Aerial fumigation of coca suspended on border w/ Ecuador
Bogota.– Colombian President Alvaro Uribe announced here Monday after a meeting with Ecuadorian counterpart Alfredo Palacio that his government has suspended for now the aerial fumigation of coca crops near its border with Ecuador.
"For the moment, there will be no more fumigation in that area, in response to the suggestion of President Palacio," Uribe said after talks with his guest.
Palacio traveled to Bogota Monday morning for a visit to analyze with Uribe the progress on negotiations for a free trade treaty linking their nations with the United States.
Uribe said that the suspension of fumigation was a gesture of solidarity with Quito, which had asked Colombia to desist from aerial fumigation of coca leaf - the source of cocaine - and heroin poppies within a buffer zone 10 kilometers (6 miles) wide along the countries' common border.
Prompted by complaints from area residents, Quito came to conclude that the herbicide used by Colombia, glyphosate, has harmed people, livestock and food crops on the Ecuadorian side of the border.
The Colombians, however, have insisted that the chemical, which is sold in the United States under the brand name Roundup, is not responsible for any such problems.
The Colombian leader said that this week, 12 groups of manual eradication personnel - a total of 360 civilians - will be moved to the border along with police who will provide security for them.
But Uribe did not rule out the resumption of fumigation along the frontier with Ecuador, which extends for 586 kilometers (363 miles).
The progress in the destruction of the illegal crops will be reviewed periodically by the two governments "to see if it is possible in that border area to completely destroy the drug(s) through manual eradication," said Uribe.
"If not, we'll have to resort once again to fumigation," he warned.