Sr. Juan Manuel Santos
President of Colombia
Sr. Juan Fernando Cristo
Minister of the Interior of Colombia
We are very concerned that the National Federation of Agricultural Workers Unions (Fensuagro), their affiliate and allies in the Department of Putumayo, are in imminent danger from the Colombian Armed Forces. Fensuagro unionists and supporters in Putumayo began striking and blockading highways in late July. They are demanding that the Colombian government fulfill promises it made for the development of the rural infrastructure and crop substitutions to give farmers an alternative to coca cultivation. Colombian farmers frequently have no choice but to cultivate coca since a viable infrastructure does not exist for most campesino families (rural farmers) to get their crops to market or to compete with the flood of imported foods resulting from recent free trade agreements with the United States, Europe and Canada.
The crops are being eradicated both manually and with glyphosate, the Monsanto-developed herbicide (sold as RoundUp Ultra). In addition to destroying coca plants, this product kills legal crops and the natural foliage; it also causes severe health problems for the unprotected communities where spraying takes place. The Colombian government is amassing troops in the area and forcibly breaking the farmers’ strike.
Because we fear that a potentially deadly assault on the people can occur, we strongly urge that you
immediately withdraw troops from Putumayo
fulfill the commitments made for rural infrastructure development and for legal crops to replace coca and for markets for their sale
end the use of glyphosate for the eradication of crops
meet and negotiate with the striking farmers and their supporters
Brian J. Stefan Szittai and Christine Stonebraker-Martínez