From Tue Jul 24 12:51:15 2001
Date: Fri, 20 Jul 2001 09:15:45 -0500 (CDT)
From: Mark Graffis <>
Subject: Ecuador asks Colombia to halt aerial coca fumigation
Article: 123163
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Ecuador asks Colombia to halt aerial coca fumigation

Reuters, 20 July 2001

QUITO, Ecuador—Ecuador has asked Colombia to stop aerial crop spraying near the border the two nations share, fearing the chemical applied to eradicate coca in its war-torn nation could harm Ecuadoreans' health.

Aerial spraying of coca, the raw ingredient of cocaine, in Colombia's Putumayo province is a key part of that nation's $1 billion US-backed war on drugs but the use of fumigation to destroy coca plants has sparked controversy over its effects.

Ecuador has complained that spraying the herbicide glyphosate could make Ecuadoreans ill and damage crops in the region's jungle towns, adding to fears that Colombia's war on drugs and Marxist rebels was spilling into its neighbors.

Local media reported this week an increase in headaches, fever and rashes among some Amazon village residents since the spraying began. Ecuador shares a 389-mile (620 km) border with Colombia.

We asked Colombia that in areas close to this strip of 10 km on the Ecuadorean border, for its eradication program to be manual, without the use of aerial fumigation, Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Heinz Moeller said this week.

Moeller said that the government was worried aerial spraying was more uncontrolled could waft over the border.

Conflict-torn Colombia has sprayed 75,000 acres (30,000 hectares) with glyphosate since December.

Still, Moeller admitted that without scientific studies, there is no proof that the problems are the result of aerial fumigation.

Ecuadorean authorities are increasingly fearful that the anti-drug offensive Plan Colombia will push that nation's violent conflict between left-wing rebels, rightist paramilitaries and the armed forces across the border.

There is also concern that coca could find fertile soil in Ecuador's Amazon, an area plagued by poverty and years of admitted neglect by the central government.

Local environmentalists debate the danger of crop spraying, with some opposed to the use of glyphosate and others who say greater damage is caused when coca-growers raze jungle brush to plant their crop.

Colombia's ambassador in Quito, Eliseo Restrepo told Reuters yesterday that glyphosate is often used on agricultural crops, such as bananas and flowers, is considered innocuous and not easily dispersed.

While Colombia weighs Moeller's request, it is also pushing for manual eradication of coca with the cooperation of the local population, he said.