In January, Colombia’s government acceded to a long-standing request from the government of Ecuador, agreeing not to carry out aerial herbicide fumigation of coca within 10 kilometers of the two countries’ common border.
This week, Colombia – no doubt under heavy U.S. pressure – went back on this pledge and started spraying in the immediate vicinity of the border.
Ecuador’s government – both current and incoming – is angry. AP reports that Foreign Minister Francisco Carrión "was deciding whether to lodge a diplomatic complaint or ‘even recall our ambassador because this is a show of hostility toward Ecuador.’"
Colombia’s media have not done any reporting from the border zone this week, but the Quito-based El Comercio does have a reporter in Lago Agrio, on the much safer Ecuadorian side. Here is a translation of a story in this morning’s edition. It’s a brief but interesting view of how the border-zone fumigations are being seen from the Ecuadorian side.
The resumption of Colombian coca fumigation created problems among the residents and their traditional crops in the border area, on the international boundary of the San Miguel River.
That was made clear in the Salinas area of Lago Agrio. There, residents reported that the light airplanes fumigated within some 150 meters of the San Miguel River.
The fumigations did not come alone. Community leaders reported the arrival of several Colombian families. "They arrived with their livestock, asking for shelter in our farms," said Luís Ayabaca.
In this area there is fear for the effects on 45 schoolchildren and more than 80 hectares of corn crops, sugar cane, plantains, and coffee.
"In past fumigations the crops were lost. That caused a very strong economic crisis," said Carlos Condoy.
In Puerto Mestaza, the first fumigations changed the population’s routine. The port registered a larger flow of Colombians. "They crossed the border in order to avoid being reached by the fumigations," said Roberto Cruz.
In this sector, it is reported that the Colombian airships flew within some 200 meters of the San Miguel River. The campesinos in the zone canceled their workdays for community meetings.
This happened with the network of frontier communities in General Farfán. "We have more than 400 hectares of malanga, fish-farming, grazing land, and traditional crops at risk," said Segundo Zambrano.
The farmer stated that the new period of fumigations broke the optimism of campesinos who had refused to leave their lands in the face of the previous fumigations and the effects of the conflict. "More than 300 families have already displaced, and if the 10-kilometer fringe is not respected, it will be our turn," he commented.
In the meantime, the Federation of Campesino Organizations of the Border Area carried out a tour of the border and confirmed that the fumigations in several areas took place 100 meters from the San Miguel River.