Photo: Homemade Liquor Kills in Colombia
An Indian in the southeastern Colombian province of Guaviare died and at least seven others were gravely ill after imbibing a homemade liquor fermented from bananas that were apparently contaminated by pesticide used to eradicate coca, the raw material of cocaine, authorities said Monday.
A number of Indians drank the liquor Sunday afternoon at a get-together in La Reforma, a settlement in the jungles of the Calamar municipality.
The municipal health secretary, Liliana Rodriguez, told Efe by telephone that the victims became ill within 20 minutes of swallowing the liquor.
They drank chicha, a liquor brewed from bananas that, according to local indigenous leader Emilio Gutierrez, were apparently contaminated by the pesticide glyphosate, Rodriguez said.
Gutierrez said nearby coca fields were fumigated last Wednesday by National Police aircraft and that people in his community complained the pesticide had drifted onto their food crops.
A commission of paramedics who traveled Sunday night to La Reforma took the seven who had been poisoned to the Calamar hospital, as well as the dead body for an autopsy.
A second mission was leaving Monday for the area, which is nearly four hours from Calamar by boat, to check on health conditions in the settlement and any possible effects of the glyphosate that was sprayed.
Rodriguez said the Indians gave those who began showing the effects of poisoning a drink containing cane sugar and soap to purge out the tainted liquor.
Many in Colombia oppose aerial fumigation of coca with glyphosate, which is sold in the United States under the brand name Roundup. The pesticide is said to damage legal crops and sicken humans and livestock