Ecuador to File Complaint against Colombia at International Court of Justice for Fumigations along Border Region
Colombia's decision to renew aerial fumigations to kill coca plants along its southern border with Ecuador has set off a diplomatic crisis between the two countries. Although Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa announced a deal with Colombia shortly before his Jan. 15 inauguration, he has since said that his government would take complaints regarding the herbicidal spraying to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at The Hague. Ecuador withdrew its ambassador from Bogota because of the dispute. Ecuadorans believe that Colombia is attempting to drag them into the Washington-financed Plan Colombia, a military program against rebel groups and drug traffickers, and characterize the decision to renew fumigations as a hostile act.
January deal attempts to put end to crisis
During the transitional period between Ecuador's presidential elections in December and Correa's January inauguration (see NotiSur, 2007-01-26), border-area fumigations played a central role. Correa's deal-making with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe led the outgoing Ecuadoran government to criticize the president-elect.
Ecuador had withdrawn its ambassador from Bogota after Colombia renewed spraying in December to eradicate coca fields, the raw material for cocaine, within 100 meters of their shared border. In a prior agreement in 2005, Colombia agreed not to spray within a 10-km strip along the Ecuadoran border.
As of Jan. 3, Colombia had fumigated 10,128 hectares of coca along the Ecuadoran border, according to Colombia's director of anti-narcotics police Jorge Baron. He said 3,000 ha remained to be destroyed.
Colombian anti-drug personnel, under the protection of US-supplied Black Hawk helicopters, have been spraying to eradicate the plant as part of the US-supported effort to fight drug trafficking. Colombia regards glyphosate, the Monsanto corporation's fumigant used to kill coca crops, as "innocuous" to human health.
Correa said on Jan. 10 that Colombia had agreed to give notice of any spraying in the border area. A team of experts from the Organization of American States (OAS) was due to study the health impact of glyphosate.
Correa and Uribe agreed to create a three-party commission--with representatives from both countries and a third from the OAS--that would ensure that
the spray did not enter Ecuadoran territory.
Correa told reporters in Quito that the agreement marked "a huge step forward" in cross-border ties.
Correa met Uribe at Daniel Ortega's inauguration in Nicaragua. The agreement came a day after Ecuador took its case against Colombia to the OAS.
But Ecuador's outgoing Foreign Minister Francisco Carrion criticized the pact and said Ecuador would not reinstate its ambassador in Bogota until the spraying was halted entirely. Carrion said that public statements by the Colombian government appeared to have the aim that "Ecuador involve itself in Plan Colombia," something a broad majority of Ecuadorans oppose.
The fumigations and alleged incursions of Ecuadoran airspace by Colombian military aircraft have put a serious strain on bilateral relations. Carrion regarded Correa's deal with Uribe as undermining efforts by the government to effectively protest Colombian activities. He called the Correa-Uribe deal a "setback" for the OAS.
Carrion described the aerial fumigation program as a hostile act, arguing that Colombia's spraying destroys crops and poses serious health risks on Ecuador's side of the border.
Colombia says the program is vital to combat illegal coca production, and it is targeting plantations controlled by drug traffickers and left-wing rebels. Colombia remains the world's largest producer of cocaine, although its share has dropped to 54% from 74% in 2000.
Correa recently canceled a trip to Bogota to protest the spraying, reflecting opposition among a number of Latin America nations to the US-led anti-narcotics strategy. …