By Ross Eventon and Dave Bewley-Taylor, Global Drug Policy Observatory.
• The employment of private military and security companies (PMSCs) to carry out government policies has grown exponentially over the past two decades.
• Conventional explanations for this rise, such as cost-saving and down-sizing, do not appear convincing, given the evidence. Instead, it seems national governments are paying a premium to enjoy two major benefits of outsourcing: secrecy and a lack of accountability.
• Aerial fumigation of illicit crops in Colombia, backed financially, diplomatically and logistically by Washington, is a case in point. The ineffective policy is of dubious legality, causes damage to people and the environment, and would, if carried out by US military forces, imply the direct involvement of the US in Colombia’s civil war, thereby triggering the application of international law as it applies to armed conflict.
Moreover, there is substantial evidence suggesting that fumigation, while failing in its officially declared goals, does achieve strategic objectives for Washington and Bogota through the displacement of the rural population from areas of insurgent influence.
• For Colombia, the presence of foreign contractors has implied a significant undermining of national sovereignty. In addition, it has removed any viable recourse for citizens subject to human rights violations by contractors – whether during the course of fumigation operations or otherwise.