Spraying Program Hurts Colombia's Small Farmers 

Spraying Program Hurts Colombia's Small Farmers 
Posted by FoM on January 06, 2001 at 21:08:18 PT
By Scott Wilson, Washington Post Foreign Service
Source: Washington Post
Colombia's mammoth anti-drug campaign, backed by more than $1 billion of U.S. military and social development aid, has entered a new punitive phase of aerial spraying that is killing fields of coca as well as the legal crops of farmers here in the country's most bountiful drug-growing region.Using U.S. and European satellite photographs to pick targets, Colombian army and police aircraft have begun spraying herbicides on small farms in western Putumayo, the southern province that accounts for more than half the country's coca production.
The flights, paid for by the U.S.-backed anti-drug campaign called Plan Colombia, have occurred almost daily over several farming communities since Dec. 22 and have wilted hundreds of acres of coca, the key ingredient in cocaine, and legal crops, which often are planted alongside coca. Local people say the chemicals have sometimes fallen on towns and farmhouses, causing people to suffer fevers. They also blame the spraying for the deaths of some cows and fish."Those without coca are more affected than those with it," said Hilberto Soto Vargas, a local farmer whose banana grove was fumigated even though, by his account, he pulled up his coca plants two years ago when he became a member of a Pentecostal church. "All of this is dying now," he said, pointing to his fields. "All of it."Colombia accounts for 80 percent to 90 percent of the world's cocaine production and a growing share of its heroin. The fumigation in Putumayo marks a bold new escalation of Plan Colombia, a U.S.-backed $7.5 billion campaign to cut Colombian drug production by half in six years, by 2005.Until recently, spraying focused almost entirely on remote industrial-sized coca and poppy plantations that grow most of Colombia's drugs. Officials claim it has denuded roughly 125,000 acres of drug fields. Now the planes are targeting more populous farming areas like this one, where coca is seen by many poor villagers as a legitimate cash crop and is often grown side by side with corn, yucca, pineapple and livestock. Often it shares a plot next to the farmer's tin-roofed shack.The new approach is designed in part to punish several coca-rich communities that have refused to join a U.S.-backed program that pays farmers to uproot illegal crops and replace them with legal ones. Some of the communities declined to join because of threats from leftist guerrillas who profit from the drug trade.In La Hormiga, a town 30 miles west of Putumayo's commercial center of Puerto Asis, town officials and residents say the fumigation has been devastating. In interviews, dozens of farmers said that the spray, delivered by small planes escorted by armed helicopters, has killed hundreds of acres of food crops, scores of cattle and hundreds of fish that washed up on the banks of the Guamuez River. On several occasions, several witnesses said, the aircraft dropped herbicide within the town itself.U.S. drug control policy director Barry R. McCaffrey has said repeatedly that the herbicide, Roundup, produced by Monsanto Co., is harmless to humans and animals – he called it "totally safe" during a November visit to Colombia.However, in the United States it is sold with warning labels advising users to "not apply this product in a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift." The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate-based products such as Roundup should be handled with caution and could cause vomiting, swelling of the lungs, pneumonia, mental confusion and tissue damage.Several farmers here said they have experienced fever-like symptoms since being sprayed, but local doctors report only one hospitalization for chemical poisoning. Mayor Flover Edmundo Meza, whose own farm was fumigated last week, predicts widespread hunger throughout the municipality of 35,000 people because of crop damage. The loss could result in thousands of families leaving their farms, he said."Our intention is to eliminate these crops – voluntarily – and avoid these damages, but the government is not listening to us," said Meza, who took office Jan. 1. "People will not be able to eat, and we don't have the resources to address this. We are asking the government to stop at once."The U.S. Congress has pledged $1.3 billion over the next two years to Plan Colombia, most going toward such military hardware as the helicopters used in the fumigation missions. The U.S. contribution also includes money to build small businesses, health clinics, schools and roads that Colombian officials hope will help end two decades of coca cultivation in Putumayo.European nations have chipped in more than $200 million for social programs, but have roundly condemned the fumigation strategy. However, that approach is backed with enthusiasm by the United States; some U.S. officials in Colombia proudly display photos of denuded coca and poppy fields on their office walls.About $81 million of the U.S. aid is available for the plan's alternative development program, which through subsidies and small loans seeks to coax farmers to abandon coca crops for legal ones. Of that sum, $30 million is marked for eradication programs that farmers must join if they are to avoid fumigation.In December, more than 500 families signed up for crop substitution programs in Puerto Asis, an area largely protected from guerrilla forces by privately funded paramilitary groups and a nearby army base.But not a single farmer in La Hormiga or in the neighboring municipality of San Miguel signed on to the plan when it was presented here late last summer. Gonzalo de Francisco, President Andres Pastrana's point man for Plan Colombia, said the communities understood the consequences but might have been frightened off by pressure from guerrilla forces.De Francisco said the towns, which sent his office petitions pleading for an end to the fumigation six days after it began, will be offered another chance to sign the pacts in coming weeks. In the meantime, the spraying will continue."Obviously, we take these reports of harm from spraying seriously and we are trying to get the best information we can so we can analyze the situation correctly," de Francisco said. Fumigation is not perfect, he said, and everyone would be better off if the villagers agreed to join the programs to end coca cultivation.The central government in Bogota argues that the spraying is necessary because as much as one-third of Colombia's coca comes from small farms like the ones here. An estimated 66,000 acres of coca are under cultivation in the municipality of Valle de Guamuez, of which La Hormiga is the capital. That is almost double the acreage of food crops and accounts for a large fraction of the province's total coca production, which has been increasing.But a recent tour of the area suggested there is no way to fumigate from the air without harming legal agriculture as well as drug crops."That is the thing that hurt me," said Rosa Elvira Zambrano, a 71-year-old widow, pointing to her neighbor's four-acre coca field, which lies across a barbed-wire fence from her withering grove of banana trees and yucca. Zambrano, who has lived on a seven-acre farm inside La Hormiga's city limits for 25 years, grows food and raises chickens to support her daughter, also a widow, and three grandchildren.On the morning of Dec. 22, she said, a group of planes and helicopters passed over her farm three times, spraying herbicide on her crops while mostly missing her neighbor's coca. "It's the government that has ruined all this," she said. "How will I eat?"More than a dozen farmers said the aircraft appear to be spraying from high altitudes, perhaps for fear of guerrilla ground fire. The result, they say, has been indiscriminate fumigation. A reporter's inspection of fields in the area suggested that food crops have been hit at least as hard as coca.Ismael Acosta, a 46-year-old father of five, cultivates an acre and a half of coca on his farm along the banks of the Guamuez River. He said that at noon last Wednesday, more than 10 aircraft passed over his farm, most of which is planted with corn and yucca, a common crop grown for its roots. One day later, his corn patch had turned brown and his yucca was losing leaves. A few yards away, his coca patch showed signs of yellowing.In Puerto Asis, meanwhile, about 550 farmers are beginning a social experiment meant to end fear of fumigation. Last month, two-thirds of them signed agreements with the government to receive $1,000 payments if they pulled up their coca plants within a year. The other third, who don't grow coca, received pledges of the same subsidy as a reward for staying out of the drug business.The farmers can keep the money or use it to buy farming supplies to get a new start with legal crops. The sum would be enough to pay for two milk cows, 50 chickens, an acre of banana trees and more.More important, the agreements authorize the farmers to apply to a local nonprofit foundation for small-business loans from a pool of U.S. and European aid. Farmers are to get seats on the foundation's board and the chance to pitch ideas for putting such enterprises as cattle ranches and fish farms on former coca fields.Fernando Bautista is a butcher who helps run his cousin's 15-acre coca farm along the placid Putumayo River near Santa Ana. Bautista has lost three brothers to drug-trade murders; now he says he wants to give his two daughters another way of life by starting a dairy farm with government help.He and his cousin, Ramiro Garcia, have joined with 20 other coca farmers to pitch the idea. They plan to pool their $1,000 government payments, then seek a loan to purchase 10 cows each, build stables and buy tank trucks.But the economics must make sense for Garcia to give up the $6,000 in annual profit he has been getting from the 35 pounds of coca paste that his farm produces each year.Along the edge of his field stands a warning: a small patch of brilliant green plants resembling clover – infant coca bushes, enough to plant 25 acres."If the government helps us, I will sell them or just pull them up," Garcia said. "If not, I'll plant them."Source: Washington Post (DC) Author: Scott Wilson, Washington Post Foreign ServicePublished: Sunday, January 7, 2001; Page A1 Address: 1150 15th Street NorthwestWashington, DC 20071Copyright: 2001 The Washington Post Company Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: CannabisNews Articles - Plan Colombia
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Comment #13 posted by kaptinemo on January 07, 2001 at 17:18:19 PT:
A very telling report
For the curious: A report from Brazil detailing just what kind of vicious circle this is. And keep in mind: we are not immune from the effects of this poison peddling. Much of the imported foods that reach us courtesy of NAFTA and GATT are contaminated with this same crap. The US tries to pawn this schijt off on other, lessy savvy nations, but what comes around does indeed go around.Who Benefits, Who Suffers? The Global Politics of Pesticide Use in Brazil
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Comment #12 posted by dddd on January 07, 2001 at 08:43:31 PT
If the embassy guy says it's as safe as table salt,or aspirin,,then he wont mind if we season his kids dinner with it,and crop dust his house and vegetable garden with it....You know what damn liars those Colombian peasant farmers are.They would say anything to make the noble efforts of the czar look bad.Dan B..I've been a Chomsky fan for years.He does have some superb writings on Colombia.Highly recommended.dddd...................................................................................
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Comment #11 posted by freedom fighter on January 07, 2001 at 08:09:57 PT
I am so ashamed of
my country. 
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Comment #10 posted by Frank on January 07, 2001 at 07:39:41 PT
American Lies to Us and to The Columbians
American Embassy official who supervises the spraying program said in an interview in Bogotá 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."The American Government is starting a war in South America. These actions will only generate hatred and resistance. The people behind the spraying of this poison should be caught and forced to drink a liter of this toxin if its so safe. One day soon the people of Columbia will turn of their government, a puppet of American politics. Who would not turn on them if they poisoned your family, your land and crops? Starving people know no government.
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Comment #9 posted by Dan B on January 07, 2001 at 07:23:57 PT:
My Bad...
...The Columbia Support Network recently changed sites, and I think the book I mentioned below can no longer be found there. The link to Noam Chomsky's introduction is still active as it comes from a different parent site. There is still a great deal of information on the Columbia Support Network site (
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Comment #8 posted by Dan B on January 07, 2001 at 06:52:44 PT:
Check out the site linked below...
...if you haven't yet, that is. It's the site for the Columbia Support Network. When you get there, please take some time to read the text of No Human Being is Disposable, with an introduction by prominent libertarian thinker Noam Chomsky (at least read the introduction; it was quite enlightening to me). It will enhance your perspective, I think, regarding U.S. involvement in Columbia, particularly with regard to the so-called "war on drugs."Here's a link to just the Chomsky introduction: B
The Columbia Support Network
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Comment #7 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on January 07, 2001 at 06:42:11 PT:
An Idea
D4, you raise a very salient point. Perhaps some intrepid journalist will attempt to get footage, although they would be a target for all sides.
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Comment #6 posted by MikeEEEEE on January 07, 2001 at 06:40:52 PT
Plan Columbia
Plans derived from crazy minds have crazy results.Enough said.
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Comment #5 posted by dddd on January 07, 2001 at 05:55:19 PT
War crimes,and conspiracy
 The heinous crime of allowing the spraying is one thing,but that is just one part of the crime. The evil of spraying and military "assistance",is one thing.The other half of the crime,is the conspiracy involved in the purposful conspiracy to exclude the American people from getting the details of what's going on down there.We are talking about a major network of covert efforts to disallowcoverage of these crimes.Like I said before,,talk about front page headlines!,,,,Yet we have seen not one news report about this,not one bit of film footage of the devastation.When the Russians were brutalizing Chechnya,there was all kinds of film footage on the evening news....Talk about an "evil empire".The US government is beyond control of its own citizens!......This will go down in history as one of the most disgusting aggressions of the century. Is it not obvious that the media is bought and paid for?The major networks are not allowed to report on this outrage....................dddd 
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Comment #4 posted by Ethan Russo, MD on January 07, 2001 at 04:38:13 PT:
Excuse Me While I Shout
USA IS GUILTY OF WAR CRIMES FOR GENOCIDE, ETHNOCIDE AND ENVIRONMENTAL DESTRUCTION IN THE COLOMBIAN AMAZON.The above articles provide a seething indictment of our role in this civil war, and amply demonstrate how our "do good approach" only serves to exacerbate the situation. Moronic officials claim the stuff harmless, and assert that spraying represents some kind of surgical strike. What a joke! Our proxies could not even avoid hitting US Senator Wellstone in their little demonstration. Now they are killing off the alternative crops. What do you suppose those impoverished farmers are going to say when the FARC comes through looking for volunteers? Will these people be looking to toe the government line, or be seeking vengeance?Our complicity and instigation in these atrocities is sickening. I only pray that it ends soon, and that the International War Crimes Tribunal forces us to attempt reparations to the ecological and economic disaster we have fomented.For a few articles on glyphosphate, please see the following:Folmar LC, Sanders HO, Julin AM. Toxicity of the herbicide glyphosphate and several of its formulations to fish and aquatic invertebrates.Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 1979;8(3):269-78. No abstract available.PMID: 507937; UI: 80063951Mack RB. The night the light went off in Sestos. Roundup (glyphosphate) poisoning.N C Med J. 1993 Jan;54(1):35-6. No abstract available.PMID: 8426661; UI: 93149285Talbot AR, Shiaw MH, Huang JS, Yang SF, Goo TS, Wang SH, Chen CL, Sanford TR. Acute poisoning with a glyphosate-surfactant herbicide ('Roundup'): a review of 93 cases.Hum Exp Toxicol. 1991 Jan;10(1):1-8.PMID: 1673618; UI: 91214693Rueppel ML, Brightwell BB, Schaefer J, Marvel JT. Metabolism and degradation of glyphosphate in soil and water. J Agric Food Chem. 1977 May-Jun;25(3):517-28. No abstract available.PMID: 858844; UI: 77166010
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Comment #3 posted by dddd on January 07, 2001 at 01:59:23 PT
If people only knew..
 Much like the sordid and shocking details of the drug war here in amerika,not many people are aware of what is actually going on down in Colombia.It really is exceedindly disturbing when you consider the amount of control that elements within our government have over information/media. A good example is the recent coverage of the czar and his lies. The spraying in Colombia has evidently been going on for years,but now it's bigtime.It was like a squirtgun before,and now it's like a firehose. Doesnt it seem somewhat mysterious,that there is very little uproar,or outrage about what's going on?As usual,I attribute this to the masterful manipulation,and oversight of the national media. If the story of this spraying ever got national coverage,it would not be tolerated.Think about it;wouldnt you think that spraying toxic chemicals over vast sections of land,contaminating water supplies,babies,mothers,,is that somehow not worthy of the front page?Is it less important than Elian Gonzales? The government owns the media.They have recently taken over NPR,(National Public Radio),in a very blatant,and crude way. Not many people know the evil that is going on here in the U.S.S.ofA.......dddd
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Comment #2 posted by nl5x on January 06, 2001 at 22:32:58 PT
part 2
"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 Bogotá 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, Iván Hernández, 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 Sotará, half a dozen local people say they felt so sick after the spraying that they undertook a 55-mile bus trip to San José Hospital in Popayán, 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 Oscár Cerón, 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 Sotará 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 Fabián Omén, 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 Lucía 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." Rioblanco De Sotara, Colombia Published: May 1, 2000Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company Related Articles: Natural Fungus Could be Tool Against Illegal Drugs Target:Coca Colombian Indians Doubt Safety of Spraying Crops CannabisNews Archives: 
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Comment #1 posted by nl5x on January 06, 2001 at 22:32:22 PT
Posted by FoM on May 01, 2000 at 08:59:47 PTBy Larry Rohter Source: New York Times 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 counternarcotics 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 Majín, 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 Bogotá 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 Iván 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 Caquetá, 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. 
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