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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Coca cultivation decreased in Colombia in 2009

Every June, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime issues a report with the results of its efforts to monitor coca cultivation in the Andean region. The report has not been officially released yet, but some media outlets have gotten their hands on the new cultivation numbers for Colombia.

Reports, such as this one in El Tiempo, indicate that coca cultivation in Colombia actually decreased by 16% in 2009, with 68,025 hectares under cultivation in 2009 compared to 81,000 hectares in 2008.

This decrease is unexpected for two reasons. First, the 2009 economic downturn, combined with the collapse of several large pyramid schemes, hit rural Colombia quite hard and would have been expected to push farmers into planting coca. Second, for the first time in a decade, Colombia saw a decrease in forced eradication of coca - both manual eradication and aerial herbicide fumigation - in 2009.

The 2009 eradication reduction itself owed to a lack of funds related to the economic downturn. In 2008, 95,731 hectares of coca were manually eradicated, while 60,500 were eradicated in 2009. Fumigation decreased from 133,496 hectares in 2008 to 104,772 in 2009.

El Tiempo did note that cultivation of coca increased in three of Colombia's departments in 2009: Cauca, Gauviare, and Córdoba. According to the article, Colombia's Counternarcotics Police attribute these increases to the following factors:

  • In Córdoba: The rise of emerging criminal groups or "new" paramilitaries in the department. Aerial fumigation is also not permitted in the Paramillo natural park, where coca cultivation is concentrated.
  • In Cauca: The FARC has concentrated its attacks and kidnappings in this region.
  • In both Guaviare and Cauca: The Counternarcotics Police say the "impossibility of entering indigenous territories" to conduct manual eradication is a major factor.

Below are two graphs. The first plots UN estimates of coca cultivation in the Andean region. The second plots total coca eradication in Colombia over the past decade. The UN has not released cultivation calculations for Bolivia or Peru this year, but we will update the graphs when those numbers are available.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Human Rights Defenders in Colombia

This post was written by WOLA intern Ursela Groat

The 18th of September marked the end of a twelve day fact-finding mission to Colombia by Margaret Sekaggya, the UNHCR Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. In her statement on the 18th of September, Ms. Sekaggya applauded the Colombian Government and High Commissioner on Human Rights for the significant overall improvement of the situation in the country since 2002, noting that "respect for the right to life and the exercise of fundamental freedoms for Colombian citizens have improved."

But Ms. Sekaggya also had several criticisms for the government about what she called the "climate of fear within the human rights defenders' community" that still exists in Colombia today. She noted a "pattern of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders, and their families" that includes threats and incidences of murder, torture, disappearance, arbitrary arrest and detainment, illegal surveillance, exile, and stigmatization and branding of defenders. These violations are allegedly attributed to guerrilla and paramilitary groups, in addition to police and security forces, and government officials.

More troubling are her allegations that these threats and incidents are not being taken seriously when reported to police forces, creating a climate of impunity that negatively impacts the work of human rights activists. The Rapporteur argues that these incidents and the lack of official response "create a climate of fear" among human rights defenders that contributes to their insecurity and impedes their ability to work in the country.

Ms. Sekaggya will present her full report to the UN Human Rights Council in March of 2010.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Responses to Sunday's coup in Honduras

On Sunday, Honduran troops arrested President Manuel Zelaya, following orders from the country's Supreme Court, and placed him on a plane to Costa Rica in his pajamas. Zelaya was removed from office on the day Honduras prepared to vote in a non-binding referendum asking whether they support a constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution in order to allow him to run for another term after his current term ends in January 2010.

Both the Honduran National Congress and the Supreme Court supported the removal of Zelaya, as they called the referendum unconstitutional and had already ordered the military to not assist President Zelaya in the "illegal" referendum vote in its usual role of distributing ballots.

Two senior administration officials from the United States held a teleconference in response to Sunday's events in Honduras. According to the two officials, the United States, in concert with the Organization of American States (OAS) and other Central American countries, had been working "in an effort to facilitate dialogue among the different and competing institutions, and especially to try to address the larger issue of political polarization inside of Honduras.... We were consistently and almost constantly engaged over the last several weeks with our partners working with Hondurans trying to ensure that the political conflict around this survey that President Zelaya had proposed was resolved in a peaceful way that respected the democratic institutions and the constitutional order of Honduras." These efforts, however, were not successful, and while the Obama administration had been in contact with the Honduran armed forces prior to Sunday, "they have ceased to take those calls."

The administration officials characterized the event as an "unsuccessful" coup and still see Manuel Zelaya as the "constitutional president of Honduras," despite the swearing in of congressional leader Roberto Micheletti as the interim president by the Honduran Congress on Sunday afternoon.

The tone of the teleconference with the senior administration officials centered around an effort to peacefully and democratically find a solution to conflict in Honduras through multilateral diplomatic efforts. In response to a question about whether the United States would consider a request for military assistance, one of the senior administration officials responded that "We very much believe that this is a situation that can be solved without recourse to the hypothetical that you laid out, and we are working very hard to ensure that that occurs."

Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton joined the international community and condemned the Honduran military's ousting of President Zelaya on Sunday. They called for all parties in Honduras to respect democratic norms and the rule of law and to resolve any political disputes peacefully through dialogue.

Below are official statements made by President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, the two senior administration officials, the OAS, and the United Nations in response to Sunday's coup in Honduras.

President Obama:

I am deeply concerned by reports coming out of Honduras regarding the detention and expulsion of President Mel Zelaya. As the Organization of American States did on Friday, I call on all political and social actors in Honduras to respect democratic norms, the rule of law and the tenets of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Any existing tensions and disputes must be resolved peacefully through dialogue free from any outside interference.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton:

The action taken against Honduran President Mel Zelaya violates the precepts of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, and thus should be condemned by all. We call on all parties in Honduras to respect the constitutional order and the rule of law, to reaffirm their democratic vocation, and to commit themselves to resolve political disputes peacefully and through dialogue. Honduras must embrace the very principles of democracy we reaffirmed at the OAS meeting it hosted less than one month ago.

Two U.S. senior administration officials

Senior Administration Official One: Obviously, this has been an event that has been a long time in brewing. We and other regional partners have worked very hard to try to address the underlying causes of it, to address the political polarization in Honduras, and especially to facilitate dialogue between competing institutions to ensure that there was a democratic resolution of the differences in Honduras and a resolution that respected constitutional order.

It’s profoundly regrettable that that was not the case and that this morning the military moved against President Zelaya, detaining him, and then expelling him from the country to Costa Rica. As noted, we’ve condemned this action. We view President Zelaya as the constitutional president of Honduras, and we’ve called for a full restoration of democratic order in Honduras. And we will continue to work with our partners in the OAS and elsewhere to ensure that that happens, but then also to begin to address the underlying political polarization and problems that led to this.

Senior Administration Official Two: It’s very important to recognize that there are multilateral efforts underway here, and ultimately the answer is going to rise in a resolution of the political tensions that led us to this moment among the Honduran institutions themselves that the outside international community, working through the Organization of American States, working collaboratively, can help that process along. But this is not a process that should be interfered with bilaterally by any country in the Americas. That has been very clear from our position and should be the position of all governments in the Western Hemisphere that this is a situation that needs to be resolved free from external influence and interference.

OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza:

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, after finding out the details about the situation in Honduras, strongly condemned the coup been carried out by a group within the military against the Government of President José Manuel Zelaya.

Mr. Insulza demanded that the rebels reveal the whereabouts of President Zelaya, and called on the Honduran people, the nations in the Americas and the international community to join forces against this grave disturbance of the democratic process currently being enjoyed throughout the Continent.

Secretary General Insulza called an urgent meeting of the Permanent Council of the hemispheric institution today at 11.00 (EST) at the OAS Headquarters in Washington, DC.

OAS Permanent Council Resolution:


CONSIDERING the grave situation taking place in the Republic of Honduras as a result of the coup d’etat against the government of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, which has produced an unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order, which the Permanent Council rejects and repudiates;

CONCERNED with the break-down of the constitutional order in the Republic of Honduras;

REAFIRMING the importance of strict adherence and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, and the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other States;

REITERATING the principles established in the Charter of the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Democratic Charter on the strengthening and preservation of the democratic institutional system in member states, and

RECALLING CP/RES. 952 (1699/09) of June 26, 2009, relative to the situation in Honduras,


1. To condemn vehemently the coup d’état staged this morning against the constitutionally-established Government of Honduras, and the arbitrary detention and expulsion from the country of the constitutional president José Manuel Zelaya Rosales, which has produced an unconstitutional alteration of the democratic order.

2. To demand the immediate, safe and unconditional return of President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales to his constitutional functions.

3. To declare that no government arising from this unconstitutional interruption will be recognized.

4. To instruct the Secretary General of the OAS to urgently attend the meeting of the Central American Integration System (SICA), that will take place in Managua, Nicaragua, and in accordance with Article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to carry out all necessary consultations with the member states of the Organization.

5. To vehemently condemn all acts of violence and especially the reported arbitrary detention of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patricia Rodas, other Ministers of Government, as well as the Mayor of San Pedro Sula, and associated individuals, and to demand that their physical safety and security be respected and that they be released immediately.

6. To immediately convene a special session of the OAS General Assembly to take place at the headquarters of the Organization, on Tuesday, June 30, 2009, to take whatever decisions it considers appropriate, in accordance with the Charter of the Organization of American States, international law, and the provisions of the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

7. To instruct the Secretary General to transmit the resolution to the Secretary General of the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about the latest developments in Honduras. He expresses his strong support for the country's democratic institutions and condemns the arrest today of the constitutional President of the Republic. He urges the reinstatement of the democratically elected representatives of the country and full respect for human rights, including safeguards for the security of President Zelaya, members of his family and his government. He calls on all Hondurans to engage peacefully and in the spirit of reconciliation to resolve their differences.

The Secretary-General welcomes the prompt diplomatic efforts of the Organization of American States, whose Permanent Council is holding a special meeting this morning. He trusts that international and domestic efforts will succeed in the promotion of a peaceful solution to the crisis through democratic means.

The United Nations stands ready to provide assistance in overcoming this crisis.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

International Narcotics Control Board Annual Report

Today, Colombian and Bolivian newspapers covered the release of a new report by the International Narcotics Control Board of the United Nations. However, it appears that the majority of the information being reported on, such as the increase of coca cultivation in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, is based on old data that can be found in the UN Office on Drug Control's Coca Cultivation in the Andean Region report released in June 2008 and 2008 World Drug Report.

The report will be available online tomorrow (February 20th), according to the INCB website. Below are some highlights from the press packet released today, which is available on the Semana website.

Central America and the Caribbean:

  • This region continues to be one of the principle trafficking routes for illicit drugs traveling from South America to North America and Europe. As vigilance of maritime trafficking routes has increased, traffickers have started using low-flying light aircraft.
  • Street gangs continue to be linked to international narcotrafficking networks.
  • Trafficking of illegal substances that contain ephedrine or pseudoephedrine is going to increase in Central America as organized crime groups take advantage of lax controls over goods near the border region with Mexico in order to acquire pharmaceuticals that contain these precursors.
  • The Board encourages national authorities to act energetically against international narcotrafficking networks, including those linked to street gangs, and that they adopt other measures, among them the promulgation of laws on civil confiscation and against corruption.

South America:

  • Colombia continues to be the largest producer of coca, which increased 27%.
  • 55% of the total area of illicit coca cultivation is in Colombia, 29% in Peru and 16% in Bolivia.
  • The Board is concerned about the September 2008 agreement the Government of Bolivia signed with coca farmers in Yungas which allows them to cultivate more coca than permitted in the Chapare region.
  • International crime groups continue to use Venezuela as one of the main points of departure for shipments of illicit drugs from South America.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Latin American leaders speak at the UN General Assembly

This week, many Latin American leaders had the opportunity to speak at the United Nation's 63rd General Assembly in New York. While the remarks of each president varied, a common thread among the speeches was the success of UNASUR and the future of regional cooperation.

Below you can find the link to a summary of each president's remarks in English. The linked pages also contain a .pdf of the full speech in Spanish.

Argentina: President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner

Bolivia: President Evo Morales Ayma

Brazil: President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Chile: President Michelle Bachelet Jeria

Colombia: President Álvaro Uribe Vélez

Costa Rica: President Óscar Arias Sánchez

Cuba: José Ramón Machado Ventura, First Vice-President of the Council of State and Ministers

Dominican Republic: President Leonel Fernández Reyna

El Salvador: President Elías Antonio Saca González

Guatemala: President Álvaro Colom Caballeros

Honduras: President José Manuel Zelaya Rosales

Mexico: President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa

Panama: President Martin Torrijos Espino

Paraguay: President Fernando Lugo Méndez