Memoires of the Crops-Users Dialogue at the Thematic World Social Forum
Cartagena de Indias, Junio 16-20 2003


This new Mama Coca issue offers its readers a compendium of the lectures -abstracts, transcriptions and translations- and sum up of the dialogue on the issue of crops used for illicit purposes held on occasion of the Thematic World Social Forum in Cartagena de Indias from the 16th-20th of June 2003. It also includes a series of studies and doctoral theses which view forbidden plants and penalized substances and the issues provoked by current policies from social perspectives. The organization of the Cartagena dialogue was the collective endeavor of several organizations: Mama Coca, Corporation of Democratic Units for Peace and Development (CEUDES), the Institute for Peace and Development Studies (INDEPAZ), and Ecofondo, under the coordination of the Centre for Research and Popular Education (CINEP). We are indebted to them and to our guests for its success.

The articulation of transnational activism for peace, for environmental defense and humane drug policies which took place in Cartagena gave birth to the Independent Global Commission (IGC). Advocating for social insight and participation in drug policy design and implementation, over 50 people from all scopes of knowledge on the ‘drug’ issue came together at the Mama Coca Workshop on June 18th 2003 and joined in a proposal to create the IGC, to autonomously from goverment and multilateral agencies propose a social assessment of drug policies and their impacts. Here you will find a synthesis of the conclusions of this meeting and the initiatives to be undertaken by the IGC. These studies, geared at feeding the debate and practical initiatives, serve as the basic input for the IGC's activities. Namely, citizen's forums, roundtables, seminaries and workshops with grassroots’ organizations in the different countries and regions. Your support is invaluable and should help to make it feasible for us all to strengthen this civil-society initiative in resistance to increasing militarization and penalization.

The great stock of information and knowledge shared, summarized, transcribed and presented in English, Spanish and, in some cases, in French is aimed at contributing to the debate and exchange among those who have generously begun building the IGC, men and women, social leaders, experts and researchers viewing the issue from different outlooks and scopes of knowledge. The dialogue contained in this Mama Coca issue reflects a variety of perspectives, proposals and greatly enhances this collective endeavor to build alternatives upon the common ground which lays the basis for the IGC: the defense of Human Rights. Our starting point is one and the same: we advocate for the international 'drug' agenda to come under the competence of social knowledge and expertise; that policies be based on knowledge and experience. Thus the IGC convenes scholars, agrarian leaders, consumers and activists and a myriad of approaches and analyses on the issues of crops used for illicit purposes, use, norms and trafficking in a complementary joint task, to propose social perspectives and alternatives.

This Mama Coca issue also proposes a series of specialized articles in English on fumigation and transcriptions in Spanish of the numerous meetings held in Colombia on the legal means to keep on working to stop this barbarian practice of applying chemical warfare measures against defenseless Colombian peasant and indigenous communities all in the name of the War on Coca.

Currently, 'international co responsibility' is posed in terms of the doling out punishment: "You make sure you criminalize growers and we will take care of penalizing consumers." Countries are pitted against each other under producer and consumer categories. As if, after a hundred years of Drug War, this distinction still existed. This approach which obstructs a global perspective of the issue, blames consumers for the expansion of crops used for illicit purposes and growers for demand and use. The circular nature of this framework makes it possible to avoid directing Drug War offensives against related mafia and money-laundering networks who in the end benefit from Prohibition since generally punitive actions only impact precursor and weapon peddlers on the rebound. In the neoliberal system, organized illegal activities are a rich source of winnings and prohibitionist legislation is how the system ends up letting its enemies in.

If the aim is to legislate with the peoples' welfare in mind, social options must be found and decision-making political instances must be appealed to so that they might truly answer to the social expectations of the people they represent. This is what the Coca Bill here presented is all about, a search for peace, peace with Coca. It is neither desirable nor possible to eradicate plants with special properties and natural psychoactive substances with which humanity has and will necessarily continue to coexist. Forbidding the search for pleasure, for individual life options and survival is useless and counterproductive for one and all. Discourse which alleges that use and production impact third parties has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. The disastrous consequences are there for all to see; above all, as concerns intolerable Human Rights abuses and the reversal of Civil Liberties. Coca, marihuana and poppy peasant growers and consumers join their voices to demand an end to the criminalization they are subjected to, considering that the true crime is forbidding that which has for centuries been at the basis of sociability: a variety of substances which have incorrectly been labeled 'drugs' and/or narcotics.


María Mercedes Moreno and Darío González Posso

November 2003


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