Colombia’s State Council ruled Monday that the government was responsible for the environmental and social damages of its aerial coca fumigation policy, reported national media.
Fumigation, the aerial dispersion of glyphosate herbicide over fields believed to be used for coca cultivation, has been a central and controversial aspect of joint Colombian-US efforts to combat drug production in the Andean nation since the early 2000s.
The strategy, however, has been shown to result in the contamination of local water supplies and populations, as well as indiscriminate damage to legitimate crops in or around cultivation areas.
On Monday, the State Council decided against the Ministry of Defense and the National Police, ruling that the state was liable for the damages caused to a farmer whose fruit orchards were harmed by aerial spraying in 1999.
The high court concluded that the government can be held responsible for the consequences, inadvertent or otherwise, of its fumigation strategy and ordered anti-narcotics to clearly delimit illicit plantations targeted for fumigation in the future and “avoid, prevent, warn, mitigate, remedy, control, compensate and correct possible environmental damages,” according to the El Espectador newspaper.
In 2013, Ecuador sued Colombia before the International Court of Justice for the damages caused by the aerial fumigation to Ecuadorian farmers living close to the border between the two countries. Ecuador withdrew the complaint after receiving a $15 millions compensation for the damage from the Colombian state, which agreed to end fumigation efforts within close proximity to the shared border.
Colombia suspended aerial fumigation activities last fall, following intense protests in various of the more affected regions, but reinitiated the program this February.
Colombia’s minister of justice recently asked the United States to shift the focus of its foreign aid to Colombia away from fumigation efforts. The United States provided the initial impetus for fumigation, which uses herbicide from the US-based Monsanto multinational, and has since funded and provided aerial support for the program.
US President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2015 reduces military aid to the country, but there has been no indication from US officials of whether fumigation will be affected as a result.
The State Council recommended that the Colombian government look into alternative methods to limit production, but fell short of condemning the policy entirely, as groups such as the FARC rebels and various humanitarian organizations have previously done.
It is unclear how much liability the government will now take on for the long-term effects of fumigation, which has impacted thousands of people in a number of regions of the country.
- Condenan a la Nación por daños causados por aspersión aérea con glifosato (El Espectador)
- Solicitan al Gobierno Nacional modificar método de erradicación de cultivos ilícitos ( Radio LA f.m.)
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