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Aerial fumigations and Plan Colombia, Ecuador


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.

The fumigations also affected Ecuadorian territory, more specifically the border area which is populated mainly by impoverished indigenous, afro-Ecuadorian and mestizos inhabitants. These populations asked the Ecuadorian state to take actions in order to prevent and protect their health and the environment. They denounced the damages caused by the toxicity of these chemical compounds sprayed over the area, and demand recognition of their land and health rights. In 2001, more than 2.000 Ecuadorian plaintiffs brought a court case in Washington D.C. against the firm Dyncorp (a private military contractor) for spreading the dangerous pesticides. Dyncorp was in charge of operating the Plan Colombia’s aerial fumigations across the Ecuadorian-Colombian border. In 2013, twelve year after the beginning of the court case, the Court ruled in favor of the firm.

On March 31st, 2008 the Ecuadorian government went to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, filing a lawsuit against Colombia for the damages caused by its anti-drugs fumigation policy. The government was backed by scientific reports written by civil society experts from Ecuador. The two governments finally signed an outside of court agreement in September 2013. Though, the settlement did not bring justice to the local populations of Sucumbios and although the fumigations stopped near the border in 2008, the soil’s damages remain. Finally, in May 2015 the aerial fumigations with the pesticide glyphosate have been definitively banned from the Colombian Plan anti-drugs policy after the World Health Organization affirmed the pesticide risks to be carcinogenic.

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.

The company Monsanto which commercializes this bended herbicide has denominated it as Roundup Ultra. The fumigations are undertaken between 15 and 60 meters without discriminating populated areas.

Ecuador asked Colombia to respect the 8/10 km buffer zone of the Miguel River (wich is the physical border between these two countries). Families living in Punto Mestanza (on the San Miguel riverbank) had to move due to the fumigations after the death of ducks, pigs and fishes.

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

Las fumigaciones y los derechos humanos. Curiae, Amicus. Defensoria del Pueblo. 2002

Informes Plan Colombia, Colectivo de abogados, 2001/2005

Del Plan Colombia a la IRA. INDEPAZ, Punto de Encuentro, 2003

Fumigaciones y conflicto en Colombia. Transnational Institute, 2001

Daños geneticos por las fumigaciones del Plan Colombia, A. Maldonado, Accion Ecologica. 2003

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

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

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

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

Accion Ecologica


Ecuador-Colombia Settlement Won’t End Spraying, A. Melendez, IPS, 28/10/2013

Ecuador sues Colombia over anti-drug spraying, Reuters, 31/03/2008

Ecuador-Colombia agree to monitor drug fumigation, Reuters, 11/01/2007

La Silla Vacia - El cáncer del glifosato Por: Cristina Vélez Vieira

DynCorp lawsuit (re Colombia & Ecuador), Business & Human Rights

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

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

“Las fronteras del glifosato”, Realizador: Arturo Hortas

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl & Sara Latorre
Last update18/08/2019
Conflict ID:494




Fumigations on the Ecuador-Colombian border / LaHora