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[Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield:] I opposed the decision to end aerial eradication in 2015. I acknowledge, however, that it was a sovereign decision for the government of Colombia, and that the government concluded that it had to do so as the result of a Supreme Court decision.
I regret that. I do believe it had an impact in terms of the explosion of coca cultivation in Colombia. I believe, for example, the entire issue of social protest, which is to say: the community where the coca-growers are located rally when eradication missions arrive, block the highway, the police back off because they are concerned about being prosecuted in the event that they use force against the community.
That was not a problem that they had when they were doing aerial eradication. You cannot protest from the ground an airplane that is flying over a coca field and killing the coca from the air.
Those who are—who defend the decision are correct when they say that the coca-growers had learned by the year 2015 how to avoid most of the eradication efforts. They consciously grew and cultivated in national parks, in indigenous reserves, near the borders of Ecuador and Venezuela, and in areas where the FARC had a presence or at least had some degree of influence.
This was supposed to stop with the peace accord, when the FARC committed in Chapter 4, I believe, to become an active player in combating, resisting, and eliminating drug trafficking and cultivation, something that I call upon them today to do. And in addition, during my two visits to Colombia earlier this year, I felt we had an understanding that they would open up areas previously closed to forced eradication near the borders, in the