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Colombians protesting coca eradication in Ecuador to return home in 24 hours

Colombians protesting coca eradication in Ecuador to return home in 24 hours

At least 1,100 Colombians in Ecuador protesting their government's eradication of coca will return home within 24 hours, the Colombian foreign minister said.
The United Nations reported last week that the Colombians _ numbering 1,600 on Sunday _ had fled combat between leftist guerrillas and the army, seeking refuge across the border in Ecuador.
But Colombian Foreign Minister Fernando Araujo said Wednesday that the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the nation's largest guerrilla group, was using the peasants to pressure the government to stop eradicating coca, the raw ingredient in cocaine, along the border.
Araujo told RCN radio in Bogota on Wednesday that a government commission signed an agreement with the Colombian nationals to return to Colombia on Thursday.
He said they accepted "the government's program to continue manual eradication" of coca, adding that they will cooperate in alternative crop programs.
Ecuador's civil defense director, Carlos Vasco, said handling the influx of Colombians costs US$60,000 (euro44,000) a day.
"We were tricked," Vasco said in an interview with Gamavision television. "In the end we realized that they used us because the real motive was to pressure (Colombian) President Alvaro Uribe to let them grow coca."
Colombia is the world's largest producer of cocaine and coca.
Andrea Escalante, a spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said that there were 1,100 Colombians still in shelters in the northern Ecuadorean town of San Lorenzo, 12 kilometers (8 miles) from the Colombian border.
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Associated Press Writers Gonzalo Solano and Jeanneth Valdivieso in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-03-01 22:33 GMT+08:00