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The Coca Paper

Obra Gustavo Vejarano [ cuadro original (100k)]

Yo te agradezco porque aquí estoy. Tú eres mi única madre. Te agradezco, aunque me voy; avergonzada con ser parte de la especie que hoy te viola en un patético festín. ... Nuestra desidia fue por tenerte regalada;  el creer que no vales nada. De estar pariendo hijos ciegos estás cansada. ….No hay más ofrendas, sólo este ataque mortal al medio de corazón.  

("Madre hay una sola" Bersuit Vergarabat)




María Mercedes Moreno

Coca plants are woody perennial shrubs of the genus Erythroxylum. There are 25 wild and cultivated species of Coca, and Coca is quite the opposite of cocaine.  The Coca Leaf has numerous health and nutritional virtues and benefits. Coca is a soothing ornamental plant and, not too long ago, it was to be found in homes and gardens in Colombian cities. It is part of the Andean Amazon Region’s natural, cultural, dietary and, most important of all, spiritual legacy; it has been so for centuries.  Coca is the sacred plant of the Incas and of many indigenous and peasant communities of the Andean Amazon Region. Coca has been used to counter abstinence syndrome for people suffering form chemical dependency. The coca leaf contains high volumes of iron, potassium, calcium as well as 14 beneficial alkaloids. Coca leaves serve to make tea and, natural energy drinks (as is the case of the delicious Coca-Sek soda) as well as products such as soap and shampoo and paper.

Coca has been, and continues to be, one of the most cherished cultural and natural legacies of the Andean Amazon Region and the will to make it extinct on the part of the International Community has been, and continues to be, a perpetual and deep-seated source of conflict and resentment between the Andean Amazon Region and the International Community. Unfortunately, coca has come to symbolize the largest sole-crop fiasco and worst-scenario self-fulfilling prophecy in history. Mistaken assessments in the 1970s led policy makers to assume that coca could be made extinct through aerial chemical spraying and that this was the answer to drug abuse. This is somewhat like pretending that eradicating potatoes, barley and wheat will put an end to alcoholism.

Ever since the United States proposed fumigation measures in 1970, numerous official entities and Colombian civil society have not ceased to protest. Accordingly, complaints of damages and health hazards have been persistent since the Colombian government first fumigated marihuana fields in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in 1978 [Carta Inderena.]The damages caused have been enormous, senseless. They are not collateral; they are enslaving and have had the ‘unforeseen’ consequence of bending Colombian peasants to the will of all of the country’s armed groups. What started, in 1978, as the means to eradicate 25,000 hectares of cannabis sativa and, in 1986, to experiment on a negligible number of coca plantings with what had failed on marihuana crops (and in 1990 to fail against poppy crops) is now the source of a long-ignored humanitarian tragedy in Colombia.

Colombia has sprayed its people with the extremely poisonous Garlon‑4, the now-banned Paraquat, with Tebuthyiuron and Imazapyr and the current application of a mixture of Roundup (Glyphosate + POEA) to which surfactants such as CosmoFlux and CosmoInD are added. These toxic (by definition) herbicides are sprayed from above —from altitudes which often exceed 30 meters— hitting water supplies, staple crops, and people. The impact of the potent chemical mixtures drifting on Colombia, on its natural resources, its food resources and its peoples is devastating. What is even more tragic is that aerial spraying to eradicate the coca bush does not work against the narcotics traffic. The chemicals sprayed by the Colombian government on its people compound the damage done by the chemicals (precursors and agrochemicals) which feed the narcotics traffic.  Furthermore, the agrochemical Roundup (Glyphosate) used purportedly for antinarcotics purposes is the same chemical used to fertilize coca for cocaine. Thus, the exponential expansion of coca fields and the strengthening of the political hold of the narcotics traffic over the Colombian State over the past 30 years seem to indicate that having diverted antinarcotics funds and attention to direct it against coca crops and growers has served the narcotics traffic well.

Six thousand people signed mamacoca's petition to request an end to aerial spraying eradication of the coca bush. These 6.000 signatures are further acknowledgment of what is dramatically obvious. Aerial herbicide spraying eradication is not only inhumane. It has served to displace peasants from their homes and is at times used with this end in mind. It not only increases the rate of rainforest destruction and biodiversity in Colombia’s highly fragile and rich ecosystems, it has also, undoubtedly, led to unprecedentedly  high chemical contents in Colombia’s waters, soil and food and the corresponding repercussions on Colombians’ overall health. From a humanitarian and legal viewpoint, the consequences (and futility against coca) of fumigation cannot be ignored.  Aerial spraying hasn’t even remotely fulfilled the goal of countering marihuana and cocaine production and use. In 1962, there under 700 hectares of coca in Colombia; in 1981, less than 2,500 hectares of coca bush were grown in Colombia. The first year of coca fumigation in Colombia there were 17,000 hectares. Two years after the first fumigations, in 1988, coca plantings had doubled. In 2009, 28 years later —after having sprayed over a million hectares (of just coca and not counting the cannabis and poppy spraying)— Colombia now has more than 150,000 hectares of its rich soil planted in coca to produce cocaine. [see chart] Now, rampant coca is, in effect one of Colombia’s main obstacles to peace. S

The International Community has the obligation to act on the basis of validated scientific knowledge and humanitarian considerations. It must rise to the challenge set by Antonio María Costa, United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC) Executive Director, of involving Colombian peasants in voluntary eradication programs through a major drive in favor of greater assistance to farmers in coca cultivation areas accompanied by structural policies devised to redistribute land (especially land seized from drug lords.) Applying sustainable formulas, which respect Human Rights and put an end to the long-endured suffering and high price paid by the Colombian people is of the incumbency and to the benefit of Colombia and the goal of building a Global Community.  

Colombian civil society has done everything in its power to make known its rejection of intensive and indiscriminate crop dusting. Colombian journalists have persistently published articles on the issue; scientists and researchers have tried to use their knowledge to reason with the government; the courts have ruled that the government halt fumigation; Congress has cited government officials to explain the unexplainable; social organizations have filmed the negative impacts and peasants’ complaints. Fields which were once fertile have ceased to bear fruit; the waters on which the Colombian government has poured its chemical mixtures, have either died or continue to flow polluting the lands which might have escaped aerial spraying. And then, there are the “invisible” but practically inevitable cancers, the unforgivable pain. 

Chemical aerial spraying is irrational, irresponsible, illegitimate and inhumane. IT MUST STOP.




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