US drug war in Colombia

The Bush administration is seeking to increase US military presence in Colombia, in the name of the drug war.
Currently, Congress has limited the number of US personnel in the region to 500 military troops and 300 contracted mercenaries ? US citizens working for private military contractors like DynCorp, Airscan and Military Professional Resources Inc. The new proposals include adding a “combat-ready counter-drug/counter-insurgency brigade” of about 2,000 troops, and expanding the $1.5 billion “military assistance program” by another $882 million.

In July 2001, the House of Representatives voted down a White House request to remove limits on the number of mercenaries which can operate in Colombia, and to remove language that says weapons can only be provided for “defensive purposes.” The Washington Post cited “rising congressional concern over the deteriorating situation in that country and fears of expanded US involvement.”

More than 120,000 acres of Colombian “drug crops” have been sprayed with coca-killing herbicides between November 2000 and September 2001. The US state department had claimed that it was spraying only glyphosate, a herbicide produced by biotech company Monsanto under the trade name “Roundup Ultra.” However, it was revealed that the actual product being sprayed was a mix of glyphosate and another toxic chemical mix called Cosmo Flux, designed to make the poisonous liquid stick to leaves. The combined chemicals have never been tested for safe use in crop-dusting or for their effects on human health.

A key ingredient in Cosmo Flux is made by British chemical company ICI. When the UK Observer publicly showed that ICI’s product was being used in the spraying, ICI immediately moved to end sales to the US government for that purpose.

Colombian agronomist Elsa Nivia told the St Petersburg Times that during the first two months of 2001, the spraying had caused illness in over 4200 people and the death of over 178,000 creatures, including cattle, horses, pigs, dogs, ducks and fish.

In July, the Center for Public Integrity released a report citing “a continuing hand-in-glove relationship between drug-trafficking paramilitaries and the Colombian army that US officials could hardly be unaware of.” The report claimed that US?drug war money in South America is being “funneled through corrupt military, paramilitary and intelligence organizations and ends up violating basic human rights.”

A number of senior Colombian politicians have called for decriminalization and government supervision of cocaine and the illegal drug industry. Colombia’s largest daily newspaper, El Tiempo, has also called for decriminalization.

? Military Professional Resources Inc:
? Dyncorp:
? Monsanto:
? Center for Public Integrity:
? The Colombia Report
? El Tiempo (spanish)
? CC 26, Colombian Death-Spray: