Media Center

Press Release


  January 9, 2007

Foreign Minister Francisco Carrión of Ecuador addressed the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) on behalf of his government to lodge a complaint against Colombia – represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Camilo Reyes – for continuing its aerial spraying of herbicides to eradicate illicit coca crops. The herbicides, he said, “affect the population, the flora, fauna and the environment in the Ecuadorian border region.”

In presenting the issue to the hemispheric political body today, Carrión said that since mid-December the problem “is once again disturbing the normal friendly and cooperative relations” that have existed between Ecuador and Colombia. The Foreign Minister said that, in accordance with the principles of international law, Ecuador has made every effort, through ongoing dialogue and the promotion of a positive agenda, to work with Colombia to “overcome issues that in recent years have affected its border relationship,” adding that one such issue has to do with aerial spraying using the herbicide glyphosate.

Carrión explained the scope of the problem to the Permanent Council and said Colombia had failed to comply with accords signed by the foreign ministers of both countries on December 7, 2005. Under these agreements, he said, Colombia agreed to temporarily suspend aerial spraying and to increase the brigades conducting manual eradication in the area as an alternative method to eliminate illicit crops.

In his remarks before the OAS member state delegations and Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, Foreign Minister Carrión invited Colombia to launch, “within the next 30 days,” a joint effort to appoint a binational scientific commission. Such a body would analyze five studies proposed by the United Nations to determine the effects of aerial spraying with glyphosate and its chemical adjuvants on human health, the environment, biodiversity and agricultural production along the shared border.

For his part, Deputy Foreign Minister Camilo Reyes defended the resumption of aerial spraying in Colombian territory, along a 10-kilometer strip in the border area, and stressed that his government’s “sovereign decision” has to do with “the inescapable need to eradicate illicit crops in my country as an essential aspect of the fight against the global drug problem.” Reyes said that for the Colombian government, this is a national security issue that is part of the effort to combat drug-related terrorism financing.

In response to the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister’s assertion about the dangers posed by “drift” – the extent to which the wind carries the chemical mix off target – Reyes based his arguments on scientific and technical findings from national and international studies, including one published by the OAS Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, or CICAD. These studies, he said, report that the physical and chemical properties of glyphosate make it impossible for the wind to carry the substances beyond a distance of 12.3 meters from the specified area.

At the close of his response to Colombia’s claims, Reyes told the Permanent Council that his government would agree to the creation by CICAD of a Verification Committee, in the context of the study carried out by the anti-drug agency, “that could prove that, in effect there is no ‘drift.’ ” He said that study, published in April 2005, concluded that the droplets of the herbicide mix fall to the ground vertically, eliminating the possibility of the substance drifting across the border.

The Permanent Council, which was chaired for the first time by Uruguayan Ambassador María del Luján Flores, took note of the two diplomats’ remarks, as well as those made by representatives of other member states.

Reference: E-005/07