Christian aid Colombia on Friday accused the Colombian air force of spraying harmful pesticides “indiscriminatly” over north west Colombia, in an effort to eradicate coca crops.
According to reports from the Thomas Reuters foundation, the air force started their campaign on July 22 by “spraying illicit crops” near Alto Guayabal in the department of Choco.
Colombia is the only country in the world that allows the aerial spraying of herbicides in the war against drugs. Many organisations, such as Christian Aid and AIDA oppose the use of such harmful chemicals because of the damaging effect to local settlements and environment.
The country manager of Christian Aid Colombia, Thomas Mortensen, told the media that “the local Embera community has reported that the aerial spraying has contaminated their water and crops and is causing community members, including children, to fall sick. This is a clear violation of their rights.”
According to news reports, the Embera people have previously approached the government in 2012 to ask for help eradicating the coca crops in their area, but have been wholly opposed to aerial spraying. Mr Mortensen added that “the Colombian authorities could have worked with the indigenous communities to manually eradicate the coca in the area and protect the Embera community from outsiders.”
In May this year, Colombia was actually recognized as the first country in Latin America to declare indigenous sacred land to be of “national and cultural interest.”
The Embera are one of thirty four indigenous groups thaat are considered at risk of physical or cultural extinction. While Colombia’s constitution recognises them and their rights, they are often disregarded by mining companies and paramilitary groups.
- Chemical spraying threatens indigenous community in Colombia (Thomas Reuters Foundation)
- Chemical-spraying of indigenous people’s land threatens children’s futures