Conclusion

In conclusion it is safe to say that despite the US and Colombian governments insisting to the contrary, there is definite evidence that fumigation seriously damages the environment, legal crops and, at least certain types, of animals and fish. It is also highly probable that fumigation is damaging the health of people, especially children, in the areas that are being fumigated. Furthermore it is known that large numbers of people are being displaced by the spraying, that it is going to lead to further deforestation and that it will almost certainly regionalize some of Colombia’s problems.

The question therefore must be asked, why, if alternative policies exist, is the US insisting on conducting a fumigation campaign in Colombia that is causing such immense damage to that country and it’s population? The question is even more important when one takes into account the fact that many seasoned observers, and indeed world-renowned experts on anti-narcotics strategies, state that the present policy of fumigating coca fields will simply not work.

The reality of the matter is that there are other motives behind the US ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America. Motives that benefit US corporate interests at the expense of the environments, and the lives of the people, in the countries effected. It is simply implausible that corporations such as DuPont, Philip Morris and Occidental Petroleum would donate hundreds of millions of dollars to see Plan Colombia pass through the US Congress if they did not believe that they were going to gain something from the whole affair - they are not charities after all.

In short Plan Colombia, as well as the recently announced Andean Regional Initiative aid package, is an effort to reassert US control in the Andean region and the first step towards this objective is the annihilation of all forms of resistance - the most potent of which is surely the FARC guerrilla movement.

The objective of fumigation is to remove the grass-root support and recruits that the peasants of Colombia provide for the guerrillas and to destroy one of the guerilla’s sources of income - taxation on drug production. As part of this policy the Colombian guerrillas, with the complicity of the corporate media, are also being vilified (beyond anything that it applied to the murderous US-backed regimes that function not only in Colombia but also in such countries as Turkey, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia), so much so that many people now use the ‘narco-guerrilla’ term and other like it as if they had some factual basis.

It is therefore also interesting to note that the US mass media - media outlets which in many cases are owned by the same corporate interests that are behind much of the US strategy in the Andean region and Plan Colombia in particular - are noticeably silent on the whole issue of fumigation never mind the possibility that there is something more than the ‘war on drugs’ behind the whole thing. The corporate media also neglects to mention the root causes that drive poor peasant farmers in Latin America into growing cocaine - unfair trade practices, IMF fiscal ‘reforms’ and the disgraceful indifference of the Latin American elite to the plight of their impoverished rural compatriots.

Fumigation is also employed to clear the land of people for the exploitation of natural resources by transnational corporation that are predominantly US-owned. This is achieved through the forced displacement of people by intentionally poisoning their land, water and livestock. Yet it is not only the fumigation that is displacing people in Colombia. By far and away the largest cause of displacement in the country is paramilitary death squad violence against rural civilian populations and it is here that we find the most worrying aspect of US policy in Colombia. The US, whatever the State Department and White House claim to the contrary, is silently complicit.

As Doug Stokes, a Colombia expert at Bristol University Politics Department in Britain says, the relationship is based on "the mutual desire to increase access to Colombia’s markets (and thus increasing US power in the region), but also in eliminating the rebels - whose very presence destabilizes this crucial oil region." The only real debate is how deeply the US government, and in particular their covert agencies, are involved with the paramilitaries.

It appears that Jesus Gonzalez, the head of the human rights department at the CUT trade union federation and one of Colombia’s most high-profile human rights activists, is right when he says that "Plan Colombia is a plan for death". However, this is secondary to the concerns of the US and its multinational allies, whose Plan Colombia and ‘war on drugs’ has done a great deal, according to the Economist magazine, to "undermine democracy, human rights and the environment in much of Latin America".