Coca Workers Riot Against U.S. Spray Effort

  Coca Workers Riot Against U.S. Spray Effort

Posted by FoM on June 13, 2001 at 08:33:55 PT
By Juan O. Tamayo 
Source: Miami Herald  

Riot police battled about 3,000 demonstrators in this farming community Tuesday as angry coca leaf pickers who burned down a refueling base for U.S. spray aircraft continued to protest the eradication of their fields with herbicides.The rioting, which began during the weekend, represents the most open and violent display of opposition by coca farmers and field hands to fumigation efforts under the U.S.-supported Plan Colombia, a $1.3 billion program designed to reduce the cultivation of the plant used to produce cocaine.
The rioters hurled molotov cocktails and large fireworks into the ranks of the police, who formed a protective cordon around city hall and fired back with tear gas and stun grenades. At least two police officers were hurt in the melee.The rioting lasted more than three hours, but finally died down as night fell.Gonzalo Cárdenas, acting mayor of this town of about 12,000 residents, said he was waiting for a reply from the state or national governments to the peasants' demands for an end to the 15-day-old spray campaign against the region's 17,300 acres of coca bushes.But when the protesters learned that Gov. Juan Alcides of Norte de Santander province had failed to show up as promised to hear their complaints, the rioting broke out.The 120 riot police, armed with tear gas and plastic shields, were far outnumbered by the coca leaf pickers who marched into Tibú on Thursday from the coca-growing village of La Gabarra, 40 miles away.``The situation is a little difficult, and very complex, because the government has never done anything to answer the needs of these very poor people,'' Mayor Cárdenas said. ``And it could get much worse.''Police sent in the riot squad after the coca workers went on a rampage Saturday, burning down the spray aircraft's refueling equipment and a firehouse by the side of Tibú's airstrip and looting several stores.All counter-narcotics spray aircraft in Colombia, and the helicopter gunships that protect them, are owned by the U.S. State Department's International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Bureau (INL).They are operated by DynCorp, a Virginia firm contracted by INL, using U.S. and Latin American civilian pilots and mechanics, but are officially controlled by the Colombian police counter-narcotics division.The four spray aircraft operating here were at their main base in Cúcuta, 100 miles to the south, when the rioting erupted, neighbors of the airstrip said. The few policemen guarding the refueling equipment fired warning shots into the air but ran away as the mob of leaf pickers approached, according to eyewitness accounts.The spray aircraft usually refuel here during the day, but have not returned since the riots, neighbors said. The aircraft are continuing to fly out of the Cúcuta airport, police officials said.Jose Armando Peguí, who runs a cold soda stand by the side of the Tibú airstrip, said all the pilots he has served in the past 15 days appeared to be Colombians, and that he had seen no Americans at all.Melted Drums:Melted plastic drums of the herbicide glyphosate and aviation fuel and the charred skeletons of pumps and hoses were all that remained of the refueling base, little more than an open-air pumping station.Cárdenas declared an overnight curfew and banned liquor sales after the rampage. Most shops remained shuttered and streets were all but deserted because of fear of more violence from the leaf pickers.The leaf pickers are sleeping in a local soccer stadium, staying under plastic tarpaulins to avoid the 100-degree sun and cooking in huge communal pots, mostly meat from cows slaughtered on the dirt field.Protest leaders complained the glyphosate is killing food crops as well as coca and making their children and farm animals sick -- allegations repeatedly made by farmers in other spray campaigns and just as repeatedly denied by U.S. and Colombian officials in charge of the fumigation.Pacts Wanted: The field hands said they want to stop the fumigation and sign pacts like those in the southern state of Putumayo, in which the government promised not to spray and to pay $1,000 in subsidies to farmers who agreed to eradicate their own coca bushes manually.``We want fumigation but not for the coca. We want it for the malaria and the dengue,'' said protest leader Rafael Arciniega, 54, a city councilman from La Gabarra who said he joined the march ``to defend my people.''Tibú's previous mayor, Maria Neira Panada, died last week from a suspected bout of dengue, a malaria-like disease borne by mosquitoes.Cárdenas said the government never offered La Gabarra's coca farmers the same deal as in Putumayo before launching the intense spray campaign here using four U.S.-provided Turbo Thrush spray aircraft.This is the second round of spraying since last March launched against the La Gabarra area, largely controlled by right-wing paramilitary fighters who have usually avoided shooting at the fumigation airplanes.Police officials said one of the spray aircraft was hit by ground fire Monday but returned safely to its base.Tibu, Colombia Source: Miami Herald (FL)Author: Juan O. TamayoPublished: Wednesday, June 13, 2001 Copyright: 2001 The Miami HeraldContact: heralded herald.comWebsite: Drug War News Spraying Misery - The Economist (UK) War on Drugs in Colombia Ravages Farmers on Drugs Takes Toll on Environment CannabisNews Science Archives

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Comment #10 posted by SWAMPIE on June 14, 2001 at 02:02:25 PT

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Comment #7 posted by SWAMPIE on June 14, 2001 at 01:56:38 PT

Where were the rebels whenthey needed them?They could easily have burned the planes too! They should protect these poor people!Their brothers....BURN THE PLANES!!!!! TIME TO OVERGROW THE GOVERNMENT!PLANT YOUR SEEDS NOW!EVERYWHERE!!!!  ONWARD THROUGH THE FOG!   SWAMPIE
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Comment #6 posted by Pontifex on June 13, 2001 at 12:21:22 PT:

God forbid they should ban anti-emetics too
So how do you stop riots caused by prohibition? Hmm, let's see:Cárdenas declared an overnight curfew and banned liquor sales after the rampage.Oh yeah, that ought to do the trick. If the peasants object to having their children and fields bombed with herbicide, they must be drunk or something.The U.S. State Department and its Columbian shills are in dire need of a good spanking!
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on June 13, 2001 at 11:06:13 PT

I found three pictures on CNN in this article. That's all so far. Hope this helps!
Colombia Drug War News
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Comment #4 posted by JJM on June 13, 2001 at 10:32:04 PT:

Anyone with video or stills of this incident PLEASE email news narcosoft.comJose  technology with substance"We'd rather sell Cannabis."
Arrest Prohibition
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Comment #3 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on June 13, 2001 at 10:28:16 PT:

Who You Gonna Blame?
Dope-Busters! That is, Amerika, the Yanqui capitalist imperialist dogs. This scenario was totally expected and is the ultimate result and responsibility of a policy that is futile, ill-conceived, and environmentally disastrous. It is a searing indictment of Plan Colombia. STOP THE WAR!
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Comment #2 posted by New Mexican on June 13, 2001 at 09:55:21 PT

America is SICK!!1
Folks, does this make you sick? Your tax dollars are being used to kill, sicken and destroy these peace loving, indigenous people in the nane of the drug war!Rise up now folks, before it is too late!The civilized world is calling for Bush's arrest for crimes against humanity, are we going to sit back and act like we're not concerned that our leaders are out of control!This is totally outrageous! Save the world from the U.S, now! 
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Comment #1 posted by Sudaca on June 13, 2001 at 08:45:04 PT

Be Proud
"Protest leaders complained the glyphosate is killing food crops as well as coca and making their children and farm animals sick -- allegations repeatedly made by farmers in other spray campaigns and just as repeatedly denied by U.S. and Colombian officials in charge of the fumigation."this is sick. So now will the US provide riot police to help stifle the opposition? Are Mr. Hutchinson and company going to go down to Colombia to tell the desperate people that they're wrong, that "roundup" is harmless and they are all deserving of Plan Colombia? How many children will have to die in Colombia before the "sends a wrong message" crowd will realize what they're doing?
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