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From owner-imap@chumbly.math.missouri.edu Wed Jul 24 10:30:26 2002
Date: Tue, 23 Jul 2002 11:45:04 -0500 (CDT)
From: Mark Graffis <mgraffis@vitelcom.net>
Subject: No Aerial Spraying, Colombia's Indigenous People Plead
Organization: ?
Article: 142610
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

No Aerial Spraying, Colombia's Indigenous People Plead

Environment News Service, Monday 22 July 2002

PUERTO ASIS, Colombia - The Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Putumayo Zone (OZIP) and the 128 Indigenous Governing Councils in the Department of Putumayo have issued a plea to the government of Colombia and the international community not to spray their lands with herbicide intended to kill illegal coca plants.

The Colombian government has announced that on July 28 it will begin a massive constant aerial spraying of illicit coca plants in the territory of Putumayo. The groups say all forms of life will die in the spray, not just the coca plants.

At a meeting in Puerto Asis on July 9 and 10, indigenous leaders formally called upon the Office of the Ombudsman of the People (Defensoria del Pueblo), the attorney general, the minister of the environment, human rights organizations, national and international NGOs, social organizations, and the rest of the population, to stand by us in denouncing, and helping to find peaceful solutions to, this violent act of aerial spraying.

The Indigenous Authorities, 128 Governing Councils, of the indigenous peoples of Putumayo signed an agreement with the Colombian government on July 26, 2001 that specifies a commitment to the social, economic and cultural recovery and reconstruction of our peoples affected by the invasion of our territories, as well as a commitment on the part of indigenous peoples to voluntarily and gradually substitute crops grown for illicit use.

The indigenous leaders said they are not drug traffickers and must not be treated as such. We are willing and committed to being a part of the solution to the problem, but we demand that the government and its police force also comply, and not spray those territories inhabited by the indigenous people and peasants who signed, with the same government, serious agreements that bind both parties.

We are directly affected by the problem, they said, and the illicit crops that we do have are grown for survival. They are not commercial fields and therefore we should not be given the same treatment as criminals.

The indigenous people say they are abiding by the 2001 pact, entitled, A Mutual Agreement for the Substitution of Coca Crops for Illicit Use in the Department of Putumayo, and they are asking that the government comply with the agreement too.

We know from past experience that this aerial spraying will wipe out everything, the indigenous leaders said. The small subsistence farms and gardens will be exterminated, it will affect the flora and fauna, and the rich biodiversity of the Amazon jungles will be poisoned with glyphosate.

The conflict will intensify, they warn, and a huge number of people will be displaced from their homes. Even the investments that the government itself has made in projects to support food security and cattle ranching will be destroyed.

The Indigenous Authorities have identified their communities on maps brought to them by the government, so that they will not be sprayed. Nevertheless, they said, we have fears and doubts, because a string of governments have accustomed us to a historic lack of respect for pacts.

Aerial spraying is death, they declare. It is genocide. Glyphosate does kill. It kills communities through death by hunger because they spray our daily sustenance - the food, the pastures and the water.

The indigenous peoples of the Putumayo are the Murais, Ingas, Quichuas, Pastos, Awas, Paeces, Embera, Sionas, Muinanes, Yanakonas, Kamentza, Koreguajes, and Kofanes.

They are asking for the urgent presence of competent authorities that can support us in finding solutions to this problem, and accompany us in denouncing this situation.