Cecilia walked around her small wooden house pointing to the banana trees and yucca plants that were killed by the aerial fumigation that had occurred eight days earlier. She described how the chemicals blanketed not only the coca crops she and her husband cultivate in order to survive, but also their food crops and two young children. As a result, the family is now struggling to survive in a part of Colombia that has been Cecilia’s home for her entire life: the Macarena National Park. Based on the results of the initial fumigations, it appears that Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s decision to begin spraying coca crops in the country’s national parks will only intensify the conflict, escalate the humanitarian crisis and increase ecological damage in some of Colombia’s most pristine environments.
Tag Archives: drug war
On December 19, 2000, the Colombian army’s two U.S.-trained anti-narcotics battalions arrived in Putumayo, Colombia’s principal coca growing region. For the next six weeks U.S.-supplied Huey helicopters swooped down almost daily to unload soldiers to prevent attacks against the fumigation planes by leftist guerrillas and right-wing paramilitaries. In early February, with 62,000 acres of coca destroyed, the politicians and generals in Washington and Bogotá were calling Plan Colombia’s initial fumigation campaign a success. But on the ground in Putumayo it was clear that more than coca had been eradicated.
It was just after dark on the evening of February 7, 2001 when I arrived at the restaurant in the center of La Hormiga, Putumayo at the pre-arranged time. The restaurant was closed and I waited on the sidewalk until a pick-up truck pulled up. In the back were two large men who jumped down onto the sidewalk as another man got out of the passenger side talking on his cellular phone. He was Comandante Enrique, alias “the Cobra,” and at 28 years of age the commander of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) in the department of Putumayo in southern Colombia.
President Clinton ignored the human rights certification process demanded by Congress and authorized the release of the remaining aid money to Colombia last week. The administration justified this action by claiming the remaining aid is “emergency funds” and therefore not subject to the certification process. One can only speculate that the Colombian Government’s failure to meet the human rights conditions called for by the U.S. Congress was the reason Clinton decided to sidestep the certification process. Besides, a waiver of the human rights conditions by Clinton, especially in light of the 154 civilians massacred by paramilitaries over the past two weeks, would have resulted in negative publicity that might have marred his farewell love fest with the American people.
In January 1999, newly-elected Colombian president Andres Pastrana ceded an area of southern Colombia the size of Switzerland to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas as part of an agreement to begin peace talks. Although there is no cease-fire agreement while the talks are being carried out, the Colombian Armed Forces have withdrawn all their forces from the region known as the Zona de Despeje (Clearance Zone). The FARC’s headquarters in Los Pozos, a small village located 18 miles from San Vicente del Caguan in the Zona de Despeje, has been host to the peace talks as well as public conferences where all sectors of Colombian society can come to participate in discussions about Colombia’s future. On June 14, 2000, I traveled to Los Pozos to interview Simón Trinidad, a FARC commander and a spokesman for the guerrilla group. Trinidad was a professor of economics and a banker before joining the FARC 16 years ago.