March 2, 2020 / 7:16 PM / a month ago

Colombia will have to restart aerial spraying to destroy coca: Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S. March 2, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Colombia will have to restart aerial spraying of the herbicide glyphosate in order to destroy crops of coca, the chief ingredient of cocaine, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday during a meeting with his Colombian counterpart Ivan Duque.

The South American country aims to eradicate 130,000 hectares (321,237 acres) of coca by using a range of tools, including the possible re-introduction of aerial fumigation with glyphosate.

“You’re going to have to spray,” Trump told journalists at a White House meeting with Duque. “If you don’t spray you’re not going to get rid of (the coca), so you have to spray with regard to the drugs in Colombia.”

The country has been under pressure from the United States - the principal destination for cocaine - to reduce coca cultivation within its borders since the end of 2017, when the area taken up by coca plantations hit 209,000 hectares.

“We need to combine all the options available to us, not just spraying,” Duque said, referring to a campaign of manual eradication in 2019 that led to the destruction of around 100,000 hectares of coca.

Colombia suspended aerial fumigation of glyphosate in 2015, after the World Health Organization said the herbicide was harmful to the environment and health, potentially causing cancer.

Duque’s government is working to meet various health and environmental requirements demanded by the Constitutional Court before it can restart aerial fumigation this year.

Drug trafficking has long-fed Colombia’s internal armed conflicts. Leftist rebel group the National Liberation Army (ELN), dissidents from the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas - who demobilized under a 2016 peace deal - and criminal groups all make money from the trade, according to security sources.

Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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