At 9:00 am, on Tuesday morning, 11th September, a class-action lawsuit was filed in federal court in Washington DC on behalf of ten thousand Quichua Indians near the Colombian border who have been sprayed by the herbicides used in "Plan Colombia." This is to be a jury trial held in the United States. A victory is expected to apply to herbicide spraying in Colombia as well.
The lawsuit has been filed against DynCorp Corporation. DynCorp have been contracted by the U.S. Government to carry out fumigation as part of Plan Colombia. The Ecuadorian Indians allege that DynCorp spraying has destroyed their health, crops, and land and has already killed four young children. In their lawsuit, they charge DynCorp with violations of the Alien Tort Claims Act, the United States Torture Victim Protection Act, international human rights law, and common tort law of the District of Colombia. The Indians seek an immediate halt to the spraying over their land and damages in the billions of dollars.
This lawsuit threatens to further undermine the credibility of the U.S. Governments drug war policy in Colombia. This is the second time that Ecuadorian Indians from the Amazon region have sued a U.S. company in U.S. court for endangering human health and destroying the environment. In 1993, a group of Ecuadorian Indians sued Texaco for massive damages caused by the company reckless oil drilling practices. That lawsuit is still pending in federal court in New York.
Some quotes from the suit that was filed:
29. Plaintiffs allege on good faith, information and belief that the spraying of lands in Ecuador by the DynCorp Defendants, in the same region where Texaco, Inc, while exploiting oil reserves in the region, created one of the largest ecological disasters known to man, aids to create fear in the local population and is aimed to prevent any disruptions to the oil ventures under way in the region. Plaintiffs further allege on good faith information and belief that the areas in Ecuador being sprayed by DynCorp in total defiance of international law are the projected source of more than two billion barrels of oil.
30. Plaintiffs further allege on good faith, information and belief that contributing members to the U.S.-Colombia Business Partnership, include Texaco Inc., Occidental Petroleum and B.P. Amoco, which have or expect to have oil interests in the region of Ecuador where Plaintiffs reside. Oil corporations such as Texaco (currently merging with Chevron Inc.) are despised by the local population in Ecuador because of the devastation they have caused to the rainforest through years of operations there. Knowing this, the U.S.-Colombia Business Partnership lobbies for military expenditures in the region in order to intimidate the local population into submission and prevent disruption to their extremely profitable oil ventures.
31. Plaintiffs allege on good faith, information and belief that it is cheaper for corporations such as Texaco to lobby for money designed to intimidate the local population rather than to take the necessary actions to repair the damage to the environment they created by their reckless practices designed only for profit, and that this lobbying is one of the causes of the creation of the fumigation program operated by the DynCorp Defendants.
32. Plaintiffs allege on good faith, information and belief that the spraying of Plaintiff persons, lands and livestock with toxic fumigants is nothing less than an act of mercenary war carried out surreptitiously by the DynCorp Defendants in total defiance of international law, and outside the parameters of any legal contract to implement Plan Colombia.
37. Dr. Adolfo Maldonado Campos is a medical professional of Spanish nationality, who holds a diploma in Tropical Medicine and who spent six years between 1987 and 1993 working in the region that is the subject matter of this Complaint and became completely familiar with tropical diseases prevalent in the region. From 1994 to 1998 Dr. Maldonado worked as a physician in Mexico and Guatemala dealing with health problems of subtropical regions.
38. During June of 2001, Dr. Maldonado visited the region that is the subject matter of this Complaint, along with a member of the Ecuadorian National Congress, to verify complaints from the population regarding the spraying of the region with fumigants dropped from airplanes.
39. After a comprehensive study of the health impact of fumigations in the region, Dr. Maldonado concluded:
a) One hundred per cent of the inhabitants of the region within five kilometres of the Colombian border where fumigations occurred suffer from symptoms associated with acute intoxication from the aerial spray released upon them by the DynCorp Defendants. The percentage of residents suffering from acute intoxication decreases to eighty nine per cent of the population within the zone located between five and ten kilometers from which the fumigations occurred. In the communities located close to the fumigations, all the schools had to be closed after the fumigations due to illnesses developed by all the children; fifty eight schools were closed in Nuevo Mundo, twenty five were closed in San Francisco 1; and twenty one were closed in San Francisco 2…
d) A large sector of the impacted population required medical attention in the medical sub centers of the region. The center at Parroquia Farfan had an increase of forty two per cent in acute respiratory illnesses, and a forty eight per cent increase in infections of the skin, both compared to the identical time period of prior years. The Hospital Marco Vinicio Iza reported as well a significant increase of respiratory illnesses and infections of the skin since January of 2001 when the fumigations began.
e) The symptoms associated with exposure to the fumigants include serious irritations to the eyes, skin problems including abscesses, acute respiratory illnesses, and digestive problems with vomiting and diarrhea.
f) Three months after the fumigations had stopped the number of individuals with dermatological problems remained high.
g) There were four deaths of children in January of 2001, when the fumigations began, two from the Community of Reina del Cisne, one from San Francisco2, and one from El Condor. There had been no deaths of children in these communities in the previous two years. In addition, two children borne from mothers exposed to the fumigations, show congenital malformations.
40. Dr. Maldonado also established that the fumigations impacted severely the fauna of the area, as well as the subsistence crops of the people in the fumigated area. Deaths of animals including cows, pigs, horses, chickens, cats, dogs, as well as mountain animals, were reported. Crops destroyed by the fumigations include coffee, yucca, rice, and hay. The loss of crops and animals has forced many inhabitants of the area to abandon their homes and flee the area. Local Indian Shamans report that they can no longer use their medicinal herbs due to the contamination of these herbs with the fumigants.
Ecuadorian Indigenous Solidarity.