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Actualidad Colombiana. Year XIII No 325, November 14 – 28, 2001, Bogotá D.C.

Social Pacts in the South: An Excuse for War?

Henry Salgado Ruíz

The populations in the Amazon have been the target of militaristic actions under the Plan Colombia; scapegoats for the US and Colombian governments’ geopolitical and military strategy. The first repercussions of this aggression against the Colombian people are felt particularly in the department of the Putumayo. The number of people who have been thrown off of their lands and out of the country due to chemical fumigation and armed conflict are alarming. In the year 2000, 9,698 people were displaced from Colombia into Ecuador. From the end of 1999 up to September 2001, 7.443 people have been forced to emigrate to the Nariño department. The program for aiding populations affected by forced crop eradication had assisted up to 38.038 people by August 2001. However, the scope of the problem goes way beyond these “figures”, which are not complete. Currently, armed conflagration in Colombia has grown and paramilitarism is expanding; aerial chemical fumigation had been halted, but only temporarily, as of the “social pacts” signed by the communities -under the threat of government-sponsored aerial fumigation- according to local leaders, “...the communities signed these pacts hoping this would be the means to stop renewed fumigation and its lethal consequences”.

These policies are aggravating Colombia’s armed conflict, they serve as fodder for the country’s armed actors and to drown out citizen initiatives, those of peasant and indigenous local communities. Global, sustainable and participatory outlets must be found for the Amazon region, recognizing the fact that most of the region’s problems have originated outside of its territory. The dominant imagery which sees the Amazonia as a space for extracting resources or where, inevitably, populations expulsed by agricultural capitalist development end up, is partly to blame for the region’s evils. Continued extractive practices will inescapably destroy one of the most culturally and biologically biodiverse regions in the world.

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