Andes, Colombia, Latin America: Week in Review

Anti-Drug Spraying in Colombia May Cause Cancer

March 23, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — A chemical used in a controversial aerial fumigation program as part of U.S.-funded anti-drug efforts in Colombia may cause cancer, according to a new study by an agency of the World Health Organization, which one analyst called the single biggest risk to date to the program’s future.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer’s report suggests that glyphosate, the base chemical used in the herbicide Roundup, carries a risk of causing cancer in humans. Roundup is widely used as part of a U.S. effort to aerially fumigate coca crops in Colombia. Over the past two decades some 4 million hectares of the crop, which is used to produce cocaine, have been sprayed, in part by American-operated flights, according to the Associated Press.

A economist and independent drug policy advisor to Colombia’s government told the AP the new report is the most likely to pose a risk to the fumigation program, in part due to the WHO’s perceived neutrality. Left-wing Colombian politicians and international organizations such as the Washington Office on Latin America have long criticized the spraying program.

Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch

  • Nearly 800 Guatemalans filed a $1 billion lawsuit Wednesday in the U.S. city of Baltimore against Johns Hopkins University, drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb and The Rockefeller Foundation over their alleged roles in experiments that intentionally exposed Guatemalan subjects to sexually transmitted diseases in the 1940s and 1950s. Read more in our latest report from Latin America News Dispatch editor Dusty Christensen.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • The son of legendary Mexican wrestler Pedro “Perro” Aguayo died early Saturday from a kick to the head from a fellow wrestler in the ring.
  • Family members of the 43 missing students from Guerrero state presented to a branch of Amnesty International last weekend as part of a tour of 43 U.S. cities to gain support in their search for justice.
  • The highly publicized work of Hillary and Bill Clinton in Haiti has “produced both success and disillusionment,” according to the Washington Post, with the Clinton Foundation coming under increased scrutiny as Hillary Clinton plans to run for president.


  • Puerto Rico moved toward authorizing same-sex marriages after the justice secretary announced Friday that the government would take no measures to limit marriage as a union between a man and woman.
  • The daughter of the founder of Cuba’s dissident group Ladies in White split from the organization, evidence of a growing divide in members’ opinions on Cuba’s move to normalize diplomatic relations with the United States.

Central America

  • Honduran authorities arrested the wife of a renowned businessman who is in prison for drug trafficking, charging her with money laundering.
  • A fourth suspect was arrested in the case of a Guatemalan journalist who was shot dead on March 13, allegedly in connection with an extortion scheme targeted at the company Servicable, where he worked.


  • U.S. authorities confiscated 5.28 tons of cocaine from Colombian traffickers aboard a ship in the Pacific Ocean bound for the United States, according to Colombia’s attorney general office, resulting in the detainment of 14 crew members.
  • A former Guantanamo detainee currently resettled in Uruguay is planning a hunger strike, according to an article in the Washington Post, which chronicles the difficult transition of six ex-detainees in Montevideo.

Southern Cone

  • Mass protests against President Dilma Rousseff in Brazil last week are just the latest evidence of growing opposition to left-wing leaders throughout South America, according to The Guardian, where poor economic growth and scandals have negatively affected the popularity of rulers in Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil.
  • A Chilean girl who asked President Michelle Bachelet to allow her to be euthanized last month has changed her mind after meeting people who responded to her public plea, according to the girl’s father.
  • More than 600 protesters in Chile tried to block the ordination of a Catholic bishop who they accuse of protecting a priest who was accused of sexually abusing young boys, though the bishop denies the allegations.
  • A Brazilian judge accepted charges against 11 international companies that are accused of creating a cartel to raise prices on the construction and maintenance of a train system in São Paulo, as well as price fixing and other anti-competitive strategies.
  • Homophobic violence is on the rise in Brazil, according to the Los Angeles Times, where despite its reputation as a gay-friendly country that hosts the world’s largest gay pride parade, there is deep-seated homophobia.

Image: Colombian National Police, CC BY-SA 2.0

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