Ecuador’s Angers

2006, por Prensa - Colectivo

Recently, El Tiempo, the most widely circulated newspaper in Colombia, published an article in its opinion section by Eliseo Restrepo Londoño (Colombian Ambassador in Ecuador since the beginning of Plan Colombia to the height of its application). His column, titled An Uncooperative Attitude, none of the adverse effects attributed to Plan Colombia have materialized , emphatically stressed that statements made by senior government officials from the neighboring country, expressing ongoing rejection of the fumigations and of Colombia’s insistence that it interfere in the internal social and armed conflict, correspond to an attitude that “continues to be uncooperative with Colombia.” This is the starting point to begin looking at the current binational political climate.

Recently, El Tiempo, the most widely circulated newspaper in Colombia, published an article in its opinion section by Eliseo Restrepo Londoño (Colombian Ambassador in Ecuador since the beginning of Plan Colombia to the height of its application). His column, titled An Uncooperative Attitude, none of the adverse effects attributed to Plan Colombia have materialized, [1]emphatically stressed that statements made by senior government officials from the neighboring country, expressing ongoing rejection of the fumigations and of Colombia’s insistence that it interfere in the internal social and armed conflict, correspond to an attitude that “continues to be uncooperative with Colombia.” This is the starting point to begin looking at the current binational political climate.

On a more technical level, the relationships established between different peoples should be based on solidarity (just look at the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples). But the relationships established between governments should be based on a respect, which rests on the principle of sovereignty. According to the Inspector General, this corresponds to a concept evolving in the sphere of international relations, “as regards understanding that this is currently seen in the ability of States to exercise their international activity through their own power” and to “accept that laws exist that are higher than the ones all States should subject themselves to in order to achieve a ‘sovereign equality’ amongst themselves.” In this respect, international law is presently not interpreted for the sovereign State rather it is interpreted for the international community. “The national legal systems of nation-states are no longer absolute [...].” [2]
In this way, the concept of sovereignty means that the actions of States should keep in line with the standards established by the international community. This concept also requires for there to be clear evidence of respect, guarantee, and protection of human rights.

This being the case, an assessment of solidarity can be carried out between peoples. And in this case in particular, the Colombian and Ecuadorean peoples undoubtedly have immense solidarity. For example, the social, academic and non-governmental organizations that make up the Inter-Institutional Committee against Fumigations, CIF, have initiated legal mechanisms in search of the justiciability of the rights violated by the perverse dynamic of aerial fumigations [3] carried out through the anti-narcotics policies of Plan Colombia. These organizations have even brought these issues before the Inter-American System (OAS).

However, the same cannot be said as far as the respect between these two States. Since the year 2000, the Colombian and US governments have jointly implemented Plan Colombia as an economic, military and political strategy to the excess of 10 billion dollars. [4] Even though it is a binational policy carried out by Colombia and the United States, it has had the ongoing and aggressive purpose of extending politically and territorially into the neighboring country of Ecuador.

This situation is illustrated in four ways. First, there is the establishment of the military base in Manta (Ecuador) in 1999, concerning which there was no prior consultation process carried out with the Ecuadorean people. This base is used for Plan Colombia operations, which was recently confirmed by Javier de Delucca, Commander of the US Forward Operational Location at Manta.

Second, the Colombian government has pressured the Ecuadorean government to actively participate in the fight against terrorism as a part of the post-9/11 geopolitical climate, which means taking on an active confrontation with the Colombian insurgency. In this respect, Ecuador has maintained a policy of “non-involvement.”

Third, on several occasions the Colombian national army has carried out military actions within Ecuadorean territory. Some of these operations have been undertaken within the framework of aerial fumigations and others as a part of counterinsurgent operations, which has even included violations to the right to life, due process, and the integrity and dignity of inhabitants of Ecuador (as occurred last October with Blanca Vega and her son Héctor Monar in acts yet to be clarified). [5]

Fourth, the Ecuadorean population and territory has been affected by the aerial fumigations carried out along the border. This situation has led to altering the food production, contaminating water resources, and generating child malnutrition, as well as sickness in children, women, and older adults, internal displacement of the population, and lower school attendance, among other factors. This in turn has led to violations to their rights to health, environment, food security, work, and education. Along these lines, the Ecuadorean Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office expressed the following:

“...creating what environmental law doctrine calls transborder damage, which is the environmental damage, harm, or loss affecting the persons or properties found in the territory or jurisdiction of a State by a cause attributable to any human activity carried out totally or partially in the territory or jurisdiction of another State. As far as this case, the damage or harm is attributable to the Colombian State that carries out its fumigation activity, which provokes direct affectations, including overflights in Ecuadorean territory. This has caused damage to persons, properties, and others. This damage is worsened when Ecuador is the target of fumigations, since it does not participate in these actions. Principle 21 of the Declaration of Stockholm on the Human Environment establishes that States have the responsibility to ensure that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to the environment of other States, and, if they do, principle 22 of the same declaration establishes the obligation to indemnify.” [6]

Ecuador’s anger is based on grounded reasons. For one, a neighboring country may not be asked to bear the impact of the application of perverse and erroneous national policies under the pretext of solidarity or co-responsibility or blackmailed through post 9/11 language that really only benefits the US war and chemical industry almost exclusively (and to the detriment of the search for a negotiated peace in Colombia).

A neighboring country should also not be deceived with the ongoing denial of the drift effect caused by aerial fumigations, [7] the presentation of scientific studies that have already been discredited (such as the CICAD study ), [8]and the promise of future binational agreement-reaching working groups dedicated to border development. Ecuador should also not led to increased military affairs by following Colombia into an economy with disproportionate war and distracted by the supposed planting of coca on Ecuador’s side of the border. Additionally, different intelligence activities have been carried out, including the taking of aerial photographs with US technology, which is a clear example of violation to Ecuadorean territory, aerial space, national security, and sovereignty.

Colombia is not considering the true proportions to what is presently happening in Ecuador. This does not only concern a diplomatic situation, rather it also is taking on a social, political and economic language and dynamic with a reach that should not be underappreciated.

How will this current situation be resolved? Will Colombia definitively suspend the aerial fumigations ten kilometers from the border (as requested by Ecuador)? And, will Colombia be willing to recognize the collective reparations to be designated to the affected Ecuadorean population? And if this happens, what will Colombia ask for in exchange? Will it ask for greater militarization along the border or Ecuador’s definitive involvement in Plan Colombia’s counterinsurgent operations (by taking advantage of the US presence at the Manta base)?

Or, on the one hand, will Ecuador have to definitively resign itself to bearing the fumigations and developing plans to mitigate the effects of an activity that it is not responsible for? And, on the other hand, will Ecuador have to resist pressure coming from the US (due to the accusation by Colombia’s director of the national police that claimed that coca is being planted in Ecuadorean territory)?

Ecuador’s anger is due to many reasons. In this respect, both governments should remember their obligations to their citizens, the duty to guarantee, respect, and protect their human rights, the constitutional obligation of these governments for the observance of the PRINCIPLE OF PRECAUTION in environmental matters, as well as the true dimensions to the concept of SOVEREIGNTY, within

Notas

[1This opinion column was published in El Tiempo on December 22, 2006

[2Opinion issued by the Inspector General’s Office in Ruling C-008/97.

[3Please note that we are not speaking of the “fumigation of illicit crops”, insomuch as coca or poppy crops are not in and of themselves illicit, rather their objective is illicit. We are also not speaking of the “fumigation of crops used for illicit purposes”, insomuch as aerial fumigations do not only affect crops used for illicit purposes but also subsistence crops as well. In this respect, only the perverse practice of aerial fumigations needs to be mentioned.

[4Plan Colombia was drafted during the Andrés Pastrana administration. It was later incorporated as a part of the democratic security policy of President Álvaro Uribe. Additionally, it was legalized through binational agreements signed with the United States in the 1940’s. It has also not been subjected to any constitutional or political control relating to the 1991 constitution

[5The international mission to Ecuador’s border with Colombia carried out from June 20 to June 22, 2005 (made up of members from the FIDH, FIAN, RAPAL, OCIM, CEAS, Ecuadorean Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, and CIF), was able to confirm these acts, which were later published in a report in December 2005.

[6Resolution No. DAP-001-2004 (signed by Dr. Rubén Chávez del Pozo, First Assistant Ombudsman).

[7Only believed blindly by the US Embassy and State Department.

[8See the following document that was published by the Universidad Nacional (Bogotá): www.idea.unal.edu.co/public/docs/Observ_IDEA_a_doc_CICAD.pdf

Afiliaciones

Afiliado a la Federación Internacional de Derechos Humanos
y la Organización Mundial contra la Tortura
Estatus Consultivo en la OEA

José Alvear Restrepo

Nace en Medellín el 1 de julio de 1913 en el seno de una familia de profundas convicciones religiosas y bajo los parámetros de la ideología del partido conservador. Realiza sus estudios en la Facultad de Derecho de la Universidad de Antioquia, donde se gradúa de Abogado con una brillante tesis titulada: "Conflictos del trabajo: la huelga"

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