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The Farc and their Relationship with the Coca Economy in Southern Colombia
Testimonies of Frontiersmen and Guerrilla Fighters

Juan Guillermo Ferro Medina[1]


Much has been speculated about the relationship between the FARC and Colombia’s Coca economy. The aim of this study is to review this relationship from a regional perspective (the Caquetá Department); an historical viewpoint (the past 20 years); and on the basis of the testimonies of the protagonists of this relationship (colonos [frontiersmen/settlers] and guerrilla fighters.) The territorial location, chronological follow-up, and live testimonies of these social actors has allowed for an understanding of this complex relationship, or at least, for an alternative comprehension of the “events” as compared to the reductionist, sensationalist or even moralist discourse typically expounded by national and international mass media.

The link between guerilla groups and Coca leaf cultivation is one of the most heated and complex issues as concerns political analyses regarding the FARC and therefore an extremely relevant issue in order to understand the difficulties encountered by Colombia’s current peace talks. Indicative of this pertinence are the two contradictory thesis regarding this relationship. The first one holds that the FARC has considerably expanded on a political and military level since it started becoming involved with Coca crops. The second sustains that , if it weren’t for the link FARC-Coca, this guerrilla group’s political standing would be much more advantageous..

This article analyzes how, in fact, the repercussions of this relationships differ depending on whether we take into consideration only Coca-growing regions, or the country as a whole. We, for our part, believe that the FARC’s decision to allow Coca cultivation meant both widening their scope of legitimacy -with some ups and downs- with growers while, on the other hand, it implied a loss of legitimacy with other actors and in general, in the eyes of the general public which is outside of this circuit. This study deals with the regional -as opposed to the national- expression of this problem in the Southern part of Colombia.

Furthermore, we believe that the FARC’s relationship with Coca crops is a dynamic and changing one as of modes of intervention which have not always been one and the same. In order to address the changing nature of this relationship our analysis is carried out in stages, which are developed throughout this text. Finally, the last part of this article analyzes and shows the FARC’s versión and the colonos cocaleros’ versión regarding the implications for the FARC of their different forms of intervention in Coca crop economy.

[1] Profesor-Investigador del Instituto de Estudios Rurales de la Facultad de Estudios Ambientales y Rurales de la Universidad Javeriana (Bogotá, Colombia).

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