US-backed military planes are spraying toxic herbicides into small Colombian villages, killing both food crops and coca plants, according to the January 7 Washington Post. Described as “a new punitive phase of aerial spraying,” the Colombian military uses US satellite photos to pick targets, then sends in small planes escorted by armed helicopters to deliver Roundup, a herbicide manufactured by Monsanto.
Roundup is sold in the US with labels warning users not to come into direct or indirect contact with the toxic product. Roundup can cause vomiting, swelling of the lungs, pneumonia, mental confusion and tissue damage.
Most of the spraying has taken place in western Putumayo, the southern province that accounts for more than half of Colombia’s coca production.
In some towns the spray has killed hundreds of acres of food crops, as well as many cattle and fish.?The Post quoted several witnesses who saw aircraft drop herbicide within the actual towns, and that dozens of people reported suffering fevers after the spraying.
Colombia’s neighbouring countries oppose the US intervention.? Venezuela’s president has closed Venezuelan airspace to American military aircraft, and Panama has refused to allow the US to reoccupy the Panamanian military bases it gave up a year ago.