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.