HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html Colombia Ordered To Halt Spraying Of Drug Crops
Pubdate: Fri, 27 Jun 2003
Source: Chicago Tribune (IL)
Copyright: 2003 Chicago Tribune Company
Author: Associated Press


BOGOTA, Colombia -- A Colombian court ordered the government Thursday to
suspend its U.S.-backed drug crop eradication program until more is known
about the effects of the sprayed herbicide on human health and the

Government officials said they would appeal the ruling and press on with
spraying in the meantime.

The ruling was announced in a lawsuit filed by lawyer Claudia Sampedro, who
said she was pleased that the tribunal recognized Colombians' right to a
"clean environment."

"These policies were drawn up without first studying effects on health and
the environment," said Sampedro, chosen to represent environmentalists,
human-rights activists and small farmers opposed to the spraying.

Colombian and U.S. officials have given repeated assurances that the
chemical used, a variant of the popular back-yard fertilizer Roundup, is
ecologically harmless and safe for people. They say the eradication push
targets only large-scale coca and opium plantations operated by drug

Agricultural Minister Carlos Gustavo Cano said Thursday that spraying
illicit crops is essential to the government's fight against rampant drug
trafficking that fuelsColombia's 39-year civil war.

"We respect [the ruling] but we don't agree with it," Cano told reporters.
"So the government will take the necessary actions to appeal it."

The ruling comes six weeks after the nation's Constitutional Court ordered
the government to consult indigenous communities about spraying drug crops
on their reservations, which make up 28 percent of the nation's territory.

The government was told to hold meetings with indigenous communities for
three months but was also advised that it can keep spraying during that

Officials say the spraying hasled to a large drop in coca cultivation.

According to a survey carried out by the UN Drug Control Program, Colombia
last year had 252,217 acres planted in coca, the base ingredient for
cocaine, down from 357,818 acres in 2001.

The White House Drug Policy Office said Colombia had 12,103 acres of opium
poppies planted last year, down from 15,932 acres in 2001.

Despite the declines, Colombia still produces most of the world's cocaine
and the majority of heroin consumed in the United States.
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