Daily News Archive
From January 17, 2002

Environmentalists Call on UN to Urge Columbia to Halt Aerial Spraying for Drug Erradication

On January 15, 2002, Earthjustice, a U.S. nonprofit, public interest environmental law firm, called upon the UN Commission on Human Rights to urge the U.S. and Colombia to halt its aerial herbicide application program to eradicate coca and poppy and consider alternative methods. This strategy in the War on Drugs, a part of "Plan Colombia," is causing numerous human rights violations. Earthjustice submitted the intervention with the support of the Amazon Alliance, a coalition of Amazonian peoples organizations and environmental and human rights groups.

The statement claims that the aerial spraying and drift of an herbicide mixture over vast areas of the Colombian and Ecuadorian countryside by private U.S. defense contractors with military protection is harming peasants and indigenous communities and depriving them of "their rights to a clean and healthy environment, health, life, sustenance, property, inviolability of the home and family, and access to information."

Since the aerial fumigations began, there have been thousands of reports of serious health problems, destruction of food crops and livestock, contamination of surface water, damage to surrounding wilderness areas, and deforestation resulting from the need of peasants to clear forests and plant food crops on uncontaminated lands.

"Sadly, the United States and Colombia are saying that this strategy is more important than the health, livelihood, and environment of Colombian and Ecuadorian rural communities," said Scott Pasternack, Associate Attorney with Earthjustice's International Program. "The State Department has concealed information about the true toxicity of the spray mixture and has failed to conduct proper environmental and health assessments. Moreover, they repeatedly point to the deforestation from coca and poppy production but ignore the greater amount of deforestation caused by the communities' need to plant new legal crops as a result of this environmentally-damaging program."