It's not easy to talk about the Coca leaf

−from the bottom up−

Nancy Obregon Peralta

*Sub secretary National Confederation of Peru’s Agricultural Cocalero Producers (Conpaccp)



Good afternoon Firstly, I would like to thank the organizers of this event, Mama Coca, for allowing me to be here with you and also the valuable opportunity to hear our compañeros and tell them that for us, Coca-leaf producers, it is not easy to talk about anti-drug policies, policies of war against drugs, talk about subversion because they have always labeled us as the initiators of subversion, as the promoters of war. And I want to mention something to you, that that mentality has been adopted as of North American government spheres which the only thing it has tried is to make us believe -Latinos, Europeans and our compañeros from the North American people, that the Coca leaf is bad and that we Coca leaf producers are delinquents; that the Latin American peasants have no other option because we are lazy.  But I want to mention something to you, we want an opportunity to be the hope of Latin America, the hope of our world and, why not, the hope of the future of our children, of our nation. 


With these words, I want to commence my brief exposition regarding the Coca leaf topic in my country. Maybe you have heard of the different marches, strikes, mobilizations and the past March of Sacrifice that we carried out in the city of Lima, reason why I am here today representing my Peruvian Coca companions.


I want to tell you that unfortunately being a producer, being a peasant these years and in this century, is a sin. At this same moment, our maximum leader, Nelson Palomino Laserna, is still imprisoned, accused of terrorism, narcotics trafficking and other attributes given to him by the government. Today they rectified what they said and they said that he is not a terrorist, that he is not a narcotics trafficker, and I worry that there might be other companions in Bolivia that have been put into prison the same way.


Where does it come from, this political persecution against the cocalero leaders and the peasants who attempt to rise up against an imperialist mentality? Unfortunately, we thought that we were coming to the great capital Lima to rescue and revalorize our sacred Coca leaf and we did not notice that we had to rescue our President Toledo's mentality because he was becoming a prisoner of his own conscience, because he was receiving orders from the highest level and we are going to say the whole, from the highest level of the North American government. This is the way in which I myself and my Peruvian companions − mostly peasants− think.  Maybe this is why our companion Nelson is imprisoned. I'm not scared of prison, what I am scared of is that we continue keeping quiet year after year and allowing a very large monster to continue trying to monopolize and trying to hold our governments -Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and other countries- as puppets.


This is why we are in this World Social Forum hearing the issues of the conferences, of the wars, of each one of these excellent speakers' participation. I am not a great professional, simply a peasant, but the university of life has taught me that I should speak with the whole truth. My tongue has no holding back; I speak with my heart and with my thought, with my whole body because this is the daily life of all humble peasants who the only thing they are asking for is a chance. 


This sacred Coca leaf is for us our life, the virtue of living in our selva, on our land. This sacred Coca leaf has united men women and children to say no to the great war against drugs, no to militarization of our territories, no to violence, no to war.  And we are going to tell you why we say no to war: because interdiction, forced eradication, and violence originate a great loss, not only in human lives but also in the working fields, subversive groups are starting to come out and so they say that they are funded by the Coca leaf and I am telling you that that is a lie; they come out because the peoples are being humiliated and mistreated still in the middle of the 21st century.  I'm not defending the ideology of the subversive groups.  I respect all types of ideology, I am defending the life of these more humble men, the life of those children who want to have an opportunity; and the opportunity can be given in this great World Social Form, giving us peasants, Coca leaf producers, cannabis growers, the opportunity to take us off the list of narcotics and to say that the Coca leaf is not a drug, that cannabis is not a drug and is not evil. And we kill the war because this war which is coming against us the humble, generates large amounts of millions of dollars for the North American government.  It is the simulation of war against drugs that the only thing it is going to do is to draw us even further into misery.


I am aware as a mother, as a daughter, as a wife, that the narcotics traffic is the greatest scourge in the world, that drugs are the greatest scourge in the world, but for us, the Latinos and humble peasants, the greatest scourge in the world is hunger and it is for this hunger that many men and women try to be resistant against this neo-liberal policy and, if you get me wrong my compañeros, I would like to tell you once again that my tongue has no holding back and I speak from my heart and with my whole thought.


Today I hear many Colombians say why did you not bring back Fujimori instead of having him sent to Japan.  Here in Colombia I wish to tell you that I have lived the insurgency of terror on the part of the government and, if somebody says that terrorism killed 25 million Peruvians, I will tell you frankly: more of an assassin was the Fujimori government because it killed men, women and children; because it killed men, women, and children that were not guilty at all. The same thing is happening here in Colombia. And this is the same thing that I see happening here in Colombia: more repression more violence, more repression more hunger, more repression more humiliation. And those children, they will be like the Peruvian children, without a father and without a mother.


We are speaking from a human standing because I come from the people that have been victimized for years. We have come out of that victimization. We have tried to rise up and you might ask yourself why it is that today we women talk much. Because it is we women who defend and defended our men, our children, because we are not scared to say to them no more misery, no more outrages. And this is what the women who led the March of the Sacrifice tell President Toledo today: you tell us “no” with blackmail, but we would tell you why the devil did you teach us to fight? Why did you teach us to be persevering? And today I am telling you Mr. President, give us a chance so that we may govern together "from the bottom to the top", "from inside out” and from “the countryside to the city". This is the only way that, from the visibility of the most humble, you can help any government to be able to develop. We do not need policies implemented from the top-down, but from the soil itself because we peasants, my dear compañeros, are like the oak planted in the land and we are not like the great bureaucrats who hang −much like those plants which exist in the Amazon which we call treekillers (matapalos)− which grow from the top down and plant their roots and start killing the tree that can truly give good wood.


This wood is here my compañeros and I want to ask you in this Thematic World Social Forum that we change our mentality and that we not only speak of war and of what we will do tomorrow or later, as other compañeros say, we are going to see how much we will make. The only thing I want to tell you is that it hurts greatly to see many Colombian children living in totally inhumane situations; many Colombia women living in totally disastrous situations. And we say this because I myself lived in this manner, like my brothers, who are reaching these extremes due to the great violence of the government’s insurgency and also that of the guerrilla groups and the paramilitary.


I do not understand what this policy is, but the only thing I understand is that the human being has the right to live and the only thing I understand is that the sacred plant also has the right to life.  Nobody told them that we were drugs. The only human being that has acted like some animal are we ourselves for having extracted Cocaine from this marvelous plant called Coca only to now say that it is a Satanic tree. I want to tell you, help us, not white powder, but to extract from this sacred material the green powder, Coca soap, and the basic foodstuff which is the Coca leaf. Help us, help your own country, Colombian brothers. Help those men and women who need you. And maybe, as they say my country, I went a bit too far but maybe the only thing that I want to talk now is in a human manner because the situation in which I am seeing this country, and mine, is the same. And to you, my European and North American compañeros, tell you that this inhumane situation passes directly from a neoliberal policy from an Imperialist policy. This policy which the only thing it is doing is to undermine the poorer of the poor, to take the bread from the mouths of the most miserable and the most needy and to give more money to the rich; and that is why we are where we are. No matter how many World Social Forums we hold, from here to the coming century, we will never be able to change if we do not change our mentality and, we will never change, if we don't stop thinking the way we think.  Let's stop being Italian, Peruvian, Chilean; we are brothers and one sole mentality: no to wars, yes to love; yes to the great reserve which is our biodiversity, no to fumigation. This is what I wanted to tell you my compañeros and perhaps forgive me if I have not made such an overwhelming conference as you would have liked, but I think that this was the necessary moment to tell you things as I see them, as I feel them, as I have seen them. I also wanted to here tell our Colombia brothers that they can count on us, we the humble can support each other. I do not understand the policy now but maybe, further on as old age sets in, I will learn as much as my Peruvian compañeros, Baldomero Cáceres, like Hugo Cabieses, like Ricardo Soberón, like mama coca Mercedes, who quite impress me with the knowledge they have. Thank you very much for listening to me



Transcribed by Alejandro Mejia

Acbra Mama Coca www.mamacoca.org

Translated by MM Moreno




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