Ecuador/Colombia Relations Strained Over Coca Fumigations

The Ecuadorian government recalled its ambassador to Colombia over the resumption of aerial coca fumigation along the countries’ shared border. 

The two countries reached an agreement last December to suspend spraying because of the Ecuadorian government’s concerns that the toxic herbicides used were drifting over the border and causing environmental damage and health problems.

The Interinstitutional Committee Against Fumigations (CIF), a coalition of human rights, environmental and indigenous organizations in Ecuador, believes that Bogota’s decision to resume spraying was done to provoke Ecuador’s incoming president Rafael Correa.

"This shows that the Colombian government considers aerial fumigation the only eradication method, even though it has been proven that spraying destroys food crops, aggravating the food and health situation of border communities," the CIF’s Jhonny Jiménez told the Inter Press Service.

A group of Ecuadorian women filed a petition in 2004 seeking constitutional protection of the government from the fumigations. These women were part of a study that concluded "all of the women studied (100%), who received the impact of the fumigations and suffered symptoms of intoxication, showed signs of genetic damage in 36% of their cells." The Federation of Campesino Organizations from the Ecuadorean Border Region of Sucumbios (FORCCOFES), the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE) and the Inter-Institutional Committee against Fumigations (CIF – Ecuador) all supported the petition.

"No one can accept, I say with total respect to this brother country, what the government of (Colombian President) Alvaro Uribe is doing," said Correa.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was quick to express support for Ecuador in this matter.

 "In this battle, Rafael … you have our solidarity and our support," said Chavez. "We think that Colombia should look for other methods."

Chavez suggested that Colombia eradicate the plants by hand—something that Venezuela does and a solution Ecuador supports.