Carlos Gustavo Cano*
Alternative development is not a separate thing from the construction of a new system of life that is based on an economic system that is also new.
It is not simply about replacing various coca leaf plants with pineapple plants, or some poppy plants for an equal number of lulo bushes. Some of the reasons are: the extreme fragility of the ecosystems in the areas where these illicit cultivations thrive, especially the first, which occupies 95 percent of the extension covered by both; the small amount of vegetation on the ground and slopes; and the total absence of basic infrastructure in terms of roads, adequate land, water and electricity.
The effective solution of the problem has to come from an understanding of its demographic makeup, which refers to the geographic origin of the hundreds of thousands of colonists who were expelled from the Andean and coastal regions for lack of economically viable spaces in the legal agriculture tradition. And there, a substantial part of the enormous social cost results from not having advanced a reform redistributing agrarian and agroindustrial properties in Colombia in time; by excluding a million peasant families from being considered for credit during the past five years because of the corruption that buried the Caja Agraria with impunity; and by the ruin to which this group of citizens were condemned by the neo-liberal experiment that wiped out their agro businesses by unjustly charging them with inefficiency and incompetence.
The other part of the cost is represented in the geopolitical collapse out of which flowed something like an economic holocaust, that is, the loss of the ability to govern the state. Or, seen from the opposite side, the enthronement of other states, ruled from the sanctuaries and “caguanes” of the narco-paramilitary and the narco-guerrilla, from which their leaders fight for territorial control and thus, for the bought or forced loyalty of the coca and poppy farmers that don’t have any other option than to accept their “protection” in the wake of abandonment brought on by the doctrine of free trade in the market.
Alternative development, then, cannot be separate from the construction of a new way of life that is based on an economic system that is also new. To begin, eliminating the treatment of victims and delinquents which the self named good guys- with police and army in the lead-come meting out to those that in reality have been the victims and the sufferers of their injustice. Second, concentrating on the action of prohibition solely and exclusively in the networks that clandestinely buy the crops- obviously eliminating the fumigations- and substituting government agencies for them that will purchase and pay the growers off during the time that it takes to resettle them in other activities. Or paying them over an equal amount of time the equivalent of the minimum legal salary, as a form of unemployment benefit. And thirdly, inducing the most profound reorientation in history of the public business sector and private spending toward the organization and establishment of nuclear businesses that are integrated vertically toward the processing and marketing of forest products and the half cycle of the Orinoco river basin, and the business sector of the conventional semestral cycle.
The financing of this business cannot be imagined as simply “aid”, but as indemnity that the consumers of drugs, the richest people on earth, are morally obligated to pay as long as they resist the legalization or regulation of their business.
Translated from Spanish by Cynthia Miller
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