US Anti-Drug Aid Endangers Indigenous Communities

US Anti-Drug Aid Endangers Indigenous Communities
Posted by FoM on November 22, 2000 at 20:32:08 PT
For Immediate Release
An international coalition of indigenous, environmental, human rights, and policy organizations warn that escalation of the U.S.-funded Colombian government’s herbicide spraying program to erradicate illicit crops could seriously harm the health of indigenous and peasant communities, endanger the biodiverse ecosystems of the Amazon Basin, and fail to reduce overall drug production and use in the U.S. 
The Colombian National Police, assisted by U.S. government spray aircraft, fuel, escort helicopters, and private military contractors, will significantly increase aerial fumigation operations in December in the southern state of Putumayo.Fifty-eight indigenous peoples are among those affected by fumigation in the Colombian Amazon. Their territories cover almost half of the region. Emperatriz Cahuache, President of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazon, stated "Fumigation violates our rights and territorial autonomy. It has intensified the violence of the armed conflict and forced people to leave their homes after their food crops have been destroyed.""Aerial eradication, and the thousands of U.S.-trained soldiers deployed in the region, are escalating social tension and political violence," added Bill Spencer, Deputy Director of the Washington Office on Latin America. "These operations force many peasants to join the ranks of the guerrillas or to flee the region - adding to the hundreds of thousands of Colombians displaced internally or abroad."The Human Rights Ombudsman offices at the national and local level have also registered hundreds of complaints from peasants throughout Colombia that aerial eradication has caused eye, respiratory, skin, and digestive ailments, destroyed subsistence crops, sickened domesticated animals, and contaminated water supplies. These complaints, and other occupation health data warning against direct human exposure, suggest that the impact on human health could be extremely detrimental.According to Linda Farley, American Birds Conservancy Science Officer, "While glyphosate’s direct toxic effects on the ecosystem may not be as extreme as those seen with other herbicides, the indirect, long term ecological effects are severe. Aside from non-target plant species killed by aerial "drift" during spraying operations, glyphosate has well-documented deleterious effects on soil micro-organisms, mammalian life including humans, invertebrates, and aquatic organisms, especially fish." This represents a major cause for concern since a signficant portion of coca cultivation occurs alongside rivers in the Colombian Amazon that flow directly into Ecuador and Brazil. Moreover, the ecosystems of Colombia contain approximately 10% of the world’s terrestrial plant and animal species."Deforestation has also increased as farmers whose coca crops have been sprayed move deeper into the rainforests," Farley continued. In this sense, glyphosate spraying is already having a significant detrimental effect on the endemic and threatened birds of Colombia, as 95% of the 75 plus threatened species are forest-dependent. Colombia is one of the richest areas in the world in terms of birds diversity."On top of these concerns, drug policy experts argue that source-country counternarcotic strategies will never be successful at decreasing overall drug production because cultivation will shift to other regions and countries around the world. Coca and opium poppy production in Colombia tripled from 1994 to 1999, despite fumigating over 240,000 hectares of illicit crops with more than two million liters of glyphosate. Experts argue that the stated goal of the $1.3 billion U.S aid package for Plan Colombia – to reduce drug use in the streets of America – will never be achieved by aerial fumigation or other supply-side strategies."Until we admit the drug economy is driven by three problems we refuse to seriously address – poverty in drug producing countries, demand in rich countries, and the "value added" to these relatively worthless crops by prohibition policies – we will never get a handle on the problem," stated Sanho Tree, Director of the Drug Policy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies.Bill Piper, Associate Director of Public Policy and Legislative Affairs for the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation echoed his concerns, "When Congress chose to spend over hundreds of millions of dollars on risky counter-narcotic efforts in Colombia instead of closing the treatment gap here at home, the door was closed on thousands of Americans needing help, while innocent Colombians were made to pay a horrible price for our country's addictions."Complete Title: U.S. Anti-Drug Aid Endangers Indigenous Communities and Amazon Biodiversity Washington, D.C. Source: Fumigation.orgWebsite: Direct Link: By: The Amazon Alliance, the Institute for Policy Studies, the Lindesmith Center-Drug Policy Foundation, the U.S./Colombia Coordinating Office, and the Washington Office on Latin America.Related Articles:U.S. Grows Killer Fungus To Fight Heroin Colombians, Drug War Is a Toxic Foe Fungus Could be Tool Against Illegal Drugs May be Used to Fight War on Cocaine 
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