DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 171 May 3, 2000 

DrugSense FOCUS Alert # 171 May 3, 2000 
Posted by FoM on May 03, 2000 at 18:05:39 PT
New York Times: Drug War Poisons Communities 
Source: MapInc.
Drug warriors sometimes try to justify prohibition by comparing drugs to poison and suggesting that they are attempting to keep "poison" out of communities. Not only does it fail as a metaphor (since the ultimate effect of the drug war is to make this "poison" one of the world's most profitable commodities), it is ironic that the drug war itself is spreading real poison into the places where people live. 
The New York Times this week reported on the environmental devastation caused by pesticide that is supposed to be eradicating illegal drug crops in Colombia. While crop spraying is often touted as a method stop drugs, the destruction caused to humans and their habitats is rarely acknowledged. This excellent article (below) exposes the situation, but it also clearly illustrates how little drug warriors really care about human suffering. An American embassy official claimed, "Being sprayed on certainly does not make people sick," though the reporter found ample evidence to the contrary. Please write a letter to the Times or any of the other newspapers where this story was carried to express horror at another toxic strategy from the drug war. Thanks for your effort and support. WRITE A LETTER TODAY If not YOU who? If not NOW when?  PLEASE SEND US A COPY OF YOUR LETTER OR TELL US WHAT YOU DID (Letter, Phone, fax etc.) Please post a copy your letter or report your action to the sent letter list (sentlet if you are subscribed, or by E-mailing a copy directly to MGreer Your letter will then be forwarded to the list with so others can learn from your efforts and be motivated to follow suit This is VERY IMPORTANT as it is the only way we have of gauging our impact and effectiveness. CONTACT INFO Source: New York Times (NY) Contact: letters EXTRA CREDIT Please send the letter to other newspapers where the same story has appeared, including the San Francisco Chronicle and the Register-Guard. Title: Colombia: Colombians Say Drug Spraying Creating Health Crisis Source: San Francisco Chronicle (CA) Contact: chronletters Title: Colombia: Drug War Blamed For Hurting Villagers Source: Register-Guard, The (OR) Contact: rgletters ARTICLEColombia: To Colombians, Drug War Is A Toxic Foe Newshawk: M & M Family Pubdate: Mon, 01 May 2000 Source: New York Times (NY) Copyright: 2000 The New York Times Company Contact: letters Address: 229 West 43rd Street, New York, NY 10036 Fax: (212) 556-3622 Website: Forum: Author: Larry Rohter TO COLOMBIANS, DRUG WAR IS A TOXIC FOE IOBLANCO DE SOTARA, Colombia -- The children and their teachers were in the schoolyard, they say, playing soccer and basketball and waiting for classes to begin when the crop-duster appeared. At first they waved, but as the plane drew closer and a gray mist began to stream from its wings, alarmed teachers rushed the pupils to their classrooms. Over the next two weeks, a fleet of counter narcotics planes taking part in an American-sponsored program to eradicate heroin poppy cultivation returned here repeatedly. Time and time again, residents charge, the government planes also sprayed buildings and fields that were not supposed to be targets, damaging residents' health and crops. "The pilot was flying low, so there is no way he could not have seen those children," said Nidia Majin, principal of the La Floresta rural elementary school, whose 70 pupils were sprayed that Monday morning last June. "We had no way to give them first aid, so I sent them home. But they had to cross fields and streams that had also been contaminated, so some of them got sick." In fact, say leaders of this remote Yanacona Indian village high in the Andes, dozens of other residents also became ill during the spraying campaign, complaining of nausea, dizziness, vomiting, rashes, blurred vision and ear and stomach aches. They say the spraying also damaged legitimate crops, undermining government efforts to support residents who have abandoned poppy growing. Such incidents are not limited to this village of 5,000, say critics in Colombia and the United States, but have occurred in numerous parts of Colombia and are bound to increase if the fumigation program is intensified, as the Clinton administration is proposing as part of a $1.6 billion emergency aid package to Colombia. Critics say they frequently receive reports of mistakes and abuses by the planes' Colombian pilots that both the American and Colombian governments choose to ignore. State Department officials deny that indiscriminate spraying takes place, with an American Embassy official in Bogota describing the residents' claims of illnesses as "scientifically impossible." But to local leaders here the situation brought on by the spraying remains one of crisis. "The fumigation was done in an indiscriminate and irresponsible manner, and it did not achieve its objective," said Ivan Alberto Chicangana, who was the mayor when the spraying occurred. "The damage done to the physical and economic well-being of this community has been serious," he said, "and is going to be very difficult for us to overcome." He and other local leaders say that people were sick for several weeks after the spraying, and in interviews a few residents complained of lasting symptoms. Three fish farms with more than 25,000 rainbow trout were destroyed, residents said, and numerous farm animals, mostly chickens and guinea pigs, died, while others, including some cows and horses, fell ill. In addition, fields of beans, onions, garlic, potatoes, corn and other traditional crops were sprayed, leaving plants to wither and die. As a result, community leaders here say, crop-substitution projects sponsored by the Colombian government have been irremediably damaged and their participants left impoverished. The spraying around this particular village has since stopped, residents say, though they fear that it could resume at any time, and it continues in neighboring areas, like nearby Guachicono, and year-round elsewhere in Colombia. Peasants in the coca-growing region of Caqueta, southeast of here, last year complained to a reporter that spray planes had devastated the crops they had planted after abandoning coca, and similar reports have emerged from Guaviare, another province to the east. Indeed, American-financed aerial spraying campaigns like the one here have been the principal means by which the Colombian government has sought to reduce coca- and opium-poppy cultivation for nearly a decade. The Colombian government fleet has grown to include 65 airplanes and helicopters, which fly every day, weather permitting, from three bases. Last year, the spraying effort resulted in the fumigation of 104,000 acres of coca and 20,000 acres of opium poppy. Yet despite such efforts, which have been backed by more than $150 million in American aid, cocaine and heroin production in Colombia has more than doubled since 1995. In an effort to reverse that trend and weaken left-wing guerrilla and right-wing paramilitary groups that are profiting from the drug trade and threatening the country's stability, the Clinton administration is now urging Congress to approve a new aid package, which calls for increased spending on drug eradication as well as a gigantic increase for crop-substitution programs, to $127 million from $5 million. Critics, like Elsa Nivia, director of the Colombian affiliate of the advocacy organization Pesticide Action Network, see the eradication effort as dangerous and misguided. "These pilots don't care if they are fumigating over schools, houses, grazing areas, or sources of water," she said in an interview at the group's headquarters in Cali. "Furthermore," she added, "spraying only exacerbates the drug problem by destabilizing communities that are trying to get out of illicit crops and grow legal alternatives." Those who have been directly affected by the spraying effort here also argue that fumigation is counterproductive. In this cloud-shrouded region of waterfalls, rushing rivers, dense forests and deep mountain gorges, poppy cultivation was voluntarily reduced by half between 1997 and 1999, to 250 acres, said Mr. Chicangana, the former mayor. He said it was well on its way to being eliminated altogether when the spraying began. "We were collaborating, and now people feel betrayed by the state," he lamented. "The fumigation disturbs us a bit," said Juan Hugo Torres, an official of Plante, the Colombian government agency supervising crop-substitution efforts, who works with farmers here. "You are building trust with people, they have hopes, and then the spraying does away with all of that." In an interview in Washington, R. Rand Beers, the American assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said aerial spraying flights are strictly monitored and targets chosen carefully. The fumigation program is designed so that pilots "shouldn't be anywhere close to alternative development projects," he said, since "officials in the air and on the ground should be equipped with geographic positioning devices that pinpoint where those activities are taking place." "If that happened, the pilot who flew that mission should be disciplined," Mr. Beers said in reference to the specific accusations made by residents here. "That shouldn't be happening." But the area fumigated here is wind-swept mountain terrain where illicit crops and their legal alternatives grow side by side, making accurate spraying difficult. And in some other places, pilots may be forced to fly higher than might be advisable, for fear of being shot at by the guerrillas, whose war is fueled by the profits of the drug trade. As for the complaints of illness, the American Embassy official who supervises the spraying program said in an interview in Bogota that glyphosate, the active ingredient in the pesticide used here, is "less toxic than table salt or aspirin." Calling it "the most studied herbicide in the world," he said it was proven to be harmless to human and animal life and called the villagers' account "scientifically impossible." "Being sprayed on certainly does not make people sick," said the official, "because it is not toxic to human beings." Glyphosate "does not translocate to water" and "leaves no soil residue," he added, so "if they are saying otherwise, to be very honest with you, they are lying, and we can prove that scientifically." But in an out-of-court settlement in New York state in 1996, Monsanto, a leading manufacturer of glyphosate-based herbicides, though not necessarily identical to those used here, agreed to withdraw claims that the product is "safe, nontoxic, harmless or free from risk." The company signed a statement agreeing that its "absolute claims that Roundup 'will not wash or leach in the soil' is not accurate" because glyphosate "may move through some types of soil under some conditions after application." In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has approved glyphosate for most commercial uses. But the E.P.A.'s own recertification study published in 1993 noted that "in California, where physicians are required to report pesticide poisonings, glyphosate was ranked third out of the 25 leading causes of illness or injury due to pesticides" over a five-year period in the 1980's, primarily causing eye and skin irritation. In addition, labels on glyphosate products like Roundup sold in the United States advise users to "avoid direct application to any body of water." Directions also warn users that they should "not apply this product in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift" and caution that "only protected handlers may be in the area during application." The doctor in charge of the local clinic here, Ivan Hernandez, recently was transferred and could not be reached for comment about the impact of the spraying on the health of residents. Gisela Moreno, a nurse's aide, refused to speak to a visiting reporter, saying, "We have been instructed not to talk to anyone about what happened here." When asked the origin of the order, she replied: "From above, from higher authorities." Here in Rioblanco de Sotara, half a dozen local people say they felt so sick after the spraying that they undertook a 55-mile bus trip to San Jose Hospital in Popayan, the capital of Cauca Province, for medical care. There, they were attended by Dr. Nelson Palechor Obando, who said he treated them for the same battery of symptoms that more than two dozen residents described to a reporter independently in recent interviews. "They complained to me of dizziness, nausea and pain in the muscles and joints of their limbs, and some also had skin rashes," he said. "We do not have the scientific means here to prove they suffered pesticide poisoning, but the symptoms they displayed were certainly consistent with that condition." Because this is an area of desperate poverty where most people eke out a living from subsistence agriculture, there is no stigma attached to growing heroin poppies, and those who have planted the crop freely admit it. Yet even those who claim never to have cultivated poppies say that their fields were also sprayed and their crops destroyed. "They fumigated everywhere, with no effort made to distinguish between potatoes and poppies," complained Oscar Ceron, a 32-year-old farmer. "We could even hear their radio transmissions on the FM band, with the ground command referring to us in a vulgar fashion." Other farmers said that the air currents constantly swirling down from the 14,885-foot Sotara volcano, on whose flank this town sits, blew the herbicide over fields planted with legal crops. "A gust of wind can carry the poison off to adjacent fields, so that they end up more badly damaged than the field that was the original target, which sometimes is left completely intact," explained Fernando Hormiga. In the United States, glyphosate users are specifically warned not to spray by air "when winds are gusty or under any other condition that favors drift." Usage instructions also say that "appropriate buffer zones must be maintained" to avoid contaminating surrounding areas. Once word got out about the illnesses that followed the spraying here, prices for milk, cheese and other products that are a mainstay of the local economy dropped by more than half. "The rumors are that the land is contaminated, so we no longer get orders from outside, and the middlemen can now name their own price," said Fabian Omen, a farmer and town councilman. Worse still, government and private creditors are nonetheless demanding that the loans made for crop-substitution projects like the fish farms must still be repaid, even though the enterprises themselves have been destroyed. Asked about the lack of an integrated policy that implies, Alba Lucia Otero, the Plante director for Cauca Province, expressed frustration. "The state is a single entity, but we work on one side while those doing the fumigation work on another," she said. "There should be coordination, but they take their decision at the central level, and we are not consulted." SAMPLE LETTER To the editor: Thank you for printing the story "To Colombians, Drug War Is A Toxic Foe," (May 1) and exposing yet another terrible consequence of the drug war. While it's clear that dumping pesticides on any community is a bad idea, the description of a Colombian elementary school being sprayed with poison while classes were in session is heart breaking. The cruel extremists who run the drug war often claim that they are trying to eradicate drugs to save children, but here is yet another example of children being hurt while illegal drugs become more available every day. If chemical warfare was conducted over American cities, I'd like to think our citizens would have stood up and demanded an end to the whole rotten enterprise immediately. The question remains, though, of whether the powerful institutions that run the drug war are ever going to acknowledge the misery they are causing. Stephen Young IMPORTANT: Always include your address and telephone number Please note: If you choose to use this letter as a model please modify it at least somewhat so that the paper does not receive numerous copies of the same letter and so that the original author receives credit for his/her work. ADDITIONAL INFO to help you in your letter writing efforts 3 Tips for Letter Writers: Letter Writers Style Guide:  TO SUBSCRIBE, DONATE, VOLUNTEER TO HELP, OR UPDATE YOUR EMAIL SEE: TO UNSUBSCRIBE SEE: Prepared by Stephen YoungFocus Alert Specialist CannabisNews DrugSense & MapInc. Archives & Articles:
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Comment #4 posted by dddd on May 03, 2000 at 22:34:47 PT
Mr J.R. Bills.I am confident that all will join me in returning your salute. You bring up an excellent point about speaking out in todays world.Peoples minds have been manipulated and poisoned in the most devious and covert way.A large majority of people,actually believe that the evening news,and local paper,is a reliable and honest source of balanced and un-biased reporting of the "news" We need more people like FoM,with forums like this.We need more people like you,JRB. The road ahead is uphill,but we gotta keep on,keepin' on..........JAH is no secret....dddd
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Comment #3 posted by dddd on May 03, 2000 at 22:16:39 PT
Terror From Above
I knew this would happen,and this is just the beginning of this nightmare from hell horrorshow. These pilots are supposed to spray certain areas,but no one who is in the know,,wants to end up on the wrong end of a surface to air missle.So the toxic load of outdated,and surplus defoiliant cocktail,is jettisoned over areas that are least likely to be armed. Bottom line for the flight crew,is to return to base,alive,,with an empty poison tank,and a report of "mission accomplished". This is going to get way more ugly.It's like some surreal nightmare. It is also an indicator of how disgustingly sick and corrupt our government has become,under the phony mask of a nonexsistant war.....................dddd
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Comment #2 posted by John R. Bills on May 03, 2000 at 20:00:24 PT:
I am so ashamed of my own country!
I too am a veteran, and I can't believe this s***! It is only people like FoM, the Kaptin, dddd, etc. that make me believe that there is still a true "American" core it this slow decay of fascism. I salute you all. The sheeple are in fear of their own government. I speak as truthfully about this to anybody. I am not afraid to let people know how I feel. But when I speak to some, and they say that I should watch what I say, that they fear to speak the truth lest they be swallowed by the beast, I fear for my country; a country that I once believed in with patriotic fervor. But I hang my head in shame, the sheeple are in fear, and it fills me with dread. 
Read and learn not to fear your own government.
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on May 03, 2000 at 18:42:03 PT:
Classic nerve agent symptoms
"They complained to me of dizziness, nausea and pain in the muscles and joints of their limbs, and some also had skin rashes," he said. "We do not have the scientific means here to prove they suffered pesticide poisoning, but the symptoms they displayed were certainly consistent with that condition." And that's excactly what the Colombian government, and by proxy, the US government, is counting on. Because it requires sophisticated testing to pick up on organo-phosphate caused damage to nerves. You need to take blood and tissue samples and test them for unusually high levels of either succinylcholinsterase or its' counterpart, acetylcholinsterase. High levels of either would show beyond a shadow of a doubt that the campesinos have been exposed to dangerously high levels of organo-phosphates. But the poor b*****ds don't even have a pot to pee in, much less a gas chromatograph.As many who read this already know, the US companies that have had their products banned in the US have sought to sell their banned goods - such as pesticides - onto the Third World marketplace. The DrugWar abroad is the perfect excuse for the agro and chemical companies to get rid of a stockpile they can't use here. But, we aren't as safe as we think we are; with GATT and NAFTA, some of the produce we import from such places is contaminated with chemicals such as Malathion. Which, in a high molar form, is every bit as deadly as any regular nerve agent. What does anyone here care to bet that those Thrush Commander crop dusting planes are loaded to the hilt with the stuff?The DrugWar exacts many prices, most of them hidden. This is but another case of those hidden costs. The proof of the pudding, however, will be when those campesinas give birth to the same kinds of pathetically deformed children many of our Gulf war Vets have had.We are signatories to treaties banning chemical warfare. Yet we are engaged in just that in Colombia. Even while we point the finger at the narcos and proclaim them to be criminals, our leaders break international laws. We've witnessed war-crimes tribunals in the Hague over the Balkans; will we someday be witnessing the same kind of trials for American DrugWarriors for their role in engaging in chemical warfare against a helpless populace of a supposed ally?I'm not going to hold my breath.
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