Colombia's killing fields - The first bio-war of the 21st century
Sue Branford and Hugh O’Shaughnessy
1st March, 2006
We were sitting chatting outside our home when two small planes flew over very low. We went down to our fields to see what was happening. My husband said, “Look, they’re dropping poison on our land.”
It went all over the food crops – the cassava, banana, beans, rice – and the pasture. We lost everything. And the poison went on us too. I had no coat on, so it went all over my arms. It was like cooking oil. Sticky, just like oil. I washed it off as soon as I could, but even so it made my skin itch. For several days we all felt ill. We had fevers and eye infections. My youngest child hasn’t been well since.’
This is Graciela, a 36-year-old peasant woman living in the province of Putumayo in the south of Colombia. For five years now US planes have been spraying a powerful chemical defoliant on peasant holdings as part of Plan Colombia, the US-inspired and US-funded plan to eradicate coca, the raw material from which cocaine is extracted. Thousands of peasant families have been going to local hospitals to complain of eye infections, diarrhoea, vomiting and other illnesses. It is tragically reminiscent of the Vietnam War when US pilots doused land controlled by the Vietcong with a powerful defoliant, known as Agent Orange, to destroy ‘cover for enemy forces’.
Many of the families we spoke to are anxious for the government to carry out a proper, on the ground investigation of...
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