"My baby was fit as a fiddle before the planes from Colombia arrived," says a young Ecuadorian in tears at a conference of the Acción Ecologica organization.
"Suddenly she got ill, had strong fever and had to vomit all the time." The skin of the one-year old was covered with red pustules. In Lago Agrio, an oil town in North-East Ecuador, some 30 kilometres to the South from the Colombian border, the doctors prescribed to the baby some medicine whose name the mother cannot remember anymore. But it was of no use. The baby spat blood for another eight days before she died.
At the end of last year the Colombian government decided to combat the cocaine plantations in the South of the country with the help of the United States from the air. The measure is part of the "Plan Colombia", which should help the government of President Alvaro Uribe manage the tense political situation in the country.
Since then, the Colombian government tries to stop the flourishing cocaine production in the Southern Region of Putumayo with mace. At irregular intervals, military airplanes spray the poisonous cargo over the region on the Ecuadorian border.
"In August 2002 the airplanes came on sunny days in the morning and disappeared by 3 p.m. beyond the horizon," say local people. After a break in September, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe ordered a new attack with mace at the beginning of October.
According to witness statements, the airplanes intrude on their mission in the Ecuadorian airspace. "The airplanes want to escape the shooting of the cocaine dealers. That is why they make a turn over the Ecuadorian land and enter the Colombian airspace several kilometres away from the affected region again," refers a witness farmer.
Even if the airplanes close their valves in time before crossing the border, the wind and the high speed of the jets bring the lethal cargo across the border to the plantations of the Sucumbíos provice.
Local population report unanimously of grave yield losses. Corn, bananas, yucca and coffee turn bad on the fields. The fruits that were green before the harvest wither soon and turn yellow. In addition to that, many families lost their hens, pigs and cows.
"My neighbour has moved to the city because the soil and water in the rivers are contaminated. We have no idea what we should live on," says a father of a family from the border town of La Punta.
Acción Ecologica supported the region in a vast medical examination of the local population. The check-up discovered a significant concentration of chemicals in the blood of the examined patients. The organization demanded an immediate suspension of the airplane project, medical aid for the affected region and compensation of damage for small farmers.
The medical office of the Sucumbíos province reports a rapid increase in dermatological diseases, especially with children. However, at the moment it refuses to confirm any relation to the airplane project.
However, in the opinion of the affected there is not much time left for governmental aid and the suspension of the deployment of chemicals. Victor Mestanza lost his overall fish culture, some 800,000 animals within three days. "If we do not get help from the government soon, the overall border region will be deserted in a few months."