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Cablegate: Aerial Eradication Resumes in the Macarena Consolidation

R 011131Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY BOGOTA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0422
INFO AMEMBASSY LIMA
AMEMBASSY LA PAZ
DIR ONDCP WASHDC
CIA WASHDC
DEA HQS WASHDC
DIA WASHDC
CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
DEPT OF STATE AIR WING PATRICK AFB FL

UNCLAS BOGOTA 002786


DEPT FOR INL/LP
DEPT FOR WHA/AND

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SNAR PREL SENV KCRM PGOV PTER CO
SUBJECT: AERIAL ERADICATION RESUMES IN THE MACARENA CONSOLIDATION
ZONE

REF: A) 08 Bogota 3547, B) Bogota 2334


1. Summary: On July 2, officials from the Macarena Consolidation
Program (PCIM) met with NAS and the Colombian Antinarcotics Police
to request aerial eradication operations in the PCIM. The request
comes over a year after the Colombian government declared the PCIM
off-limits to spray to accommodate consolidation efforts, including
voluntary eradication, in the region. PCIM officials justified
spraying to eliminate FARC-controlled coca considered too dangerous
for manual eradicators. So far this year, there have been four
deaths and dozens of injuries during manual eradication operations
in the PCIM. After careful coordination with GOC elements, NAS
sprayed 868 hectares in the PCIM in August. End summary.

2. On July 2, representatives from the Macarena Consolidation
Program (PCIM) met with NAS and the Antinarcotics Police to request
aerial eradication operations inside the PCIM to eliminate
FARC-controlled coca deemed too dangerous for manual eradicators.
The request comes over a year after the PCIM was declared off limits
to spray to accommodate consolidation efforts and to implement an
ambitious voluntary eradication program (see ref A).

3. Consolidation efforts have been successful in controlling coca
cultivation in the northern PCIM. The FARC-controlled region in the
southern PCIM bordering the Macarena National Park still poses
serious security issues for manual eradicators. So far this year,
four personnel were reported killed and dozens injured, many
resulting in amputations, during security incidents during manual
eradication operations in the PCIM. PCIM officials, citing security
concerns, the slow pace of manual eradication and the relatively
small amounts of licit agriculture in the southern PCIM, turned to
aerial eradication to eliminate coca and cut off an important source
of revenue for the FARC. PCIM officials acknowledge that voluntary
eradication programs in some parts of the PCIM are impossible to
implement due to threats of violence by the FARC against
participating communities.

4. NAS-led eradication operations sprayed 868 hectares in the
southern PCIM in early August. Aerial eradication operations will
not resume in the PCIM unless requested again by PCIM officials.
There was one hostile ground-fire impact against a spray plane
resulting in no injury to the pilot. As a security precaution,
Colombian troops were inserted into spray areas in advance of spray
operations in the PCIM. Historically, the PCIM has been a
target-rich environment for spray operations. NAS sprayed 1,770
hectares in 2008 (before being declared off-limits to spray), 9,599
hectares in 2007 and 14,458 hectares in 2006 in the PCIM.

5. The United Nations recently reported that coca cultivation in the
PCIM was down 73 percent in 2008 compared to 2007, evidence that
consolidation and eradication efforts have been successful in
reducing coca cultivation there (see ref B). Manual eradicators
working in the PCIM eradicated nearly 6,000 hectares of coca in
2008. PCIM officials estimate that an additional 2,000 hectares of
coca were eradicated voluntarily. As in 2008, NAS plans to image
the entire PCIM in August to measure cultivation inside the
consolidation zone.

6. Comment: In a meeting to discuss manual eradication in the PCIM
in May, Colombian military planners raised the issue of spraying as
a way to eradicate coca more quickly and cut off a source of income
to the FARC. PCIM officials initially rejected the proposal, citing
a commitment to communities to not spray inside the consolidation
zone. The GOC's decision in July to request spray in the PCIM
demonstrates that aerial eradication will play an increasingly
integral part in consolidation efforts. The role of eradication in
Colombia's consolidation plan is still being defined. It is likely
that as in the PCIM, finding the right balance of aerial, manual and
voluntary eradication will be key to achieving consolidation
objectives. End comment.

BROWNFIELD

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