Colombia’s president says cocaine users culpable in Amazon destruction

Colombia’s president has hit out at western cocaine customers who preach environmentalism whereas consuming a leisure drug whose manufacturing is likely one of the largest causes of Amazon deforestation.

“With the intention to produce one hectare of coca, nearly two hectares of tropical jungle are destroyed in Colombia,” President Iván Duque instructed the Monetary Occasions in an interview on the COP26 local weather summit in Glasgow.

“You meet cocaine customers in different nations who’re very avid and really talkative when talking in favour of the setting. However they don’t realise that after they devour [cocaine] they’re doing nice injury to the setting.”

About 143,000 hectares of Colombia are devoted to rising coca leaves, the important thing ingredient in cocaine manufacturing, in accordance with UN figures. Coca cultivation has elevated in nationwide parks and indigenous reserves, regardless of authorities efforts to eradicate the illicit crop.

Massive portions of petrol are utilized in cocaine manufacturing, together with cement, hydrochloric acid and poisonous solvents equivalent to ether and acetone.

Duque mentioned that solely when visiting unlawful cocaine labs within the jungle raided by the authorities did “you realise the horrible environmental injury as a result of all of the chemical compounds from the processing find yourself being dumped into the soil of the tropical forest”.

A Colombian farmer processes coca leaves to make cocaine base paste
A Colombian farmer processes coca leaves to make cocaine base paste © Raul Arboleda/AFP by way of Getty Pictures

With the leaders of Latin America’s two largest nations, Brazil and Mexico, skipping COP26 amid heavy criticism of their environmental data, Colombia is searching for to take benefit by selling itself as a inexperienced chief within the area.

Though deforestation in Colombia rose barely in 2020, it fell by a 3rd within the first half of this 12 months, Duque mentioned. He was one in every of greater than 100 signatories to an international pledge this week to eradicate it utterly by 2030.

Colombia plans to designate nearly a 3rd of its territory as protected areas by subsequent 12 months and has toughened greenhouse fuel emission targets, pledging a discount of 51 per cent by 2030.

Manufacturing of wind and photo voltaic power has elevated, although it nonetheless represents solely a fraction of the electrical energy manufacturing in a rustic that continues to be a number one oil and coal producer.

Bram Ebus, writer of a report on Colombia’s deforestation for the Worldwide Disaster Group, mentioned Duque’s guarantees to halt tree loss have been unrealistic until insurance policies have been modified and enforcement stepped up. His report mentioned that between 1998 and 2012, about 608,000 hectares of forest have been reduce down in Colombia for coca plantations.

“They want higher traceability of commodities from deforested areas, they should rethink regulation enforcement methods which have overly targeted on going after the individuals with the chainsaws of their palms fairly than the funds of deforestation — the white collar criminals,” he mentioned.

Duque acquired a heat reception in Glasgow, the place host prime minister Boris Johnson singled him out for reward, however at dwelling he has struggled to construct help in Congress or win over the general public.

Regardless of a powerful restoration from final 12 months’s coronavirus-induced recession, critics have lambasted him for a heavy handed police response to anti government protests, a bungled tax reform, the stalled implementation of a 2016 peace accord with Marxist guerrillas, and for presiding over growing violence and crime. Colombia this 12 months lost its coveted investment-grade status from score businesses fearful a few persistent fiscal deficit.

Mauricio Rodríguez Múnera, a professor of management at Externado de Colombia College in Bogotá, mentioned Duque’s presidency “amounted to 4 misplaced years for Colombia”. He added: “We’ve gone backwards on safety, poverty and inequality”.

The president contests such criticism, saying his authorities has launched the nation’s biggest-ever social programme in response to the pandemic.

Nonetheless, the protests and rising inequality have helped to propel the leftwing former guerrilla chief Gustavo Petro to a powerful ballot lead forward of subsequent 12 months’s presidential election.

Time period limits forestall Duque from working once more however he bristles on the suggestion that his legacy is perhaps to open the door for the election of the nation’s first leftwing president, saying neighbouring Venezuela supplied a robust warning.

“The Colombian persons are extra acutely aware than anybody of the desolation and tragedy which twenty first century socialism has delivered to Venezuela,” he mentioned. “I’m sure the Colombian individuals won’t fall into that mannequin.”

Further reporting by Gideon Lengthy in Bogotá

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