Verification Mission Report "Impacts in Ecuador of the fumigations carried out in Putumayo within the Plan Colombia" - Second part

Verification Mission Report

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By By Ecuadorian Organizations

1.e. Effects in Ecuador of the fumigations in Colombia 2002

The “Santa Marianita” Peasant Association [8] of the General Farfán Parish, with 27 members, denounces that after the recent fumigations in Colombia they suffer “from skin and eye diseases, respiratory infections, fevers similar to those of malaria, but with always negative analyzes. The female animals give birth badly and we have a drop in the production of corn, cocoa, rice, bananas, until we cannot recover the investment ”.

The Chone 2 community, Puerto Nuevo and La Playera, on the Tetetes road, Pacayacu parish, report damage to their crops and animals. Similarly, there is talk of serious damage and health problems in the border community of Cohembí.

1.f. Government actions

On July 2, 2001, the Government of Ecuador requests the Government of Colombia:

- “that the applications of the chemical formulations used in its territory are carried out at least 10 kilometers inside the border with Ecuador, in order to prevent the dispersion caused by the winds from reaching Ecuadorian territory and producing harmful effects for people and for vegetation ”[9].
The Colombian Foreign Ministry [10] responded to this communication on July 14, 2001, in which it stated:

- The Colombian Government has adopted the necessary precautions in the programming of the fumigations; In its substantial part, it proposed the holding of a Seminar - Workshop in Colombia, in which the Government of that country "would have the opportunity to provide all the technical information that Ecuadorian officials require, with the aim of resolving all existing concerns and strengthen the spirit of binational cooperation ”. During the Seminar

- Workshop "Eradication of illicit crops", held in Bogotá

- Colombia From February 13 to 15, 2002, the Colombian delegation undertook to "maintain a buffer zone of 8 to 10 kilometers without chemical aspirations from the San Miguel River, the binational border, within Colombian territory."

2.- Objectives of the visit and procedure

With this background, an Inter-institutional and multidisciplinary Commission was formed, represented by the Latin American Association for Human Rights, ALDHU; Network for Action and Alternatives to Pesticides, Rapal - Ecuador and; Ecological Action; accompanied by the Sucumbíos Ombudsman, Laboratorios Labsu, Acción Creativa and some media.

The purpose of said Commission was to carry out a Verification Mission of the impacts of the fumigations on the border and to corroborate the complaints received by conducting field tests to demonstrate the degree of vulnerability and impact on the border population. To this end, the Commission traveled to the province of Sucumbíos, in the area of ​​the Tetetes road, at the end of September 2002.

The mission objectives were:
1. Determine if the distance of the fumigations respects the request of the Ecuadorian Government to maintain a security strip of 10 km. into the Colombian territory, to protect the rights of Ecuadorians.

2. Verify reports of impacts of fumigations on the health of the inhabitants of the area and corroborate a report about the death of 5 people in Cohembí (Ecuador).

3. Analyze the crops affected by the fumigations, verify the presumed use of Fusarium oxisporum and determine the soil nutrients and their degree of affectation.

3.- Results

3.a. Objective 1: Determine if the distance of the fumigations respects the request of the Ecuadorian Government to maintain a 10 km security strip. into the Colombian territory to protect the rights of Ecuadorians.
The Seminar-Workshop "Eradication of illicit crops" to which the Government of Colombia invited was held in Bogotá-Colombia from February 13 to 15, 2002, in order to "illustrate its program for the eradication of illegal crops and provide all the information technique that officials require ”.

The seminar was attended by “Authorities who work in high-level positions, not technical but political, responsible for drug policy in Colombia, (…) the Ecuadorian delegation questioned the absence of technicians from the homologous ministries (Agriculture and livestock, Health and Environment) and (…) the informative conferences were given with an audience for the most part made up of policemen, fumigation pilots and politicians. ”[11]
Notwithstanding these limitations and the lack of analysis and official information, given in said event, that allows the Government of Ecuador to take preventive, remedial, and precautionary measures for future fumigations and establish emerging programs for the border population, the Seminar will They subtracted at least three important, conclusive and consistent conclusions as requested by the Government of Ecuador, through its Foreign Ministry:

a) A safety strip of 8 to 10 km will not be sprayed. From the binational border line into Colombian territory. (Manual eradication programs would be applied in this strip).
b) Research is needed on the effects on water, soil, flora and fauna in shared ecosystems.

c) The program for the eradication of illicit crops does not have an Epidemiological Surveillance System.

The Ambassador of Ecuador in Colombia, Fernando Ribadeneira, reiterated at that event Ecuador's request on the “convenience that the fumigations be carried out respecting a security strip of 10 km inside the border so that the population and the public can be safeguarded. Ecuadorian territory from the possible harmful effects arising from such sprays ”. [12]
The commitment to respect a strip of 8-10 km, in the fumigation program, was clearly expressed by four of the speakers who represented the Government of Colombia:
"We have not fumigated up to a margin of at least 7 kilometers from the border with Ecuador" [13]. Dr. Richard Baca, Director of the Antinarcotics Agency -NAS-, of the Embassy of the United States of America in Colombia.

"A strip of 8-10 km with Ecuador is being left without fumigation." [14] Engineer Luis Parra, NAS Advisor at the United States Embassy in Colombia and Major Vargas, Field Trip Coordinator.

"It is being fumigated at a distance of 8 - 10 km from the border with Ecuador." [15] General. Gustavo Socha, Director of the Anti-Narcotics Police.

Despite the above, the result of the verification carried out in the border area, it can be affirmed that this governmental agreement has not been complied with and Colombia continues to carry out its spraying on the same border line with Ecuador. Since 2001 local complaints speak of the fumigation planes violating Ecuadorian airspace to turn around and continue spraying. Which, if verified, supposes a direct aggression to the Ecuadorian sovereignty.

To verify the distance of the fumigations carried out on the border, the verification mission entered Colombian territory and, with a GPS team, proceeded to identify the fumigated areas in Colombia and their distance from the San Miguel River, giving the following results :

GPS points and
distance to the border from Colombia
PlacePointElevation18 ° NorthUTMDistance to Ecuador
La Pedregosa (Col)7248m031798900296016m
New Granada (Col)8266m031834100310951.412m
New Granada (Col)9275m031829500313181,635m
La Pedregosa (Col)10270m03180880030359706m
The Crystals (Col)14270m033397600375158.285m
Aguas Blancas (Col)15276m033261200354596.981m
Aguas Blancas (Col)16292m033261600354636.986m

- In La Pedrera (point 7), six meters from the San Miguel river, signs of crops destroyed by fumigations were found, possibly due to air drift.

- Severe impacts were observed at point 10, since the fumigations were carried out directly over the area and 706 meters away from the border.

- In the Nueva Granada precinct (points 8 and 9), 1,600 meters from the border, the testimonies of the population report that, between August 30 and September 6, the planes fumigated directly on the houses. As evidence of this, it was observed that on the soccer field, located in the center of the town, there were large circles of chlorosis. The school teacher said that her 35 students fell ill with headaches, watery eyes and fever.

- In Aguas Blancas (points 15 and 16), at a distance of 7 to 8 km.
from the border, the destruction of all kinds of crops was verified.

- In Los Cristales (point 14), testimonies were obtained that the planes passed over the houses and were sprayed on August 1 and 18, 2002, without considering that the houses, food crops and sources of electricity were being affected. Water.

GPS points and
distance to the border from Ecuador
PlacePointElevation18 ° NorthUTMDistance to Colombia
In front of La Pedregosa12257m03183970028996186m
new Port17276m0327151002783813m
Chone - 218260m033163600256461,236m
Chone - 219255m03314620026463584m
Oriental T-shirt20263m03304740027463526m
Oriental T-shirt21257m03299420027781743m
Oriental T-shirt22253m03300710027817622m
Oriental T-shirt23277m03300980027662702m
Oriental T-shirt24256m03310310027533River reference 0m
Chone - 226261m033162400256281.257m

- In La Playera Oriental and Chone 2 (between 1 and 1,257m from the banks of the San Miguel River), evident damages were observed derived from the fumigations carried out on September 6, 2002, on the Colombian side, on the banks of the San Miguel River . At all points, soil and vegetation samples were taken, health data from the population and testimonies on social impacts were obtained.

- In front of La Pedregosa (point 12, 186m within the Ecuadorian territory) damages were found in banana plantations and other crops that showed signs of chlorosis (yellowing), as a consequence of the proximity of the Colombian fumigations. The testimonies indicated that the damages were derived from the fumigations carried out on the Colombian side between August 30 and September 6 of this year.

What is observed by the verification mission, the results of the samples taken, the testimonies obtained and the interviews carried out, allow us to affirm that the fumigations in Colombia are carried out less than 10 kilometers from the border with Ecuador. With which it is concluded that as of the date of said mission, the request of the Foreign Ministry, nor that of the Ecuadorian ambassador in Colombia, has not been respected.

In some cases, it was fumigated up to the bank of the Río San Miguel. The drift of the fumigated product caused serious damage to the Ecuadorian border population

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