(Translated by Leo Torres, a CSN volunteer translator)
The Peasant Association of Catatumbo (Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo – Ascamcat) denounces, before the national and international community, the critical humanitarian situation in the Catatumbo region that has recently resulted from aerial fumigations using the chemical Glyphosate.
On March 13, 2009, “Colonel Fernando Burgos, director of the Anti-Narcotics Police, denied that there would be fumigations in Catatumbo, stating that the fumigation efforts would be concentrated in other regions with more extensive coca crops.” (VTV/
> Caracol Radio <http://www.vtv.gov.ve/noticias-internacionales/15632>).
Approximately one week ago, it was announced on Radio Catatumbo and Radio Sonar that aerial fumigations and manual eradication would soon be taking place in the Catatumbo, specifically in the six municipalities of San Calixto, Teorama, Convencion, Hacarí, El Tarra and Tibú. The threatened actions were, in fact, carried out in the region. The fumigations have begun and, with them, the repression of the civilian population. Here we report some specific cases:
Last April 23, in Mira Montes (in the region of Versailles and the municipality of Tibú), two light aircrafts of the Anti-Narcotics Police were seen flying overhead from 8:00am until 9:00am. They then began to fumigate, which lasting approximately seven hours. According to reports given by local campesinos, they did not only fumigate illicit crops, but also damaged potato, banana, yucca and other agricultural crops planted in the region. Additionally, they contaminated the water of the Orú and the Catatumbo Rivers, which flow into the lake of Maracaibo. They also fumigated the houses, regardless of whether there were people inside them or not. The same thing occurred in the rural areas of Bocas de Orú (Tibú) and of San Isidro (in the region of Filo Gringo in the municipality of El Tarra).
Since April 24, there have been fly-overs in the rural areas of Brisas del Catatumbo, La Unión Baja, Filo La Virgen, and El Martillo (in the region of Gringo (El Tarra)), where campesinos have expressed their concern about not having been presented with a viable proposal for the gradual replacement of illicit crops. This situation will surely bring about hunger and displacements in the zone due to a lack of guarantees that they will be able to remain in the territory.
On April 25, the rural areas of Beltrania, Campo 6 and Guachiman of Zone 1 of Tibú, were fumigated from 9:00am until 1:00p.m.
Local campesinos reported that, on the morning of April 26, three helicopters arrived in El Suspiro (in San Juancito in the municipality of Teorama) and each made six landings. The militarization of this area is alarming and there is a fear that human rights violations will increase. For this reason, we ask that the actions of the Military in this zone be very carefully monitored.
At 10:00am on April 28 in Morro Frio (in La Gabarra in the municipality of Tibú), the Military took 20 people to a ridge called El Ñeque, where they forced them to carry water for the troops and where they also interrogated others. After several hours the troops let them return to their village.
We call on the national and international community to do something about this critical situation. The fumigations do not only eradicate illicit crops but also licit ones, sterilizing the earth for more than seven years, contaminating and drying out water sources, and contaminating the environment as well as the health of human beings. “Toxicological studies have shown adverse effects in all of the categories of standard tests: wounds in salivary glands, gastric inflammation, genetic damage to human blood cells, damage to the reproductive system, etc."
Asociación Campesina del Catatumbo