This weekend’s hemispheric summit in Colombia could spark an open revolt against the U.S. drug war. It is most encouraging to see Latin American leaders finally declaring their independence against this disastrous policy.

I have been barking at this particular moon for a long time. Below are a few pieces I did on the DEA’s ravages in Guatemala (1993) and in Colombia (1999 and 2000). Also included are the indignant responses from the DEA chief and from the Colombian ambassador.

Washington Times
January 25, 1993, Monday, Final Edition
HEADLINE: Poisonous fallout from the drug war
BYLINE: James Bovard
DATELINE: GUATEMALA CITY, GUATEMALA

BODY: GUATEMALA CITY, Guatemala – The Bush administration set in motion a major expansion and militarization of the U.S. drug war in Latin America.

Last June, plans were disclosed to send a dozen Black Hawk military helicopters to Guatemala, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic to support U.S. government efforts to destroy local farmers’ coca and marijuana crops. But, as Guatemala illustrates, U.S. anti-drug activities are wrecking the environment, terrorizing the people, and subverting the market economies that the United States loves to champion. Luckily, the Clinton administration has an excellent opportunity to end the abuses.

In November 1991, a group of Guatemalan beekeepers filed suit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), claiming that the spraying had destroyed half of their industry. Last February, the Peasant Unity Committee of Guatemala sued the DEA for damages in connection with the death of a child and extensive crop destruction caused by DEA spraying. The committee’s spokesman asserted that herbicides had contaminated local drinking water and that many residents had required hospitalization after exposure to the chemicals. Andres Giron, president of a Guatemalan human rights commission, declared in 1991 that herbicide spraying had destroyed so many farmers’ corn and bean crops that serious food shortages could result in the San Marcos region of the country.

The impact of the herbicides sprayed by drug warriors on crops may not show up for several days or longer. A manager of a large farm in Central Guatemala told me that many of his shipments of yucca cane to Europe have been rejected because his plants arrive in Rotterdam and are slowly dying as a result of DEA’s drug spraying.

One U.S. diplomatic official in Guatemala said the herbicide solution being sprayed – Round-Up – is not deadly: “Even if it were drunk straight, it could not kill achild.” The official asserted that Guatemalans’ complaints about the adverse impact of the spraying should be discounted because the complaints come from “illiterate Indians” and amounted to “drug war disinformation.” But, a Peace Corps volunteer, who had spent 18 months working with Guatemalan farmers, said the pilots are spraying much more toxic concentrations than the U.S. Embassy admits. U.S. Embassy denials of the adverse effects of foreign herbicide spraying carry ominous echoes of previous U.S. denials of adverse impacts – such as in Vietnam in the 1960s. (A leading Mexican paper asserted last year that the U.S. government was also spraying Paraquat – a highly toxic carcinogen – in Guatemala.)

Though Round-Up, manufactured by Monsanto, is widely perceived to be one of the less toxic herbicides, Japanese medical professionals reported in 1988 that inert ingredients in Round-Up may have been responsible for nine deaths in Japan and more than 40 other illnesses since 1984. According to environmental toxicologist David Monroe, runoff from Round-Up use “poses a substantial risk to the Salmon fisheries” in the Northwest United States.” According to Susan Cooper of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides, the National Park Service has banned the use of Round-Up in some areas because it poses reproductive hazards to people doing the spraying.

The United States is giving $65 million a year to the Guatemalan government, including more than $1 million for the military to aid its role in the anti-drug effort. But, giving the Guatemalan army more weapons to fight marijuana growers is like giving the Mafia bazookas to combat jaywalking in New York City.

Last April, the Latin American Institute at the University of New Mexico reported that “specially-trained brigades now comb regions where drug farms are concentrated to rip out the plants by hand and round up drug farmers in mass arrests.” It is likely that the Guatemalan anti-drug brigades, like many American police forces, are more interested in “body counts” – maximizing thenumber of suspects arrested – than in being fair to the accused. The specter of “mass arrests” is especially disturbing in a country where mass arrests have often been followed by “mass disappearances.”

DEA agents have often behaved acted as if the drug war gives them a right to impose martial law on foreign nations. In Bolivia, DEA agents have donned black masks and gone out and destroyed newly paved roads in the jungle in order to prevent drug traffickers form utilizing them. In Mexico, Guatemala, and elsewhere, DEA agents have kidnapped those accused of drug crimes and taken them to the United States. Guatemalan farmers’ exports to the United States are routinely destroyed during Customs Service searches for illicit drugs – and the Customs Service has refused to compensate any Guatemalans for the damage. The Customs Service apparently believes that, because some Guatemalans have smuggled drugs, the U.S. government has a right to mutilate any import from Guatemala.

The U.S.-financed attacks on Guatemalan farmers are especially hypocritical because U.S. agricultural policies have destroyed the profitability of other crops that Guatemalan farmers could grow. We poison their farms if they grow marijuana but, thanks to strict U.S. import quotas, refuse to allow them to sell us more than 55,972 tons of sugar per year. U.S. export subsidies have driven down the world prices for grains, poultry and other farm products, thereby making it much more difficult for Guatemalan farmers to compete in third markets against the United States.

Exporting our drug war to Guatemala and other Latin American nations is Yankee Imperialism at its worst. Rather than poison Guatemalan farmers’ crops, we should open our markets to their bounty.

James Bovard, the author of “The Fair Trade Fraud” (St. Martin’s Press, 1991), recently visited Guatemala.

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Washington Times
February 18, 1993, Thursday, Final Edition
SECTION: Part G; COMMENTARY; EDITORIAL; LETTERS; Pg. G2

HEADLINE: Columnist sprays tons of misinformation over your pages
BODY:
I read with great interest James Bovard’s Jan. 25 column, “Poisonous
fallout from the drug war,” concerning drug eradication efforts in Guatemala.
Unfortunately, the article had little basis in fact and contained many
inaccuracies. Let me correct the record.

First, the spraying of herbicides to destroy drug-cultivation areas is
conducted by the government of Guatemala under a program sponsored by the
Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics Matters, not the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as indicated in Mr. Bovard’s column. In
addition, the spraying of herbicides in Guatemala is primarily directed at
opium poppy crops from which heroin is derived, not at coca and marijuana
cultivation areas, as described by Mr. Bovard. In 1992, aerial spraying
eradicated 350 hectares (864.5 acres) of opium poppy in Guatemala.

The herbicide Round-Up, widely used in the United States and other countries
for agricultural and home-garden applications, has been studied extensively in
the United States. About 25 million pounds of Round-Up are sold in the U.S.
annually. Adverse human health and ecological effects are virtually nonexistent
if applications are carried out in the manner consistent with guidelines
approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the DEA. These
guidelines are strictly followed in Guatemala.

The EPA estimates that acute oral toxicity of Round-Up to humans to be 10
ounces per day for a 110-pound adult. The same quantity of table salt would be
more toxic. In other words, the herbicide is widely used in the United States
and other countries without ill effect to humans, animals or the environment.

In addition, the DEA is not facing lawsuits from individuals or groups in
Guatemala concerning the spraying program. Mr. Bovard’s assertions that
several lawsuits have been filed against the DEA, including one involving the
death of a child, are false.

The DEA, along with the government of Guatemala, is actively fighting drug
traffickers operating in that country. However, we certainly are not behaving
as if the “drug war gives us the right to impose martial law on foreign
nations,” as Mr. Bovard contends. The DEA and the rest of the U.S. Embassy
staff in Guatemala are working in concert with the government of Guatemala, at
its request, in order to alleviate drug production and trafficking.

Contrary to Mr. Bovard’s description of the DEA’s work in Guatemala, our
primary focus is on the use of Guatemala as a transshipment area for cocaine
bound for the United States and on the growing influence of the Columbian drug
cartels operating within the country. Counter-narcotics cooperation between the
U.S. and Guatemalan law-enforcement officers resulted in the seizure of about
15.5 metric tons of cocaine last year.

I suggest Mr. Bovard check his facts before setting himself up as an expert
on a subject as important as our relationship with other countries. When he
fails to check even basic information, he does a great disservice to your
readers.

ROBERT C. BONNER
The Washington Times, February 18, 1993
Administrator of Drug Enforcement
Drug Enforcement Administration
U.S. Department of Justice
Washington

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THE BALTIMORE SUN
June 1, 2000,
HEADLINE: U.S. stuck in Colombia
BYLINE: James Bovard

BODY:
THE SENATE will soon consider President Clinton’s proposed $1.6 billion
package to bankroll the government of Colombia’s war against leftist guerillas.

The aid windfall purports to help staunch the flow of drugs from Colombia.
But there is no reason to expect further U.S. anti-drug aid to be anymore
effective than past aid. Even worse, there is a growing danger that the United
States will be bumbling into a civil war.

The Clinton administration is hitting the panic buttons on the aid package;
one administration official whined to the Washington Post on Tuesday, “Every
week we are losing ground” in the fight against drugs.

While past U.S. aid has had little or no positive effect, Americans are
supposed to believe that any delay in new spending means catastrophic damage.

Colombia has received nearly $1 billion in anti-narcotics aid since 1990.
U.S. tax dollars are magnificent fertilizer: coca production is skyrocketing –
doubling since 1996 and forecast to increase another 50 percent in the next two
years. Colombia nowsupplies roughly three-quarters ofthe heroin and almost all
thecocaine consumed in the United States.

Most U.S. anti-drug aid has paid for chemical warfare: blanketing
coca-growing areas with herbicides from crop- duster planes and helicopter
gunships, a policy the Colombian minister of health strongly opposed in 1992.
Yet after continual escalation in the amount of spraying, the amount of land in
coca production is four times greater than what it was in 1994 and now exceeds
300 square miles.

“Close enough for government work” seems to be the motto of some anti-drug
pilots. The New York Times reported allegations on May 1 that U.S.-financed
planes repeatedly sprayed pesticides onto schoolchildren in a Colombian village.
Many children reportedly became ill; the spraying also killed crops, chickens
and 25,000 fish in fish farms.

The Clinton administration intensely pressured the Colombian government to
allow a much more toxic chemical (tebuthiuron, known as SPIKE 20) to be dumped
across the land, which would permit the planes to fly at much higher altitudes,
Kosovo-style.

Environmentalists warned that SPIKE 20 could poison ground water and
permanently ruin the land for agriculture. Even as the Clinton administration
decreed clean-air standards severely curtailing Americans’ exposure to chemicals
that pose little or no health threat, it sought to deluge a foreign land with a
toxic chemical in a way that would be forbidden in the United States.

The United States is foisting itself deeper into a civil war that has raged
in Colombia for decades. There are about 200 U.S. military advisers already on
site, and U.S. personnel are now actively training the Colombian military.

The Dallas Morning News recently noted reports that “tens of millions of
taxpayer dollars are going into covert operations across southern Colombia
employing, among others, U.S. Special Forces, former Green Berets, Gulf war
veterans and even a few figures from covert CIA-backed operations in Central
America during the 1980s.” The United States is providing key intelligence to
the Colombian military from U.S. intercepts of guerrilla radio messages.

Increased U.S. aid will not enable the Colombian government to win a
decisive victory over the guerrillas anytime soon. The Colombian military is
renown for losing almost all of the major engagements it fights with the
guerrillas.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, recently warned that if Clinton’s
$1.6 billion aid plan is approved, the United States will be locked into “a
five- to 10-year commitment, which will cost U.S. taxpayers in excess of $5
billion.”

And even if the guerrillas are defeated, it’s ludicrous to pretend that
Colombians will no longer have an incentive to grow coca, as long as U.S. laws
make that crop 20 times more profitable than any other.

American-funded drug suppression efforts have resulted in a “push down, pop
up” effect: the harder the United States works to repress coca production in one
area, the more likely production is to start up in another. It is time to
recognize the futility of trying to micromanage what foreign farmers grow.

James Bovard is the author of “Freedom in Chains,” (St. Martin’s Press,
1999). This article is adapted from an essay published by the Future of Freedom
Foundation, a think tank in Fairfax, Va.
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The Baltimore Sun
June 17, 2000 Saturday FINAL EDITION

SECTION: EDITORIAL, Pg. 9A SATURDAY MAILBOX

BODY:
Aid to Colombia helps stop drugs

James Bovard’s column “U.S. stuck in Colombia” (Opinion Commentary, June
1) mis-represented several important issues in the debate over U.S. assistance
to Colombia’s fight against narco- trafficking.

First, U.S. assistance to Colombia will not go to combat guerrilla
organizations, but for specific anti-narcotics activities such as military
equipment and training for Colombia’s armed forces and police to destroy the
infrastructure of illegal drug organizations.
And our balanced strategy will also support alternative development
programs, strengthen law enforcement institutions and help protect human rights.
Second, the increase in cocaine and heroin production in Colombia in recent
years is due in part to the success of similar U.S.-sponsored programs including
fumigation of coca and poppy crops in neighboring Bolivia and Peru.
Since 1992, Colombia has allowed the controlled aerial spraying of illicit
crops with gliphosate. Its application has been monitored and strictly
controlled and no secondary effects to the population or to the environment have
been reported.
Third, by providing assistance to Colombia, the United States is not
“bumbling into a civil war.”
Colombia is not engaged in a civil war. Guerrilla organizations account for
about 25,000 people in a nation of more than 40 million.
They are not waging an ideological argument with the government or Colombian
society, but are criminals who are engaged in violence, kidnapping, human rights
violations and drug trafficking.
The vast majority of Colombians are neither guerrillas nor drug traffickers.
We are, however, a nation that needs America’s help, not only to give us the
tools necessary to win the war against drugs we are waging in our country but to
reduce the demand for these drugs in your country.
Every shipment of illegal drugs we stop in Colombia is one that does not
reach Baltimore’s streets, neighborhoods and schools. Every month we delay the
approval of the aid package gives enormous advantage to the drug traffickers and
costs both societies thousands of human lives and tremendous lost opportunities.

Luis Alberto Moreno

Washington

The writer is Colombia’s ambassador to the United States.
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Las Vegas Review-Journal (Las Vegas, NV)

October 8, 1999

HEADLINE: Military aid only fuels Colombia’s busy coke ovens

BYLINE: James Bovard
Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service

It was not a good summer for the U.S. drug war in Colombia. On July 23, five
American officers died when their high-tech spy plane went down in southern
Colombia.
The Pentagon trotted out the usual explanation: out-of-date maps. Those Andes
mountains grow awfully quickly. Other observers speculate that the plane was
shot or forced down by Marxist guerrillas.
The prestige of the administration’s policy suffered another setback when the
wife of the commander of U.S. military anti-drug operations in Colombia was
indicted last month for shipping kilos of cocaine via embassy mail to contacts
in New York. They don’t make military wives like they used to.
Colombia has received almost a billion dollars of anti-narcotics aid since 1990.
U.S. tax dollars are magnificent fertilizer: coca production is skyrocketing _
doubling since 1996 and forecast to increase another 50 percent in the next two
years.
Colombia now supplies roughly three-quarters of the heroin and almost all the
cocaine consumed in the United States.
For the Clinton administration, the obvious solution to this problem is more
U.S. tax dollars. On July 16, Drug Czar Barry McCaffrey proposed an emergency
billion-dollar anti-drug package for the Andean nations, including $ 600 million
for Colombia.
The Clinton administration subsequently indicated the aid package might go even
higher.
The United States is foisting itself deeper into a civil war that has raged in
Colombia for decades. There are approximately 200 U.S. military advisers already
on site, and U.S. personnel are now actively training the Colombia military.
The Dallas Morning News recently noted reports that “tens of millions of
taxpayer dollars are going into covert operations across southern Colombia
employing, among others, U.S. Special Forces, former Green Berets, Gulf War
veterans and even a few figures from covert CIA-backed operations in Central
America during the 1980′s.”
The United States is providing key intelligence to the Colombian military from
U.S. intercepts of guerrilla radio messages.
Congress in 1996 prohibited any U.S. foreign aid to military organizations with
a penchant for atrocities. The Colombian army has a frightful human rights
record, but few in Congress seem to care about the administration’s open
flouting of the law.
Most U.S. anti-drug aid has paid for chemical warfare: blanketing coca-growing
areas with herbicides from crop-duster planes and helicopter gun ships. Yet
after continual escalation in the amount of spraying, the amount of land in coca
production is four times greater than what it was in 1994, and now exceeds 300
square miles.
Many farmers raising non-coca crops have been devastated by herbicides dropped
indiscriminately on their fields. The Colombian minister of health strongly
opposed the initiation of spraying in 1992.
Coca farmers have responded to the attacks in part by going deeper into the
jungles and hacking out new land for planting; environmentalists complain that
herbicide attacks are a major cause of deforestation.
Colombian environmental minister Juan Mayr publicly declared last year that the
crop spraying program has been a failure and warned, “We can’t permanently
fumigate the country.”
The Clinton administration has intensely pressured the Colombian government to
allow a much more toxic chemical (tebuthiuron, known as SPIKE 20) to be dumped
across the land, which would permit the planes to fly at much higher altitudes,
Kosovo-style.
Environmentalists warned that SPIKE 20 could poison ground water and permanently
ruin the land for agriculture. Even as the Clinton administration decreed clean
air standards strictly controlling Americans’ exposure to chemicals that pose
little or no health threat, it sought to deluge a foreign land with a toxic
chemical in a way that would be forbidden in the U.S.
Increased U.S. aid will not enable the Colombian government to win a decisive
victory over the guerrillas any time soon. The Colombian military is renown for
losing almost all the major engagements it fights with the guerrillas.
Even if the guerrillas are defeated, it’s ludicrous to pretend that Colombians
will no longer have an incentive to grow coca _ as long as U.S. laws make that
crop 20 times more profitable than any other.
American-funded drug suppression efforts have resulted in a “push down, pop up”
effect: The harder the U.S. works to repress coca production in one area, the
more likely production is to start up in another.
Ten years ago, President George Bush warned Colombian drug dealers that they
were “no match for an angry America.”
It is time to admit that, regardless of how many temper tantrums U.S.
politicians throw, the laws of supply and demand will trump posturing every
time. The war on drugs is as unwinnable in Colombia as it is in the hills of
Kentucky, where natives continue growing marijuana despite endless raids by
police and the National Guard.

James Bovard is an independent journalist and the author of “Freedom in
Chains” (St. Martin’s Press, 1999). This piece is adapted from a piece in the
current American Spectator.
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