Saturday, March 23, 2013

War on Pineapple in Colombia

Victims of the bipartisan sequestration would love to have some pineapples to eat, but instead Americans tax money is aiding aerial fumigation, which supposedly targets illicit crops, destroying livelihoods of many in Colombia, in the name of war on drug. At home and abroad, American's leadership is seems to campaign for a global war on people with taxpayer money.

In the midst of adverse conditions, six women who form the Association of Women Pineapple Growers had dedicated their lives to creating a lawful livelihood instead of growing coca, in an effort to show their children that it is possible to make a living off of something other than illicit crops. They made long journeys on mud roads to get their pineapples to market. They took out loans from the Agrarian Bank in order to rent the land and start the project. And then they heard the planes flying overhead.

Their hearts ached as they discovered their entire crop dead, with wilted leaves and flowers, the telltale signs of glyphosate aerial fumigation.  There were no coca crops to be found anywhere near their perished pineapples.

This January marked the beginning of the thirteenth year of the United States’ funding of counter-narcotics activities in Colombia. Through Plan Colombia and successor programs, billions of dollars of military aid have entered Colombia, aimed at stemming drug production by destroying coca crops (used to process into cocaine) with chemical defoliant sprayed from planes. For the Association of Women Pineapple Growers, this January (the 25th) also marked the beginning of a long battle to seek justice when they found that all fifteen hectares of their pineapple crop in Villagarzón, Putumayo had been fumigated.

These women, all of whom are single mothers and provide the only source of income for their families, are now left without the means to repay their loans. “The banks and lending institutions are not going to understand this,” said Fátima Muriel, president of the Women’s Alliance of Putumayo, who has been supporting the women pineapple growers in denouncing what has happened.  “What can they take from these poor women? If their land is being loaned to them, they will just have to be thrown in jail because they don’t have anything else to give.”

As these women struggle for justice, the House Appropriations Committee is meeting to decide how to allocate our tax dollars for another year in Colombia. Tell your Congressional Representative that it is time to redirect aid for Colombia from a futile War on Drugs to peace and sustainable economies. We demand not only that these women be compensated for their lost crop, but that the policies responsible for such devastation end.

 In solidarity,

Jeanine, Jessye, Julia, and Margaret
Witness for Peace Colombia Team

“Day by day, these women have dedicated their work to the planting and cultivation of the pineapple crop. They harvest it by hand and carry it on their backs on dirt, often mud, paths, so that the fruit can be sold for one thousand pesos (US$0.70) in small bags to cars that drive along the road.

It is a tremendous effort that should be valued. They have nothing. The land that they cultivate is loaned to them or rented. How are they going to pay the banks their loans? How are the banks going to deal with this situation? This situation leaves us desperate," said Fatima Muriel, the president of the Putumayo Women's Alliance "Weavers of Life."

In addition to the loss of the crop and their families' livelihood, the women are left with approximately US$13,000 debt to private banks and to the Women World's Fund for loans taken out to rent the land and finance their agricultural work.

No comments:

Post a Comment