Colombian court maintains ban on aerial spraying of glyphosate



Colombia’s Constitutional Court on Thursday maintained a judicial ban on the aerial spraying of illicit coca crops with glyphosate.

The court said that the government would first have to prove that the weed killer was not harmful to human health and the environment.

However, President Ivan Duque had asked the court to lift the ban, arguing that glyphosate, suspected of being carcinogenic, was a necessary tool in the fight against cocaine trafficking.

The government says glyphosate is the most efficient way to eradicate coca,the plant cocaine is made from.

It added that glyphosate saves lives, because it can replace manual uprooting done by soldiers who would risk stepping on mines planted by drug traffickers.

However, the court maintained the strict conditions it had set earlier, including having to provide scientific proof that glyphosate is safe and having to consult communities in areas where fumigation would take place.

The court said, the government did not need to prove the total absence of any possible harm, because that was practically impossible.

It added that the government has not provided proof of having met the conditions so far. It will be up to the National Drug Council to determine whether it does so.

Justice Minister, Margarita Cabello said the government would seek permission from the council “to use aerial spraying as one more tool in the fight against illegal crops.’’

The cocaine that can be manufactured in that area is worth 2.7 billion dollars on the local market.

The previous government suspended spraying with glyphosate in 2015 after the Constitutional Court said it could carry health risks.

Officials in the south-western department of Narino, which produces the most coca among Colombia’s 32 departments, told dpa glyphosate is not an effective means of dissuading farmers from growing the lucrative plant.

Narino Governor Camilo Romero said in an interview , about 3.8 million litres of glyphosate were sprayed in Narino between 2005 and 2014, but the surface under coca cultivation increased by 4,000 hectares during that time.

“Families that live off illegal crops, after their land is sprayed, move to another territory in order to sow coca again,’’ Romero said.

The governor also disputed claims by the government that glyphosate is cheap adding that eradication with glyphosate costs 72 million pesos (23,000 dollars) per hectare, twice as much as subsidising voluntary crop substitution.

Farmers near the port city of Tumaco told dpa that previous glyphosate sprayings had killed their food crops while coca plants survived.

“Bees died, parakeets died. Coca was the only one of our crops that resisted the glyphosate,” farmer Javier Ortega said.


Colombian capital extends quarantine until mid-June



Bogota Mayor, Claudia Lopez, on Thursday extended the quarantine in the Colombian capital until June 15 and said no new economic sectors will be activated in the next two weeks.

Colombia has been under a nationwide quarantine since late March.

But on Monday, restrictions will start being lifted and more economic activities relaunched.

The Bogota city hall has agreed with the Health Ministry on the measures in the capital, Lopez said on Twitter.

Bogota has more than 8,000 COVID-19 cases, according to broadcaster Caracol.

Nationwide, the Andean country has recorded over 24,000 infections, while the death toll stands at more than 800.

Nearly 45 per cent of beds in Bogota’s intensive care units are already at use, according to Caracol.

Some units are unable to receive any more patients and the authorities do not want all the units in the city to reach saturation.

“We cannot say we’ll open up when the number of infections doubles every 15 days,’’ daily El Tiempo quoted Lopez as saying.


Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde (NAN)
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Colombian gov’t aims to jump-start economy by suspending VAT for three days




Colombia’s government said Tuesday that it plans to jump-start the economy after weeks of stalled productive and commercial activity by temporarily scrapping the value-added tax (VAT) on goods.

Colombia’s steep 19-percent VAT will be suspended for three days, the head of the National Tax and Customs Bureau, Jose Andres Romero, told reporters.

Restaurants are also to receive tax breaks to help them recoup some of the losses suffered during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and lockdown, said Romero.

“In this situation of lockdown and economic freeze, consumption is low, and through this measure we hope to raise it to a normal level,” Romero said, adding eliminating the VAT is expected to save consumers “close to 500 billion pesos” (about 130 million U.S. dollars).

Consumers will be exempt from paying the VAT on June 19, July 3 and July 19, but only if they are paying with a credit or debit card, not cash, and purchases can be made online.

As part of the economic stimulus package, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and bars will be exempt from paying an 8-percent tax through December.

Colombia’s nationwide lockdown is in place until May 25, though the government has said it might extend the deadline to the end of June in areas where the virus is still raging.

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Colombian director films quarantine ‘Bathroom’ comedy with mobile phone




Colombia’s Harold Trompetero, who has directed 21 films and produced another 30, is now tackling an unusual project amid a nationwide coronavirus quarantine that has his actors stuck at home.

This time, there are no lights, cameras, dressing rooms or hundreds of people who usually crowd a film shoot.

There is just a mobile phone, a tripod, a bathroom and action.

The new movie “The Bathroom” is filmed on phones, with actors’ family members helping with camera work, make-up and costuming as Trompetero gives instruction via video chats.

“When we were writing the script, I came across a quote by Darwin that said in the evolution of the species it wasn’t the most intelligent or the strongest who survived, but the ones who adapted best,” Trompetero told Reuters.

“For a long time, we will need to adapt ourselves to new ways of doing things under these circumstances. If not, we will drown,” he said.

The comedy movie is the story of a group of university friends who are still in touch 10 years later when the quarantine is declared and secrets come to light.

But why the bathroom?

“We started thinking the privacy of home starts to lose personal privacy under quarantine; you don’t have any space to yourself,” Trompetero said.

“The bathroom is the space left in lots of homes where you can be by yourself for five minutes of solitude.”

Actress Marcela Carvajal said she cried when Trompetero called, asking her to star.

“I cried because I thought I wasn’t going to return to acting for a long, long time – theatres are closed, TV channels are closed.

“It’s a dream to make a film in this era.” she said.

Carvajal’s husband helps her film and is making his debut as an actor in “The Bathroom.”

She said she was more afraid of the changes the new coronavirus would bring than she was of getting sick.

“I’m not so scared of illness, but  I am about what will happen with certain traditions in future – like meeting up in person, like live shows,” she said.

Cinemas, theatres and other public events have been shut down in Colombia since March and are unlikely to reopen any time soon.

“This year looked really good, I had projects all year,” said Biassini Segura, another actor in the film, who said he was living off savings.

“In the end, life goes on, but with a mask and gloves.”

The movie will be released in August.

Edited By: Emmanuel Okara/Ijeoma Popoola (NAN)
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Colombian army announces killing of key guerrilla leader in bombing



Colombia’s air force on Thursday bombed a camp of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a guerrilla group, killing one of its most wanted leaders, Defence Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo announced.

Regional official Carlos Feliz put the number of guerrillas killed at 22, but Holmes Trujillo only mentioned the deaths of the leader known as Mocho Tierra and three other “terrorists”.

The attack occurred in a rural area in Montecristo in the country’s north.

It targeted Mocho Tierra, who headed three ELN fronts, Holmes Trujillo said.

Mocho Tierra is believed to have planned attacks against police and soldiers, according to broadcaster Caracol.

He also allegedly plotted routes for the transport of cocaine, which the ELN traffics.

The military operation was a joint one between the army and police, Holmes Trujillo said.

Security forces seized weapons and communication equipment, he added.

The ELN is estimated to have more than 2,000 fighters.

The government signed a peace deal with the much bigger guerrilla group FARC in 2016.

But President Ivan Duque, a conservative, has refused to continue earlier negotiations with the ELN unless it unilaterally stops all violent activity.

The ELN declared a unilateral ceasefire for April because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but did not extend it. It has fought with the army and with FARC dissidents in the south-western Cauca region.

The group has usually staged small-scale attacks, many of them against Colombia’s oil pipelines, but it claimed responsibility for the bombing of a Bogota police academy that left 22 students dead in January 2019.

That attack dashed hopes that negotiations could be resumed in the near future.

Edited By: Emmanuel Yashim (NAN)
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