The FY 2010 NAS budget for all programs was approximately $244 million, a significant decrease over a 3-year period from approximately $326 million in FY 2007.
That’s a lot of money and that 61% looks good but when was the last time this program was audited?
The only Audit of INL Programs in Colombia we could locate is one dated July 2000 and posted publicly online in 2004. The audit says that “Despite spending over $100 million on the increased eradication efforts during FY 1997-99, the results of the spray program are uncertain.”
But this 2000 OIG audit is, of course, an ancient dog.
In any case, aerial eradication is discussed briefly under “Other Matter” in a 2010 USAID/OIG audit on the Alternative Development program in Colombia (pdf):
The UNODC [United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime], acting on the behalf of the Government of Colombia, delineates project boundaries and verifies, using a combination of satellite and ground monitoring, that the area is free of illicit crops. Despite these measures taken, beneficiaries do not have a guarantee that they will not be subject to aerial eradication. Officials from USAID/Colombia and the Department of State’s Narcotics Affairs Section acknowledge that occasionally, land that the Government of Colombia has certified as being illicit free and has come under the alternative development program has been subject to fumigation (eradication). The audit interviewed beneficiaries from two alternative development activities in the department of Putumayo who lost their licit agricultural crops because of aerial eradication efforts.
Beneficiaries are still at risk despite demonstrating that their land is illicit free because the different goals and objectives that the U.S. Government is trying to achieve under its three-tiered counternarcotics strategy (interdiction, eradication, and alternative development) do not always complement each other. For example, a key U.S. Government’s counternarcotics objective is to assist the Government of Colombia in its efforts to eliminate the cultivation of illicit drug crops. Under the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, the Office of Aviation supports the Colombian National Police’s efforts to eradicate coca through aerial fumigation. As part of those efforts, the Office of Aviation uses airborne digital cameras to photograph suspected coca fields. If coca is identified, these fields become targets for aerial fumigation.
According to officials from both USAID/Colombia and the Department of State’s Narcotics Affairs Section, the routes used for aerial fumigation are based on predetermined global positioning system coordinates. However, while in the air, if the pilot is able to visibly identify coca outside of the predetermined area, then a decision to eradicate can be made. Unfortunately, some licit crops share an appearance similar to that of the coca leaf, creating a possibility for human error in the decision to eradicate.
According to USAID/Colombia and Narcotics Affairs Section officials, there is a complaint process established for anyone who believes that their land has been fumigated erroneously. The complaint process can be lengthy, and if beneficiaries cannot provide the correct global positioning system coordinates of their land and the date of the alleged fumigation, any damages resulting from the fumigation can be difficult to prove. Adding to the challenge is that the effects of aerial fumigation are not immediately visible but appear days or weeks after the field was sprayed. If a complaint is successful, the beneficiary is compensated for the loss. However, it is doubtful that the beneficiary can truly recover the time and effort invested in the cultivation of the licit agricultural crops on the land. And having lost their investment once, the beneficiary may decide not to continue with the production of licit crops.
Officials from both USAID/Colombia and the Narcotics Affairs Section state that interagency coordination has improved and more sharing of information is helping to ensure that alternative development program beneficiaries are better identified and considered prior to instances of aerial fumigation. Nevertheless, the protection of these beneficiaries cannot be guaranteed.
In March 2014, the Congressional Research Service issued a report (pdf) on International Drug Control Policy: Background and U.S. Responses. Excerpt below:
Much of contemporary counternarcotics efforts in Colombia stem from a 1999 Colombian government strategy to address security and development issues, called Plan Colombia. It was intended to be a six-year plan, concluding in 2005, to end the country’s decades-long armed conflict, eliminate drug trafficking, and promote economic and social development. The plan aimed to curb trafficking activity and reduce coca cultivation in Colombia by 50% over six years. In support of Plan Colombia and its follow-on programs, the U.S. government spent more than $8 billion in security and development assistance between FY2000 and FY2011, to include both civilian and military counterdrug support efforts.
Here is the part of the 2014 CRS report that talks about eradication:
Eradication is a long-standing but controversial U.S. policy regarding international drug control. As recently as 2008, the State Department had considered crop control the “most cost-effective means of cutting supply,” because drugs cannot enter the illegal trade if the crops were never planted, destroyed, or left unharvested. Without drug cultivation, the State Department’s rationale continued, “there would be no need for costly enforcement and interdiction operations.”
Proponents of eradication further argue that it is easier to locate and destroy crops in the field than to locate subsequently processed drugs on smuggling routes or on the streets of U.S. cities. Put differently, a kilogram of powder cocaine is far more difficult to detect than the 300 to 500 kilograms of coca leaf that are required to make that same kilogram. Also, because crops constitute the cheapest link in the narcotics chain, producers may devote fewer economic resources to prevent their detection than to conceal more expensive and refined forms of the drug product.
Opponents of expanded supply reduction policy generally question whether reduction of the foreign supply of narcotic drugs is achievable and whether it would have a meaningful impact on levels of illicit drug use in the United States. Manual eradication requires significant time and human resources, reportedly involving upward of 20 work-hours of effort to pull up and destroy one hectare of coca plants. Aerial application of herbicide is not legal or feasible in many countries and is expensive to implement where it is permitted. Aerial fumigation in Colombia has also raised allegations that the herbicide chemical used has caused negative human, animal, and environmental consequences.
Others question whether a global policy of simultaneous crop control is cost-effective or politically feasible because eradication efforts may also potentially result in negative political, economic, and social consequences for the producing country, especially in conflict or post- conflict environments. Some argue that this has been the case with respect to eradication efforts in Afghanistan, where some U.S. officials have acknowledged that poppy eradication may have caused many poor Afghan farmers to ally with insurgents and other enemies of the Afghan government. In 2009, Richard Holbrooke, who was the Obama Administration’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan at the time, called Western eradication policies in Afghanistan “a failure” and stated that they have “wasted hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars.” Since 2009, the U.S. government has no long directly participated in eradication operations in Afghanistan.
So help us out here. What we can’t understand is how a program that costs American taxpayers over $8 billion in the last 11 years has no State/OIG audit trail?
- So, who wants to drink up or be in target area for next aerial fumigation in Colombia?
- Snapshot: State/INL’s Counternarcotics Program Afghanistan — $220 Million With Unclear Results
- State Dept’s Counternarcotics Programs: Over $1 Billion, Five Countries And …
- Colombia: New Barracks Construction Awarded
Related items: Counternarcotics (CN) Reports Afghanistan
Audit of Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Counter-narcotics Assistance to Afghanistan | November 14, 2014} AUD-MERO-15-02 | View Report: aud-mero-15-02.pdf
Performance Evaluation of PAE Operations and Maintenance Support for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs’ Counternarcotics Compounds in Afghanistan | March 04, 2011| MERO-I-11-02 | View Report: 157927.pdf
Status of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Counternarcotics Programs in Afghanistan Performance Audit | December 23, 2009 | MERO-A-10-02
| View Report: 134183.pdf
Interagency Assessment of the Counternarcotic Program in Afghanistan July 2007 | August 03, 2007 | ISP-I-07-34 | View Report: 90158.pdf
Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs July 2005 | June 18, 2009 | ISP-I-05-14 | View Report: 125271.pdf
Posted: 11:52 am EDT
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Related to our blog post on Colombia, and INL’s aerial eradication program there ( see State/INL: Anti-Drug Aerial Eradication in Colombia and the Cancer-Linked Herbicide, What Now?), please meet GMO advocate Dr. Patrick Moore who claimed that the chemical in Roundup weed killer is safe for humans to consume and “won’t hurt you” but refused to drink up. The video is originally from French cable channel Canal+. Forbes call this video “meaningless theater” but that “you wouldn’t want to drink a quart of it.”
Are we to understand that anyone who claims in an interview that this herbicide is safe for humans will now be asked to drink up from now on?
And might those who advocate that aerial spraying is safe will now be asked to live TDY in the target areas for aerial fumigation?
For the record, Embassy Bogota states that “the spray program adheres to all Colombian and U.S. environmental laws and applies a dose of glyphosate to coca that is well within the manufacturer’s recommendations for non-agricultural use.” Online information appears outdated.
Following our inquiries about the aerial eradication in Colombia, a State Department official made the following points to us:
- Glyphosate is a frequently assessed and tested substance, having been intensely examined for decades. The overwhelming body of scientific literature has consistently found glyphosate to be safe when used correctly for both humans and the environment.
- Glyphosate is approved for use in all 50 US states, Canada, and the EU.
- Glyphosate is widely used in Colombia for agricultural purposes. Indeed, only about 9 percent of glyphosate used in Colombia is used in the drug eradication effort – the other 91 percent is used for agricultural purposes.
- The spraying program against coca has played the critical role in decreasing the area of coca under cultivation by more than 50 percent, denying criminal groups access to illicit resources.
Last week, the NYT cited Daniel Mejia, a Bogota-based economist who is chairman of an expert panel advising the Colombian government on its drug strategy; he said that the new WHO report is by far the most authoritative and could end up burying the fumigation program.
“Nobody can accuse the WHO of being ideologically biased,” Mejia said, noting that questions already had been raised about the effectiveness of the spraying strategy and its potential health risks. A paper he published last year, based on a study of medical records between 2003 and 2007, found a higher incidence of skin problems and miscarriages in districts targeted by aerial spraying.
Hey, isn’t this the same guy who previously talked to the INL folks at the U.S. Embassy in Colombia?
So in essence, the U.S. government had been presented evidence that might prevent certification? Anyone interested in looking at that new data?
What happened to the purported cable that was sent through the Dissent Channel (pdf) last year on this specific topic? Filed and forgotten?
Meanwhile, the spraying continues . . . .but there’s no shortage of Colombian trafficked cocaine on U.S. streets.
Last week, Reuters reported that U.S. authorities confiscated a $180 million shipment of cocaine from Colombian drug traffickers aboard a boat on the Pacific Ocean bound for the United States. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reportedly found 5.28 tonnes of the drug aboard that vessel, a small fraction of what is reportedly 300-500 metric tons of trafficked cocaine from Colombia.
Below is the most recent completed report on aerial eradication in Colombia dated 2011. We understand that the report for Fiscal Year 2015 is currently being drafted.
Posted: 3:35 am EDT
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— Emily Cassidy (@Cassidy_Emily) March 20, 2015
— Joanna Blythman (@JoannaBlythman) March 20, 2015
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 been the 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.
State/INL’s 2015 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR) includes the following details:
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.