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Washington wages chemical warfare in Colombia

By Nicole Colson | September 13, 2002 | Page 2

THE U.S. government began dumping toxic chemicals on parts of Colombia last week. Carried out under the guise of the "war on drugs," the operation involved spraying the herbicide glyphosphate over a 300,000-acre area where coca, the crop used to make cocaine, is grown.

Conveniently for Colombia's government, the area being defoliated is a stronghold of the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a rebel group that has fought a 38-year civil war against the government. No wonder Washington--which has bolstered Colombia's dirty war on the FARC--wants to step up the defoliation operation.

The rhetoric about a "drug war" is a smokescreen. Experts agree that the fumigation program won't stop coca production, but will only force a shift in the regions where it's grown.

Then there's the safety of the chemical being used. The State Department claims that glyphosphate does "not pose unreasonable risks or adverse effects to humans or the environment." But the Environmental Protection Agency thinks different.

And since the herbicide is typically sprayed from low-flying helicopters, there's a good likelihood that it will "drift" from target areas, potentially wiping out the food crops of thousands of small farmers in the region.

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