Agent Green Over The Amazon
by Jeff Conant
Agent Green Over The Amazon
Drug War Policy Threatens to Unleash Havoc in South America
An Investigative Report from Lago Agrio, Ecuador
By Jeff Conant
The Curse of Lago Agrio
Rumors of the impending release of a genetically modified fungus as part of
the War on Drugs in Colombia have been raising concerns among
environmentalists and regional officials that a grave ecological and social
crisis may be unfolding in the region. At the same time, heightened
violence on the ground in Colombia is putting pressure on bordering nations
as they anticipate the arrival of thousands of refugees from the growing
On July 19 the Ecuadorian daily paper El Comercio ran a front page article
entitled Exodus Arrives at Sucumbios: the Wave of Refugees Grows.
According to the article, 5000 Colombian refugees had recently arrived in
the Ecuadorian state of Sucumbios, on the border of the two Andean nations,
and an estimated 25,000 to 30,000 more were expected in the following
weeks. The cause of the mass exodus was heightened violence in the
Colombian civil war. More specifically, this wave of refugees was coming
from the Putumayo region of Colombia, where massive doses of the U.S.-made
pesticide glyphosate, better known as Roundup, are being sprayed to destroy
coca and poppy plantations as part of the U.S.-sponsored War on Drugs.
A few weeks later, arriving in Lago Agrio, the capital of the state of
Sucumbios - and capitol of the Ecuadorian oil industry - I found that the
Comercio had exaggerated the figures, but not the fear. According to Luis
Yanez of the Frente de la Defensa de La Amazona (The Front for the Defense
of the Amazon), there were as yet no official refugees, although the
fumigations were, and are, well under way. With constant newspaper reports
about the pesticide spraying, the refugees, and rumors of a mysterious
fungus being dumped over the Amazon basin by the U.S. DEA, people across
Ecuador fear the worst. On the eve of a prolonged conflict between
Colombias many factions and the growing U.S. military presence in the
region, Ecuador has little choice but to watch itself be dragged into the
melee against its will.
The bishop of Sucumbios, Monseñor Gonzalo Lopez Mareñon, denied the
newspaper reports of 5000 refugees. But he had recently formed a group
called the Asemblea de la Sociedad Civil (Assembly of Civil Society),
which, together with the Frente de la Defensa de La Amazona and the UN High
Commission on Refugees, was meeting to begin preparations for the impending
crisis. Barring the closing of the border - which will only exacerbate the
situationnobody doubts that refugees will arrive, and in
Lago Agrio is not prepared to receive these refugees. The city itself has a
troubled history, and is one of the poorest and most violent cities in
Ecuador. As little as thirty years ago Lago Agrio, then known as Nueva Loja
- was the heartland of the Cofan people, an indigenous tribe renowned for
their bravery, skill at warfare, and knowledge of traditional medicine. But
when Texaco struck oil there 1962 and changed the towns name to Lago Agrio - after Sour Lake, Texas, site of their first oil deposit back home - the
regions history took a sharp turn for the worse.
Forty years later the Cofanes have been reduced to a few thousand proud stragglers clinging to their traditions, and Lago Agrio, on the border of Colombia, has become one of the most polluted and fearful areas in this small, poor, but relatively peaceful nation. Regular border crossings by Colombian drug-traffickers and the presence of low-paid migrant workers, along with the difficult
conditions of work in the oilfields, causes a general instability in the
town, and warnings to stay in at night. The complete absence of facilities
for an impending flood of refugees - especially refugees whose only
livelihood is growing, processing, and transporting cocainehas begun to
raise fears, not only in Lago Agrio but throughout the nation, that the
effects of Plan Colombia will spill over the border, deepening Ecuadors
already grave social and economic crisis. The wave of pesticide fumigations
rumored to increase at any moment, but which, until now, seem to be
shrouded in secrecy, will only make matters worse.
The fumigations, aimed at destroying plantations of poppy and coca and the
livelihoods that depend on illicit cultivation, are part of Plan Colombia.
Plan Colombia, developed by the U.S. and the European Union with the
support of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, has as its
objective the opening of markets and the stimulation of foreign investment
in Colombia. According to its critics, the plan is given a different face
depending on its audience. But it seems to have several specific objectives
which remain more-or-less fixed:
- The implementation of measures to attract foreign investment and to
promote the expansion of markets, strengthening treaties that protect
foreign investment and free trade as promoted by the World Trade Organization.
- Destruction of illegal cultivars in the region of Putumayo and other
zones in Southern Colombia, and their substitution with productive
projects, principally permanent cultivars [coffee, banana, sugar, African
by way of strategic alliances between investors and large and small
landholders which will offer alternative employment opportunities and
social services to the population of areas under illicit cultivation.
- Re-establishment of military control in these zones, and modernization of
the Armed Forces.
- Institutional reform, including the struggle against
corruption and the defense of human rights.
- Reactivation of the economy.
As basic tenets of globalization and WTO unilateral policy, these same
principals, applied in Mexico in the mid-1990´s, led to destabilization of
the rural population and widespread civil unrest. The implementation of
NAFTA in Mexico hinged upon fundamental policy shifts, such as the erasure
of article 27 from the Mexican Constitution. Article 27, the right to hold
land in common, protected ancestral indigenous territories from being
bought and sold. Its removal from the constitution aimed to increase
investment and stimulate the economy. Instead, it lead to the Zapatista
uprising of January 1994 and a prolonged war of attrition that continues to
the present day.
It is hard to imagine that further militarization of the
War on Drugs, and the leveling of prices that will come with Plan Colombia
and the pending Free Trade Agreement for the Americas will not have a
similar effect. As the example of Mexico has shown, Free Trade favors the
corporations and large landholders - those that can show immediate profit
and whose economies of scale can withstand the leveling of prices on the
global market. The small landholder is moved off his land and the landless
peasant is forced to work at less-than-subsistence wages. The landless
peasants and small landholders in Southern Colombia, who currently subsist
by planting and processing coca, and who have been increasingly caught
between the guerillas and the paramilitaries, will continue to be forced to
migrate to other zones, both to find work and to escape the escalating
violence and the aerial fumigation.
Over the past ten years more than 1.5 million Colombians have been
displaced, and at least 35,000 have been killed. An estimated 2 percent of
Colombia´s population - some 800,000 people - have fled the country since
1996, most of them to the United States. But while the middle classes take
refuge in the U.S., those with less resources are forced across the border
into Panama and Ecuador. A refugee community of some 800 people, and
growing, has taken root in Panama´s dense and nearly impassable jungle
province of Darien, at the bottom of the Central American isthmus, bringing
a new source of destabilization to that wracked and recently demilitarized
nation. And, like in Ecuador´s impoverished Oriente, the existing
infrastructure barely supports the local population, let alone the arrival
of immigrants and refugees.
As long as cocaine remains at once illegal and in high demand - primarily
in the U.S. - it will be impossible to compete with its viability as a cash
crop. Its destruction may in fact have the reverse effect - it will raise
prices and increase the incentive to produce. Despite the massive campaign
to destroy illegal cultivars in Colombia over the last several years,
production has doubled, and the violence accompanying it has increased.
U.S. State Department figures show that in spite of intensive herbicide
spraying and other forms of forced eradication, the area in production
increased by 200% between 1992 and 1999. In 1999 alone, the area under
cultivation increased by 20,200 hectares (50,500 acres). It seems clear
that a strategy of eradication, without the accompaniment of a plan to
reduce poverty and secure livelihoods for the people of the zone, is bound
David Hathaway, a U.S. economist and expert in matters of biosecurity
working in Brazil, affirms that the application of Roundup in rural areas
has been a disaster overall. It is a disaster because the problem is badly
diagnosed. Or, I should say, the problem is well-diagnosed: the problem is
to sell more Roundup.
He continues, It is possible and viable to eradicate coca and poppies in a
given field. This much is true. What is not possible is to eradicate these
cultivars in general.
Monsanto´s Roundup, chemical name glyphosate, was introduced to the market
in 1974 as a wide-spectrum herbicide. It is currently one of the most
widely used herbicides in the world, with sales reaching twelve billion
dollars annually. It is also one of the most toxic. According to the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the ingestion of 200 mililiters of
Roundup is immediately lethal. Aside from such immediate effects of acute
exposure, long-term exposure has been shown to cause damage to human
reproductive systems and genetic material. Among the effects of exposure
are convulsions, acute respiratory problems, loss of muscle control,
unconsciousness, destruction of red blood cells, cardiac depression and
loss of fertility. The EPA has shown Roundup to increase levels of
phosphorous, potassium and Urea in the blood, and to produce pancreatic
lesions and abcesses in the kidney, liver and heart.
Among its unfortunate side effects in the environment is high toxicity to
earthworms, bacteria and rhizomatic fungus - all of which are essential to
the long-term health of agricultural soils. It is up to 100 times more
toxic to fish than it is to humans and, like other pesticides, it is
subject to bioaccumulation - meaning that the level of toxicity grows with
each step up the food chain. A person who regularly eats fish poisoned with
Roundup receives a dose much greater than direct exposure. A 1993 study by
the University of Colorado revealed that Roundup is the leading cause of
pesticide poisoning in home gardeners in the U.S., and the third most
dangerous pesticide in commercial agriculture.
Due to such high toxicity both to humans and to the natural environment,
the use of Roundup as an agent in the War on Drugs bears strong resemblance
to the infamous use of the defoliant Agent Orange in South Vietnam.
Operation Ranch Hand - the code name for the application of Agent Orange
over 6 million acres of Vietnamese jungle between 1961 and 1972 - has left
a legacy of at least 500,000 reported birth defects, as reported by the Tu
Du hospital of Obstetrics and Gynecology in Saigon. The use of Roundup over
Colombia threatens to leave a similar legacy.
In 1998, under pressure from the U.S., Colombia began the testing and
application of a second herbicide in the Putumayo region. The herbicide,
tebuthiuron, manufactured and sold by Dow Agrosciences as Spike 20P, is
used in the U.S. mostly to control weeds on railroad beds and under high
voltage lines far from crops and people. American and Colombian officials,
complaining that the liquid Roundup has only destroyed about 30% of the
plants sprayed, have been moving toward use of tebuthiuron, which comes in
a granular form. Because Roundup must be sprayed from a low-altitude early
in the morning when winds are calm and temperatures are lower, guerillas
often fire at the low-flying planes. Tebuthiuron pellets, dropped from
higher altitudes in any weather, day or night, make planes less vulnerable
to ground fire.
However, the environmental risks of this chemical agent make Colombian
officials wary. Former Colombian Environmental Minister Eduardo Verano has
said the effects of tebuthiuron on agricultural areas are still unknown,
and its use will increase deforestation by forcing coca growers deeper into
In a 1998 interview with the New York Times, Mister Verano said, We need
to reconsider the benefits of chemical warfare. The more you fumigate, the
more the farmers plant. If you fumigate one hectare, they´ll grow coca on
two more. How else do you explain the figures?
Even Dow Chemical, the manufacturer of the herbicide, has spoken out
against its use in Colombia. Tebuthiuron is not labeled for use on any
crops in Colombia, and it is our desire that the product not be used for
coca eradication, the company said in a public statement. Dow cautioned
that the chemical should be used carefully and in controlled situations,
because it can be very risky in situations where terrain has slopes,
rainfall is significant, desirable plants are nearby and application is
made under less than ideal circumstances.
After years of lawsuits and public outcry over the use of Agent Orange -
also produced by Dow - the company said that it would refuse to sell
tebuthurion for use in Colombia. However. According to the New York Times
report, American officials have noted that Dow´s patent on the chemical has
expired, allowing others to manufacture it.
The application of a second Agent Orange over the Colombian Amazon, has
caused tremendous alarm among international environmentalists and
inhabitants of the region. But residents of Southern Colombia and the
Ecuadorian border region of Sucumbios are now expecting a new and even
greater threat to their health and their ecosystem - the release of a
biological control that environmental activists are referring to as Agent
Fusarium Oxysporum is a fungus native to temperate and tropical zones. In
its natural state it is well-known as a plant pathogen that affects the
roots and vacular systems of a variety of cultivated plants, causing
disintegration of cells leading to withering, rot and death. Doctor David
C. Sands, a plant pathologist at the University of Montana and one of the
chief researchers on Fusarium Oxysporyum (FO) calls it an Attila the Hun
disease, noting that there are strains of fusarium for virtually every
cultivated plant and many wild ones. Some species of fusarium have also
been known to cause illness in humans, especially those with depressed
immunity from cancer or HIV-AIDS.
The fungus was first identified as a possible weapon in the drug war by CIA
scientists in the early 1980´s. In 1987 Doctor Sands was working in his
Montana laboratory when he received a call from the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, asking him to contribute his knowledge of plant pathology to
the War on Drugs. The department had been experimenting on a legal coca
plantation in Peru - previously owned by the Coca Cola company, but
abandoned for greener, and safer, pastures in Hawaii. The USDA had taken
over the plantation from Coca Cola to use as a test plot for herbicides.
Ironically, the control plot that was not being sprayed was infected and
largely destroyed by a mysterious pathogen. When Doctor Sands came down to
investigate, he found that it was a naturally-occurring strain of fusarium.
Dr. Sands took a culture of the fungus and tested it on a three-acre plot.
Nearly all of the plants died. Since then, the fungus has been isolated,
tested and developed as a biological herbicide at the University of
Montana, in conjunction with the USDA and U.S.-based transnational Ag/Bio
Con, Inc. In 1999, the Federal Government hoped to use fusarium to
eradicate marijuana plantations in Florida, but the proposal was shot down
by the Florida State EPA with the support of many private and public sector
environmental groups. The director of the Florida EPA said, It is
difficult, if not impossible, to control the dispersal of fusarium species. The fungus can mutate and damage a wide variety of crops. Fusarium species
are more active in warm soils and can remain active in the soil for years.
Despite these conclusions, on July 6 of this year - in the shadow of the
U.S. approval of a $1.3 billion aid package to Colombia - the New York
Times reported that Colombia had agreed to begin using the fungus under
pressure from the United States. Colombias acceptance Fusarium Oxysporyum
was one condition of the aid packages approval. However, on August 22,
President Clinton overruled Congress and retracted this condition, severing
the link between U.S. aid and the use of FO, stating that the U.S. will not
use Agent Green until a broader national security assessment, including
consideration of the potential impact on biological weapons proliferation
and terrorism, provides a solid foundation for concluding that the use of
this particular drug control tool is in our national interest. Juan Mayr,
the Colombian Minister of the Environment, assured that Colombia would
begin a program of researchand only researchon the use of
But many environmentalists and people living in the
region are still concerned that the fungus will be released without
sufficient testing, and despite its known hazards. Lucia Gallardo,
Coordinator of the Biodiversity and Biosecurity Campaign for Accion
Ecologica, a Quito, Ecuador-based environmental advocacy group, affirms
that the fungus is catalogued as a biological weapon in the list of the
Protocol to the Biological and Chemical Weapons Convention.
Doctor Raul Moscoso, Ecuadorian magistrate and candidate for Attorney
General, has given an extensive analysis of the regional and international
accords violated by the fumigations both of chemical herbicides and of the
fungus. The fumigations are in direct violation of the Cartagena Agreement
of Andean Nations, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, and the
globally ratified Convention Prohibiting the Development, Production and
Storage of Bacteriological, Biological and Chemical Weapons. Doctor Moscoso
is a vocal critic of Plan Colombia, stating that This plan will not
eradicate narco-trafficking. This plan will not terminate drug dependency.
What this plan will do is bring about irreversible and irreparable social
and environmental costs.
In refuting the use of the fungus under international law, Doctor Moscoso
cites primarily Decision 391 of the Cartagena Agreement (a treaty between
the Andean nations Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and Peru), which
specifically deals with Access to Genetic Resources. This decision
strictly prohibits the use of genetic material in the fabrication of
biological weapons or any practices that may be harmful to the environment
or human health. He cites as well the Biological and Chemical Weapons
Convention, which states that the ratifying bodies - nearly all of the
nations on the globe - agree not to develop, produce, store or in any form
acquire or retain, under any circumstances, microbial agents or other
biological agents or toxins, regardless of their origin or mode of
production, in kinds or quantities that are not justified for prophylactic,
protective, or other peaceful ends.
A third agreement breached by this joint policy of the U.S. and Colombia is
the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, signed by 157 nations during
the historic meeting in Rio de Janeiro in June 1992. Article 3 of this
convention confirms the obligation to ensure that activities carried out
within the jurisdiction of a state or under its control do not threaten the
ecological balance within other states. Article 8 binds member parties to
Promote the protection of ecosystems and natural habitats without
introducing exotic species that could threaten ecosystems, habitats or
species. Article 14c states that Each member nation will promote the
notification and exchange of information regarding activities in its
jurisdiction which could foreseeably have adverse effects on the
biodiversity of another state, and will notify immediately in case of the
emergence in its jurisdiction or control of imminent dangers for
biodiversity under the jurisdiction of other states.
That is to say, both Colombia and the U.S. are engaged in chemical and
biological warfare in violation of international law and their own
According to the July 6 New York Times report (Fungus Considered as a Tool
to Kill Coca in Colombia), lawyers at the White House and the State
Department spent years debating whether or not the use of Fusarium
Oxysporyum violated international conventions on biological warfare. They
came to the conclusion that international law would not be violated if
Colombia made its own decision to test or use the fungus. One U.S.
intelligence official who maintains a stance against the fungus is quoted
by the New York Times as saying, I don´t support using a product on a
bunch of Colombian peasants that you wouldn´t use against a bunch of
rednecks growing marijuana in Kentucky. And there is definitely less than
unanimous support for this in Colombia.
Colombian officials say that the first step is to see if this fungus
already exists in Colombia, to ensure that they are not introducing an
exotic species. If fusarium is not there, we won´t study it, said Mister
Mayr, the Environmental Minister.
However, rumors abound that a transgenic variety of Fusarium Oxysporum has
been developed for use against coca plantations. According to the USDA, a
variety of FO found on potatoes has been used as the basis for a
genetically modified fungus with heightened virulence against coca plants.
At a conference on July 24 at the Centro Internacional de estudios
superiores de comunicación para America Latina (CIESPAL) in Quito, U.S.
biosecurity expert David Hathaway affirmed, Transgenic spores of this
fungus have been developed in U.S. military laboratories. If transgenic
varieties of this fungus are being tested in Ecuador, or have been tested
in Colombia, we don´t know. No one knows
and if they do know, they´re not
telling. We don´t know but we are very worried.
If in fact this fungus is being tested in Colombia, residents of that
nation and its neighbor states have good cause for alarm. As a species with
a high degree of variability the fungus can mutate rapidly, infecting a
wide variety of cultivars in a short time. In its natural form it can
survive in the soil from ten to forty years, and different varieties of the
fungus are pathogenic to a vast number of cultivated plants, including:
potato, vanilla, sunflower, date, coffee, avocado, cabbage, celery, squash,
grape, soy, tobacco, melon, sesame, beet, African palm, eggplant, cotton,
clover, eucalyptus, and many more.
The release of fusarium in the Amazon basin, one of the world´s most
biodiverse regions and the home to innumerable species not found anywhere
else on the planet, puts at risk not simply a list of staple crops and the
human inhabitants of the region, but the entire ecological balance of the
Amazon. According to scientists working with the Sunshine Project, an
international watchdog group devoted to the study of biotechnology and
environmental law, four plants of the genus coca erytroxylumwild
relatives of coca native to Colombiaare on the endangered species list
and will likely be among the first to be affected. One of these is host to
a rare butterfly - Agrias spp. - which is also on the endangered species
list, and whose center of speciation is in the region of the Upper Putumayo
- precisely the region of most intense fumigations, and where the strongest
release of fungus would be slated to occur.
This is only one example of the potential risk of species loss that the
release of Fusarium Oxysporyum would bring about. Once released into the
environment, the fungus can mutate and migrate widely and there is no known
control. Colombias Upper Putumayo region is just over the border from
Ecuador and upriver from Brazil and Peru. One of the chief complaints of
Colombias neighboring nations is that the fungus - like U.S. foreign
policy - does not respect borders or political sovereignty. Wind and water
can carry the fungus far from where it was intended, so laws which prohibit
its use in Ecuador or Peru are unlikely to be effective.
Aside from traveling by wind and water, the fungus can travel on the
clothes of those who handle it. As Plan Colombia develops, the people who
handle the fungus may well be U.S. soldiers flying out of the Ecuadorian
military base at Manta. Manta, on the Pacific Coast, is hundreds of miles
from the Putumayo, in another rare and delicate ecological niche known as
neo-tropical dry forest.
On July 18 Ecuadors Minister of the Environment Rodolfo Rendón declared
that he would not permit Fusarium Oxysporyum to be tested or used in
Ecuador, and promised to contact other Amazonian Environment Ministers to
discuss regional concerns. On August 14, Ecuador passed a law banning the
introduction of Fusarium Oxysporyum. While these are crucial steps in
opposing the introduction of the fungus, U.S. Drugwar legislation still
threatens both the ecological and social balance of the region.
The Airbase at Manta
On December 12, 1999 the Ecuadorian Minister of Exterior Relations, under
the authority of President Jamil Mahuad, signed a convention giving the
United States Military legal rights to use the airbase at Manta as the
center of local operations. Six weeks later Mahuad was deposed by a popular
uprising and exiled in the U.S., but this highly contested convention still
stands as law. The base at Manta is at the heart of what many Ecuadorians
see as a U.S. attack on their nations sovereignty, and a set of policies
which may sooner than later pit Ecuador against its Colombian neighbor.
Since early 1999, the War on Drugs has suffered a major setback. Until last
year, Howard Air Base in Panama was the center of U.S. anti-drug activity
in Latin America. Two thousand surveillance flights left Howard every year
until May 1999, when the U.S. was forced to abandon the base as part of the
pull-out required by the Panama Canal Treaty. This shift caused the U.S. to
begin the search for a new base of operations. With the third candidate,
Venezuela, flatly rejecting the establishment of a base within its
territory, the most promising sites are El Salvador and Ecuador.
But, according to Ecuadorian critics of the plan, the establishment of a
U.S. base at Manta is not merely an insult to national sovereignty, it is
unconstitutional as well. Doctor Julio Vallejo Prado, ex-Chancellor of
Ecuador and an expert in constitutional law, speaking at the July 24
conference at the Centro internacional de estudios superiores de
comunicacion para America Latina (CIESPAL) in Quito, this convention has
been inscribed in Ecuadorian law, but it has no base in law because it was
agreed to directly between ex-president Mahuad and the U.S. In other
words, Ecuadorian law dictates that international conventions must be
submitted to, and ratified by, the congress of the nation. The use of the
Manta airbase was given without any such congressional authority.
Doctor Prado, clearly indignant at this breach of constitutional law and
national pride, elucidated the problem. According to the convention, up to
430 U.S. soldiers can enter the base at any time, by air, sea or land.
Doctor Prado notes, They dont need a passport, they dont need a visa.
They only have to give notification, once they are here, that they have
arrived, and to notify the military authorities of their name and their
age. Nothing more.
We cannot impede their entrance. The only thing we can do is receive the
news that they have arrived and a list of their names.
Beyond the use of the base, the U.S. has put certain restrictions on
Ecuadorian interference in U.S. military affairs in the zone, including the
designation of a restricted area at Manta where not even Ecuadorian
military are permitted to enter. A second convention, signed on July 2 of
this year between the military authorities in Guayaquil, Ecuador and the
U.S. Southern Command, gives the U.S. armed forces the right to detain any
Ecuadorian citizen inside the base for any reason whatsoever.
Doctor Prado continues, Once detained in the base, this Ecuadorian citizen
will stay detained during the process of investigation. Once the process of
investigation is complete, the individual will be returned to the military
authorities of Ecuador. This totally violates the principles of sovereignty
of the country. There is no judicial process - simply the right to capture
and detain any individual, maintain him for the length of the investigative
process - whether it be days, weeks, or months - and, after this process,
deliver him to military authorities.
The future use of the base at Manta is uncertain. No one outside of U.S.
military and government has any idea whether the base will be used for
surveillance, interception, or to direct U.S. operations inside Colombia.
But what is certain is that the nation of Ecuador, until now considered an
island of peace in a sea of violence, is being drawn into a regional
conflict against the will of its citizens and beyond the control of its
government. From the impending refugee crisis, pesticide drift from
fumigations over the Putumayo, and the potential of ecological havoc caused
by the release of Fusarium Oxysporum in the Amazon basin, the future of
Ecuador, and of the whole Andean region, seems to be in the hands of global
free trade policy and the U.S. War on Drugs.
Jeff Conant is a writer and activist based in the SF Bay Area, and has published
articles, poetry and stories in a variety of magazines and journals. He
lived for several years in Chiapas, Mexico, until being expelled from the
country along with eleven other foreigners in April 1998 as part of the
Mexican governments campaign against human rights workers. Since then he
has been involved in public art projects in the Bay Area. North Atlantic
Books recently published his translation (from Spanish) of a book on
contemporary Mayan medicine, entitled Wind in the Blood: Mayan Healing and
Chinese Medicine. He is currently working for the Hesperian Foundation,
publishers of Where There Is No Doctor, coordinating the production of a
manual about environmental health. He is also working on a book about the
communiques of Subcomandante Marcos, to be titled The Poetics of Resistance.