Thursday, February 05, 2004


Now that Kerry's built the Big Mo', his handpicked 'national security advisor' Rand Beers is coming under more scrutiny. Counterpunch has a interesting piece on Beers Toxic Career that also offers a good look at what we are really doing to the indigenous under Plan Colombia. As we noted before, Beers was one of the chief architects of the campaign.

Beers was most closely associated with the disastrous aerial crop fumigation program the U.S. introduced in southern Colombia. The State Department hired DynCorp, a private military contractor, to fly crop dusters at high altitudes over the rainforests of southern Colombia, spraying a chemical cocktail that includes a stronger version of Monsanto's popular and controversial herbicide, Round-Up, over suspected coca fields. Beers was the public face of the fumigation program, defending and advocating for it in Congressional hearings and in the media.

The author details a long list of harms suffered under fumigation by the least culpable players - the destitute farmers.

...the fumigation program targets the poorest people with the least involvement in international drug trafficking--the coca growers--while leaving the cocaine processors and exporters, who make the real profits in the drug trade, completely untouched. In a good year, a farmer planting 5 acres of coca can bring in $4,000. Once that coca is processed into cocaine and brought to the U.S. it has a street value of close to $800,000. who don't grow coca have been hurt just as badly by the fumigations as farmers who do grow coca. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in the chemical cocktail used in the fumigation program, is a broad-spectrum herbicide that kills any and all green plants. The crop fumigation planes fly at high altitudes, and so their spraying is at best imprecise. As a result, many farmers growing only legal crops have lost everything.

....In January of 2001, I visited a government-funded yucca cooperative that was intended to help farmers find an alternative to growing coca. The cooperative had been fumigated and the entire yucca crop had been destroyed. I met one woman who had invested everything she had in the co-op and now had no way to feed her children. She wanted to go to the city to beg, but couldn't leave town because the paramilitaries who had killed her brothers had a roadblock on the only road out of La Hormiga. Corn and plantain crops on surrounding farms had been destroyed as well. Many people were complaining of rashes, respiratory problems, and temporary blindness caused by the fumigations.

Both the US and Colombian governments claim the farmers are compensated for the loss of legal crops but the farmers state that few have received any aid and their health concerns about toxin exposure are dismissed as irrelevant.

The article explains how Beers invented the 'narco-terrorist' for his former boss George W. Bush.

The processing and export of cocaine are largely controlled by wealthy landowners and the right-wing paramilitaries that support them, while coca growers are "taxed" by the Marxist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC.) The paramilitaries are technically considered terrorists by the U.S., but play a significant role in protecting U.S. economic interests by using massacres to clear off land for oil development, logging, hydro-electric dams, and cattle ranching, and by assassinating union organizers, indigenous leaders, and other critics of the political and economic order in Colombia, while the FARC keeps attacking oil pipelines and kidnapping wealthy people--and so the FARC is defined as a "narco-terrorist group," and U.S. policy is focused on weakening the FARC. Fumigating coca crops indirectly cuts into FARC revenues, and so the program is sold to the public as part of both the war on drugs and the war on terrorism. Beers played a central role in creating the myth of the "narco-terrorist" which has been used to justify both the fumigations and continued U.S. military aid to Colombia.

Tami Halpen who sent this in asks, "What is John Kerry doing appointing Rand Beers as an advisor? Everyone should write his campaign and ask him why we should even consider voting for him if he appoints drug warriors to be his advisor."

Good point, not to mention that Kerry will have a hard time selling himself as a candidate with a fresh approach when he surrounds himself with bureaucractic thugs from the Bush administration. You can still let Kerry know what you think at his Internet Town Meeting where the drug war thread is now running to thirty pages.


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