In 2016, the formal government of the South American country of Colombia signed a peace deal with its largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, as it’s known by its Spanish acronym. FARC is a guerilla group that’s been engaged in the longest-running armed insurgency in the Western Hemisphere. Despite the peace deal, some former FARC fighters, along with criminal gangs who are engaged in illicit drug trafficking, resoundly rejected the deal and are still actively fighting the federal government.
In order to raise money for insurgent activities, active, armed guerilla fighters and drug traffickers rely on the cultivation of coca, the main ingredient in cocaine. Colombia’s new Defense Minister, Diego Molano, who took over just two weeks ago, after his predecessor died of complications linked to COVID-19, told the Reuters news agency that Colombia may restart aerial glyphosate fumigation to eradicate coca fields.
In 2015, over concerns that glyphosate may cause cancer, Colombia stopped the practice of spraying the herbicide from the air. That same year, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans. In 2019, an independent review of six studies concluded that exposure to glyphosate did make people more likely to develop cancer.
If the government gets judicial approval, Molano says the aerial herbicide spraying would restart as early as next month.
Molano told Reuters, “What we want is security, security, more security,” said Molano. “First, the head-on fight against drug trafficking, which is the biggest threat we have in Colombia to the stability of our democracy.”
A BBC.com report on the FARC movement says that analysts believe the Farc are among the richest rebel movements in the world, owing to the lucrative cocaine trade.
Scores of human rights activists have been killed in Colombia in recent years. In fact, the Bogota-based Institute for Development and Peace Studies (INDEPAZ) had registered the killings of 223 human rights and community activists for the year 2020, by early October. According to a report by AlJazeera.com, the group has reported the murder of more than 1,000 activists since 2016, the year a truce between FARC and the government was announced. Activists, who are maintain that since the 2016 peace deal, attacks and killings of human rights- and environmental activists have increased. An Amnesty International report PDF confirms this. Activist groups blame the federal government for failing to protect the people.
It remains to be seen what impact, if any, the resumption of glyphosate aerial spraying on coca fields will have on the welfare of activists, should Colombia’s judicial branch re-approve the new Defense Minister’s plan.