Appeal published in: The Guardian
7 August 2010
Today former defence minister Juan Manuel Santos takes over as president of Colombia. We, 57 academics and other professionals from the UK, Colombia and elsewhere, have confirmed knowledge that since January 2010 Colombia’s anti-narcotics police have established a base in the small town of Guapi in the Cauca region along the Pacific coastline, from where they have led operations to fumigate plots of illegally cultivated coca plants. However, this spraying of poisonous chemicals affects large parts of the rainforest and legally planted food crops. We believe that these fumigations constitute a double crime – against humanity and against the environment; we urge the new president to take immediate action to halt them.
Black and indigenous communities have been living for hundreds of years along the river banks in this region, in harmony with their surrounding environment. They have succeeded in preserving this unique and vulnerable ecosystem, which is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s hotspots of biological diversity. This was recognised by the World Bank-supported Proyecto Biopacífico (1992-98). It is in utter disregard of the recommendations drawn up by this acclaimed study that the Colombian government has undertaken a massive, indiscriminate fumigation campaign in the region, hoping to eradicate illegal coca cultivation.
The impact of the widespread spraying on the local communities has been devastating. The planes have targeted not just illegal coca plants, but all vegetation, including staple crops that local populations depend upon. Rivers have been contaminated, and elderly people and children have been particularly badly affected by skin rashes and asthmatic attacks. There are also unconfirmed reports of congenital malformations occurring as a result of these herbicide fumigations. Many of us have a long-standing commitment to the communities in the region, which we have visited many times. We know what we are talking about.
The United Nations has declared 2010 as the Year of Biodiversity. HRH The Prince of Wales raises awareness over the importance of rainforest biodiversity conservation to mitigate climate change through the Prince’s Rainforests Project. Yet the Colombian government is destroying this biodiversity in front of our eyes! This is a scandal of most utter cynicism. History will not absolve President Santos if he does not declare an immediate end to the fumigations.
Dr. Ulrich Oslender, University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK.
Professor Peter Wade, Professor of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester, UK.
Professor David Slater, Department of Geography, Loughborough University, UK.
Sue Branford, Latin America Bureau, UK.
Professor Arturo Escobar, Kenan Distinguished Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA.
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 Anne-Marie Losonczy, Directora de Estudios, EPHE-Sorbonne, Paris, France.
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. Carlos Agudelo, Associated Researcher IHEAL-CREDAL-CNRS, France.
Dr. Luis Castro Nogueira, Profesor Titular de Sociología, UNED, Madrid, España.
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. 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. Leslie Johnson, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Athabasca University, Alberta, Canada.
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.
Dr. Mariano Pérez Humanes, Profesor de la Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura, Universidad de Sevilla, España.
Dr. Barbara Van Dyck, Researcher, University of Leuven, Belgium.
Joshua Ernest Spencer, Documentary Filmmaker, Lansing, Michigan, USA.
Manuel Martínez, Global Health Access Program, Los Angeles, USA.
Milson Betancourt, Fundación Tierra, Bolivia.
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.
Raul Sedano, Ph.D. Candidate, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Program, UCLA, USA.
Julianne Hazlewood, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Geography, University of Kentucky, USA.
Samuel Thomas, Ph.D. Candidate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK.
Oscar Quintero, Candidato al Doctorado en Sociología, Université de Rennes, France.
Elsi Angulo, Abogada y Estudiante de Justicia Social, Universidad de Western Ontario, Canadá.
Lucas Cardozo, Estudiante de Geografía, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Santa Fe, Argentina.
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.
Goretti Urrutia Ayerdi, Psicóloga, Madrid, 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.Republish