The governor of NariÃ±o department, Eduardo ZÃºÃ±iga, is in Washington this week to talk about the humanitarian situation in his home region. His message badly needs to be heard right now.
NariÃ±o is in Colombia’s far southwest, along the border with Ecuador. Its eastern half is high Andes; its western half is a Pacific coastal plain with a high Afro-Colombian population.
NariÃ±o’s eastern neighbor is Putumayo, where more than half of Colombia’s coca was concentrated when Plan Colombia got underway in 1999-2000. Massive aerial fumigation reduced coca-growing in Putumayo, only to see it increase sharply to the west in NariÃ±o.
Today, NariÃ±o is one of the most violent places in Colombia. It has a high FARC and ELN presence, and is a center of re-armed paramilitaries. The worst violence is in the Pacific coast region, including the displacement of over 7,000 people in a 2-week period in El Charco in March.
NariÃ±o is also one of Colombia’s most heavily fumigated departments, with more than 50,000 hectares per year sprayed by U.S.-funded aircraft (out of a total of 160,000 per year nationwide). Yet coca-growing has stubbornly refused to decrease.
NariÃ±o is one of two Colombian departments (out of 32) that Ãlvaro Uribe did not win in the May 2006 elections. Governor ZÃºÃ±iga, like his predecessor Parmenio CuÃ©llar, comes from an independent opposition political movement that is often aligned with, but is not formally a part of, the Polo DemocrÃ¡tico party.
Governor ZÃºÃ±iga is here all week, along with Father Maurizio Pointin of Pastoral Social Caritas Colombia, and Marco Romero, the director of the Colombian human-rights group CODHES.
Here are some video excerpts from his remarks at a forum held yesterday (May on Capitol Hill. Apologies for the amateur video quality, we’re still figuring out how to do this well.
“Fumigation hasn’t worked at all”
Governor ZÃºÃ±iga talks about the failure of massive U.S.-funded coca fumigation in his department.
A call for alternative development aid
Governor ZÃºÃ±iga proposes U.S. aid to expand a rubber-cultivation project to help farmers transition away from illicit crops.
“The free trade agreement will not help us”
Governor ZÃºÃ±iga talks about how the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will affect his department.
“Nothing much had changed”
At the same forum, comments from U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) about the continuing crisis of internal displacement in Colombia.