The Washington Times
February 18, 1993, Thursday, Final Edition
SECTION: Part G; COMMENTARY; EDITORIAL; LETTERS; Pg. G2
HEADLINE: Columnist sprays tons of misinformation over your pages
I read with great interest James Bovard's Jan. 25 column, "Poisonous
fallout from the drug war," concerning drug eradication efforts in Guatemala.
Unfortunately, the article had little basis in fact and contained many
inaccuracies. Let me correct the record.
First, the spraying of herbicides to destroy drug-cultivation areas is
conducted by the government of Guatemala under a program sponsored by the
Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics Matters, not the U.S.
Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), as indicated in Mr. Bovard's column. In
addition, the spraying of herbicides in Guatemala is primarily directed at
opium poppy crops from which heroin is derived, not at coca and marijuana
cultivation areas, as described by Mr. Bovard. In 1992, aerial spraying
eradicated 350 hectares (864.5 acres) of opium poppy in Guatemala.
The herbicide Round-Up, widely used in the United States and other countries
for agricultural and home-garden applications, has been studied extensively in
the United States. About 25 million pounds of Round-Up are sold in the U.S.
annually. Adverse human health and ecological effects are virtually nonexistent
if applications are carried out in the manner consistent with guidelines
approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the DEA. These
guidelines are strictly followed in Guatemala.
The EPA estimates that acute oral toxicity of Round-Up to humans to be 10
ounces per day for a 110-pound adult. The same quantity of table salt would be
more toxic. In other words, the herbicide is widely used in the United States
and other countries without ill effect to humans, animals or the environment.
In addition, the DEA is not facing lawsuits from individuals or groups in
Guatemala concerning the spraying program. Mr. Bovard's assertions that
several lawsuits have been filed against the DEA, including one involving the
death of a child, are false.
The DEA, along with the government of Guatemala, is actively fighting drug
traffickers operating in that country. However, we certainly are not behaving
as if the "drug war gives us the right to impose martial law on foreign
nations," as Mr. Bovard contends. The DEA and the rest of the U.S. Embassy
staff in Guatemala are working in concert with the government of Guatemala, at
its request, in order to alleviate drug production and trafficking.
Contrary to Mr. Bovard's description of the DEA's work in Guatemala, our
primary focus is on the use of Guatemala as a transshipment area for cocaine
bound for the United States and on the growing influence of the Columbian drug
cartels operating within the country. Counter-narcotics cooperation between the
U.S. and Guatemalan law-enforcement officers resulted in the seizure of about
15.5 metric tons of cocaine last year.
I suggest Mr. Bovard check his facts before setting himself up as an expert
on a subject as important as our relationship with other countries. When he
fails to check even basic information, he does a great disservice to your
ROBERT C. BONNER
Administrator of Drug Enforcement
Drug Enforcement Administration
U.S. Department of Justice