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Colombia: internationational protest over fumigations

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Text of the letter sent

 

Glasgow, 22 May 2010 

International Day of Biodiversity 
Señor 
Alvaro Uribe Vélez 
Presidente de la República de Colombia 
Casa de Nariño 
Carrera 8 # 7-96 
Bogotá D.C. 
Colombia 
 
Dear Sir; 
 
We are writing to you on 22 May – declared as International Day of Biodiversity! 
 
We, the undersigned academics, lawyers and economists, have confirmed knowledge that since the month of January Colombia’s anti-narcotics police have established a base in the small town of Guapi on the Cauca coast, from where they have led operations to fumigate large parts of the rainforest, pretending to eradicate illegal coca cultivation. While aware of the purpose of these fumigations, we are highly concerned about their detrimental effect on everyday life in the communities affected who live along the river banks in this part of the country. 
 
We demand an IMMEDIATE HALT to your fumigation campaign. Your actions expose you to claims of committing a double crime against humanity and the environment.
 
As you know, rural black and indigenous communities who live along the river banks in the Pacific coast region, have established for hundreds of years a peaceful form of living together in harmony with their surrounding environment – una convivencia pacífica. These communities have been responsible and successful in the preservation of this unique ecosystem that has a world-renowned reputation for being one of the hotspots of biological diversity in the world. This was recognised by the World Bank-supported research project Proyecto Biopacífico that ran from 1992 to 1998. It is in utter disregard of the recommendations drawn up by this acclaimed study that you have decided to start a massive, indiscriminate fumigation campaign in the region, hoping to eradicate illegal coca cultivation. 
 
It is an act of utterly unacceptable cynicism that you should even consider spraying poisonous liquids – glifosato – onto this biodiverse region, thereby killing off the very vegetation, for which the region has become so importantly recognised. The United Nations have declared 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity. And the Colombian government is destroying this biodiversity in front of our eyes. This is a scandal of most utter cynicism. History will not absolve you! 
 
Moreover, the implications of the widespread fumigation campaign for the local communities are devastating. Not only do you target the illegal coca plants, but all vegetation, including cultivations of important everyday crops – the pan coger – that local populations depend upon. 
Rivers are contaminated, elderly and children are particularly affected by skin rashes and asthmatic attacks. The true and long-lasting effects of this poisonous contamination that you have begun will become obvious in the weeks and months ahead. 
 
We cannot sit idly by while these crimes against humanity and the environment are committed. We most strongly condemn your practice of fumigation. 
 
An added irony is the fact that the anti-narcotics police have taken over the Hotel Río Guapi (a hotel in which some of the undersigned have stayed themselves in the past). This hotel is run by a Spanish NGO – Levante en Marxa (http://www.llevantenmarxa.com) – that aims at providing support for the poorest of children and young people in the municipality of Guapi. It is one of the Macondian ironies that your anti-narcotics police, which destroy the life base of these children by fumigation, should operate from the hotel run by this NGO. 
 
Many of us have a long-standing commitment to the communities in and around the region of Guapi. We have been to the area many a times and know what we are talking about. Based on this first-hand experience we repeat our demand for an IMMEDIATE HALT TO FUMIGATION in this area and the whole region of the Pacific coast. 
 
Yours sincerely, 
 
Dr. Ulrich Oslender, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. 
 
Dr. Carlos Agudelo, Associated Researcher IHEAL-CREDAL-CNRS, France. 
 
Dr. Kiran Asher, Clark University, USA. 
 
Professor Arturo Escobar, Kenan Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA. 
 
Professor Peter Wade, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, UK. 
 
Professor Anne-Marie Losonczy, Directora de Estudios, EPHE-Sorbonne, Paris, France. 
 
Professor Michael Taussig, Class of 1933 Professor of Anthropology, Columbia University, New York, USA. 
 
Professor John Agnew, Distinguished Professor, UCLA, Los Angeles, Past President (2009-2010) Association of American Geographers, USA. 
 
Professor Judith Carney, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA. 
 
Professor Derek Gregory, University of British Columbia, Canada. 
 
Professor Jonathan Tittler, Rutgers University, Camden, New Jersey, USA. 
 
Professor David Slater, Department of Geography, Loughborough University, UK. 
 
Professor Jaime Arocha Rodríguez, Departamento de Antropología, Director Grupo de Estudios Afrocolombianos, Centro de Estudios Sociales, Facultad de Ciencias Humanas, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. 
 
Dr. Sarah Radcliffe, University of Cambridge, UK. 
 
Dr. Jean Rahier, Director of African and African Diaspora Studies, Florida International University, Miami, USA. 
 
Dr. Ana Maria Bidegain, Director Colombia Studies Institute, Florida International University, Miami, USA. 
 
Dr. Karl Offen, University of Oklahoma, USA. 
 
Dr. Odile Hoffmann, Directora de Investigación, Institut de Recherche sur le Développement, Université Paris Diderot, Paris, Francia. 
 
Dr. Luis Castro Nogueira, Profesor Titular de Sociología, UNED, Madrid, España. 
 
Dr. David Howard, Kellogg College, Oxford, UK. 
 
Dr. Hayden Lorimer, Department of Geographical & Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. 
 
Dr. Mo Hume, Department of Politics, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. 
 
Dr. Frank M. Clarke, Institute of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK. 
 
Dr. Thomas Gillespie, Department of Geography, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA. 
 
Dr. Wolfgang Buermann, Institute of the Environment, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA. 
 
Dr. Cesar Arellano, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA. 
 
Dr. Helen Sooväli-Sepping, Tallinn University, Estonia. 
 
Profesor Mario Diego Romero, Departamento de Historia, Universidad del Valle, Cali. 
 
Dr. Enrique Jaramillo Buenaventura, Director Programa de Antropología, Universidad Icesi, Cali. 
 
Dr. Gisela Cramer, Departamento de Historia, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. 
 
Dr. Margarita Chaves, Antropóloga, Bogotá. 
 
Dr. María Teresa Salcedo, Antropóloga Urbana, Bogotá. 
 
Sue Branford, chair of Latin America Bureau
 
Mariano Pérez Humanes, Profesor de la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, Universidad de Sevilla, España. 
 
Barbara Van Dyck, Researcher, University of Leuven, Belgium. 
 
Omar Jabary Salamanca, Gent University, Belgium. 
 
Roosbelinda Cárdenas González, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA. 
 
Natasha Rivers, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geography, UCLA, Los Angeles, USA. 
 
Julianne Hazlewood, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, USA. 
 
Oscar Quintero, Candidato al Doctorado en Sociología, Université de Rennes, France. 
 
Elsi Angulo, Abogada y Estudiante de Justicia Social, Universidad de Western Ontario, Canadá. 
 
Joshua Ernest Spencer, Documentary Filmmaker, Lansing, Michigan, USA. 
 
Manuel Martínez, Global Health Access Program, Los Angeles, USA. 
 
Milson Betancourt, Fundación Tierra, Bolivia. 
 
Sylvaine Ozélé, Lycée Français de Tamatave, Madagascar. 
 
Abigail Docherty, Freelance Writer, Oxford, UK. 
 
Mireya Ivanovic Barbeito, Profesora de Arquitectura y licenciada en Ciencias Políticas, Presidenta del Partido Animalista PACMA, Madrid, España. 
 
Lee Leckie, Amnesty International, Málaga, España. 
 
Lucely Orozco Soto, Arquitecta UPB, Madrid, España. 
 
Arnulfo Medina Carreño, Artista, Madrid, España. 
 
Gregory Murac, Organizador de Eventos Deportivos, Paris, France. 
 
Merly Guanumen Pacheco, Docente Universitaria, Bogotá. 
 
Edelma Zapata Pérez, Poeta, Bogotá. 
 
Grupo de Investigación CUNUNO, Universidad del Valle, Cali. 
 
Nora P. Castañeda, Ingeniera Agrónoma, Cali. 
 
 
For correspondence please write to the following address: 
Dr. Ulrich Oslender 
Department of Geographical & Earth Sciences 
University of Glasgow 
Glasgow 
G12 8QQ 
UK 
email: Ulrich.Oslender@ges.gla.ac.uk 
 
Please note that a copies of this letter have been sent to: 
 
Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores y de Cooperación de España, Madrid 
 
Oficina de Relaciones Exteriores del Reino Unido (UK Foreign Office, Londres) (en inglés) 
 
Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Francia (Ministre des Affaires étrangères et européennes, Paris) (en francés) 
 
Ministerio de Ecología, y Desarrollo Sostenible de Francia (Ministère de l’Ecologie, de l’Energie du Développement durable et de la Mer, La Défense) (en francés) 
 
DEPARTMENT OF GEOGRAPHICAL & EARTH SCIENCES 
University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Scotland, UK 
Prof. T Hoey (Head of Department), Prof. P Bishop, Prof. J A Briggs, Prof. C P Philo, Prof. R Paddison 
Dr Ulrich Oslender telephone: +44 (0)141 330 4782; Fax: +44 (0)141 330 4894 
email: Ulrich.Oslender@ges.gla.ac.uk 
http://www.ges.gla.ac.uk:443/staff/uoslender