Jorge Atilio Silva Lulianelli


Koinonia-Presença Ecumênica e Serviço, Brasil


The narcobusiness in one of the most productive activities of modern capitalism. Estimates are that global organized-crime activities amount to approximately a trillion dollars a year. Just the narcobusiness itself, or drug trafficking, amounts to about 411 billion dollars. In 1998, estimates were that the cannabis trade amounted to approximately 41.5 billion dollars. We are therefore dealing with a very profitable business which moves enormous amounts of money to be reinvested in legal activities, such as construction and cattle ranching, and in illegal activities such as weapons' contraband, for example. This is economically terrifying. Apparently, one cannot consider the global economy without these resources. The marihuana case is very interesting in this sense. Marihuana is the most-consumed drug in our contemporary world. Estimates are that over 144 million people −2.42% of the world population−- consume it. Of the 134 countries which informed in the year 2000 on the fact that forbidden crops were grown on their territories, 96% of them grow marihuana. This data is not surprising. It signals a productive activity which has been incorporated into the functioning of the system as a whole.


Theoretical studies put forward the need to consider recent narcoproduction processes as a phase in capitalist production. In fact, they state that the current phase of drug production constitutes an agribusiness production model. In order to carry out a sociological analysis of cannabis plantings five steps are required: 1- Firstly, a characterization of the model of peasant production which developed into narcoplantings; this step must take into consideration information regarding social relations built historically for narcoproduction to take hold and the specific difficulties of information on cannabis plantings. 2- Secondly, we should observe the process by means of which this mode of peasant production has been incorporated into the illicit agribusiness sector. 3- Thirdly, we need to understand the insertion processes of these narcoplantings into the world economy and the local economy as the construction of economic and power networks. 4- Fourthly, we should identify the processes by which cannabis plantings are subjected to certain types of social and police control, and consider the implications of this control. 5- Lastly, to solely cover the agribusiness aspect of cannabis plantations, we should state some considerations regarding the specific case of the Marihuana Polygon (Poligono da Maconha) as a mirror of a peasant integration process into agricultural narcoproduction and as a strategy for peasant survival.



Considerations on Jorge Atilio Silva’s research document

Dario González Posso


Jorge Atilio Silvas's article contains some very interesting information regarding the sociology of marihuana crops in Brazil. Although this is not a comparative study, this research could be useful to interpret the crops issue in other countries such as Colombia, where the largest coca crop growing areas are currently found. It could be used to identify similarities and differences between the two scenarios: Brazil and Colombia.


The most important coincidences are tied to the existence in both countries of deep agrarian crises, unequal land and property distribution, macroeconomic policies which have adversely affected peasant production and the destruction of traditional peasant economies. Mega projects in Brazil, particularly in the northeastern region, are, as in the case of Colombia, causing forced displacement.


In the face of the voracity of agrarian capitalism and the impact of policies implemented by the consecutive governments which have led the peasant economy to extreme poverty, peasant growers of proscribed crops in northeastern Brazil −like those in Colombia− are hostages to survival strategies; among others, subsistence ties to proscribed crops. There is a coincidence between the application of these neoliberal policies, peasant impoverishment and the development of crops used for illicit purposes. We might, however, add that such conditions are not the sole consideration when interpreting the phenomenon since there are countries were these selfsame factors is to be found and yet peasants do not turn to these crops. This is something which should be studied. Independent of the interpretation of the causes, is also true that both in Brazil and Colombia, apart from the aforementioned structural factors and unfavorable public policies, peasants tied to proscribed crops are also the hostages of narcobusiness impresarios and narcotics traffickers. It is these businessmen who control a good part of the productive and supply side of the operations; they control transformation processes, drug marketing and traffic and earn the profits. Meanwhile, the peasants suffer the greatest risks for insignificant profits. As if this were not enough, in the case of Colombia, the peasantry is also subjected to economic pressure, under the power and violence of the country's armed actors that profit from the illegal economy.


One basic difference with the situation in Brazil is, undoubtedly, the existence in Colombia of an internal armed conflict and the ties of this war economy to the drug economy. This economy has some well-defined actors, namely, the irregular armed groups (paramilitaries and insurgency). Accordingly, proposals such as Henrys Salgado's for withdrawing peasants and their labor from the hands narcotics traffickers should be complemented by the idea pulling the peasants out from the war economy. This, however, cannot be done through more war, through aggression or forced eradication, fumigation and incrimination. It has to be the outcome of peaceful alternatives geared at recovering peasant economy.


Agrarian crisis, land concentration, and an absence of public policies geared at protecting peasant economy, forced displacement, all come together in Brazil as of the expansion of the marijuana crops in the "Polygon da maconha" within the framework of system which articulates local, interregional and international economies. These are the issues dealt with by Atilio Silva.


Translated from Spanish MM Moreno

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