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Aerial fumigations and Plan Colombia, Ecuador

Thanks to the agreement reached between Colombia and Ecuador the aerial fumigations near Ecuadorian borders stopped in 2008, although the local population has not been properly compensated for the damages caused.


The United States has been providing assistance to Colombia since the early 1970s to help it in its efforts to reduce illegal drug production and drug-trafficking activities. As such, the U.S and Colombia have worked together in joint aerial eradication efforts of coca plantations since 1978. Within this context, in 1999 the Colombian government with the U.S support initiated Plan Colombia aimed at providing the Colombian National Police with the capacity to apply eradication pressure in more places simultaneously than previously possible. The attempts to achieve eradication through aerial fumigations of pesticides, one key component of Plan Colombia, started on December 2000 in the southern departments of Putumayo and Caqueta. Since then, aerial fumigations have been increasing in frequency, extension and concentration of chemical substances highly toxic to human health and the environment, contaminated the land and waterways with pesticide, also causing serious health problems for residents exposed to fumigation. In Colombia, local rural and indigenous communities denounced for many year the impacts of the aerial fumigations of glyphosate on their everyday life, challenging the national authorities to change their anti-drug policies strategy. Monsanto is known for being the major producer and retailer of Roundup Ultra glyphosate, used in the Colombian Plan fumigations.

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Aerial fumigations and Plan Colombia, Ecuador
State or province:Sucumbíos, Esmeraldas, Carchi
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Agro-toxics
Specific commodities:Glyphosate, Coca
Project Details and Actors
Project details

The herbicide used to fumigate is a chemical product composed of Glyphosate in a concentration of 43,9% (Glyphosates commercial product has a concentration of 41%) with two surfactants named POEA and Cosmoflux 411F. For each hectare, 23.4% liters of Round-Up Ultra is used.

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Project area:200000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2002
Company names or state enterprises:DynCorp International from United States of America - Since 1991 the U.S contracted DynCorp International for support services in the U.S counternarcotics aviation program in the Andean region. This means that this company is in charge of the fumigations in the Colombian-Ecuadorian frontier.
Monsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Ministry of Environment, The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, Ecuadorian government, Provincial Council of Sucumbos, The Mayor of Lago Agrio
International and Finance InstitutionsInter-American Court of Human Rights (CIDH)
International Court of Justice at the Hague (IJC)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE), Federación Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas Indígenas y Negras (FENOCIN), Consejo de Pueblos y Organizaciones Indígenas Evangélicas de Ecuador (FEINE), Confederación Única Nacional de Afiliados al Seguro Social Campesino (CONFEUNASSC), Federación de Organizaciones Campesinas del Cordón Fronterizo Ecuatoriano de Sucumbíos (FORCCOFES), Members of The Inter-institutional Committee Against the Fumigations (CIF Spanish acronym) and others, Acción Creativa, Acción Ecológica, Asamblea Latinoamericana por los Derechos Humanos (ALDHU), Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ), Comisión Ecuménica de Derechos Humanos (CEDHU), Comité Andino de Autoridades Ambientales (CAAAM, Comité Andino de Servicios (CAS), Ecociencia, Fundacion Natura, Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum, Progressio (FEPP), Fundación Regional de, Americas Social Forum, Asamblea Permanente de Derechos Humanos (APDH), Asesora en Derechos Humanos (INREDH), Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo, RapalColombia, Rapal Ecuador, Servicio Paz y Justicia-Ecuador (SERPAJ), Laboratorio de Suelos (LABSU)
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups mobilizing:Indigenous groups or traditional communities
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
The Ecuadorian government threatened the Colombian government to break diplomatic relations if the fumigations did not ceased. May 2008: Representatives of the Ecuadorian Government informed the International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague that they have actual evidence that aerial fumigation, sprayed in the shared border area to eradicate coca crops, results in serious damage to the health of local residents.
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Noise pollution
Potential: Air pollution, Genetic contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Occupational disease and accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths, Other environmental related diseases, Accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Increase in violence and crime, Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..), Specific impacts on women, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures
Project StatusStopped
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (victory for environmental justice)
Fostering a culture of peace
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project cancelled
Colombian goverment had to paid U$ 15 millions to the affected families in Ecuador (September 2013)
Proposal and development of alternatives:Stop fumigations in the border, or at least do them outside of Ecuadorian territory. A new anti-drug policy in Colombia that invests in development and alternative crop programs that provide farmers a path out of the drug trade.
Legalization of cocaine trade.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:After the International Court of Justice favored Ecuador by demanding Colombia to stop the fumigations, and the United Nations has also aked for this, Colombia continued with fumigations. However, after persistent Ecuadorian complaints about damage to the health of its people and their animals and plants, Colombia has agreed to halt at least temporarily aerial spraying with herbicides of coca-leaf and opium poppy crops along the two nations' border (Nov 2005). Finally, the fumigations are stopped in 2007, but until now the Ecuadorian government has not allocated sufficient resources to redress the social and environmental damage suffered by this population.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

American Convention on Human Rights.

Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Ecuadorian Constitution

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

Impactos en Ecuador de las fumigaciones realizadas en el Putumayo dentro del Plan Colombia. AA.VV, 2002

Impactos en Ecuador de las fumigaciones a cultivos ilicitos en Colombia. Amicus Curiae, 2003
[click to view]

Las fumigaciones y los derechos humanos. Curiae, Amicus. Defensoria del Pueblo. 2002
[click to view]

Informes Plan Colombia, Colectivo de abogados, 2001/2005
[click to view]

Del Plan Colombia a la IRA. INDEPAZ, Punto de Encuentro, 2003
[click to view]

Fumigaciones y conflicto en Colombia. Transnational Institute, 2001
[click to view]

Daños geneticos por las fumigaciones del Plan Colombia, A. Maldonado, Accion Ecologica. 2003
[click to view]

El otro eje del mal. Alca, Plan Colombia y bases militares en el continente. Arellano, Fernando. Abya-yala, 2003
[click to view]

El Plan Colombia. Analisis de una estategia neoliberal. Rodas Chaves, Germn. Abya-yala, 3rd Ed. 2008
[click to view]

Case number: 1:01CV01908 (RWR). Supplemental Declaration of Rand Beers, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International narcotics and law enforcement affairs regarding potential impact of arias litigation on US national security & foreign policy intersts
[click to view]

Magolia Cecilia Canticuz Pascal et. al., Complaint at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (fumigations and omission of the Ecuadorian State), 15/03/2006
[click to view]

Accion Ecologica
[click to view]

[click to view]

Ecuador-Colombia Settlement Won’t End Spraying, A. Melendez, IPS, 28/10/2013
[click to view]

Ecuador sues Colombia over anti-drug spraying, Reuters, 31/03/2008
[click to view]

Ecuador-Colombia agree to monitor drug fumigation, Reuters, 11/01/2007
[click to view]

La Silla Vacia - El cáncer del glifosato Por: Cristina Vélez Vieira
[click to view]

DynCorp lawsuit (re Colombia & Ecuador), Business & Human Rights
[click to view]

WHO Findings on Glyphosate’s Carcinogenicity Should Be Enough To Halt Colombia’s Controversial U.S.-Backed Coca-Spraying Program, WOLA, 5/05/2015
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

“Las fronteras del glifosato”, Realizador: Arturo Hortas
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Lucie Greyl & Sara Latorre
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:494
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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