Child Dies after Being Fumigated

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 14 April 2008

Aerial fumigation by Colombian Government aircraft, allegedly to destroy drugs crops, has in fact wiped out food supplies, poisoned water supplies and led to at least one death according to residents of the area along the Colombia-Ecuador border. Locals in the Tumaco municipality of Narino department claim that the fumigation is in fact aimed at pushing them from their lands.

Regular fumigation in the area began in March though April 9th saw the most intense spraying. According to witnesses the spray planes arrived at approximately 9am that morning and repeatedly fumigated the area around the villages of La Guayacana, Vaquerio, Magui, Gualtal and El Pinde. When the aircraft ran out of chemicals they would return to base only to be replaced by others. Residents allege that for three hours the area was being permanently sprayed from the air and that everything was covered by the poisonous Glyphosate chemicals used.

Three young children, 18-month-old Janer Esteban Nastacuas Canticus, 9-month-old Mayerli Villacorte Guangua and 7-year-old Lisseth Paola Cruz Moralez, were among those hit by the fumigation planes. All three quickly became sick with severe diarrhoea and vomiting and rapidly developed acute skin sores. At 9pm that night Janer Esteban died in a local clinic.

As well as people, the fumigation planes also sprayed food crops including coffee, bananas, yucca and chocolate, as well as domesticated/farm animals such as cows, horses, dogs and chickens. Local water supplies were also poisoned including several previously clean rivers and two springs used by the communities in the area for drinking water.

Though a US-funded aerial fumigation has been implemented widely in Colombia in recent years in an effort to destroy drugs crops, it has had little impact and Colombia continues to be the world leader in cocaine production. However, the spraying has devastated Colombia's natural environment with huge areas of the country being contaminated in scenes reminiscent of the use of 'Agent Orange' in Vietnam.

Tens of thousands of rural residents have also been forced to flee their land in the wake of the spray planes poisoning water and food supplies. The fact that this fumigation-provoked displacement has principally occurred in the traditional strongholds of Colombia's leftwing guerrillas, has lent weight to allegations that the spraying is in fact primarily being used as a counter-insurgency tactic aimed at depriving the rebels of their civilian support base.

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