The foremost goal of this Mama Coca issue is to inform the debate regarding the Coca leaf whose virtues are still today, and despite numerous efforts, practically unknown by the public at large. The Peruvian expert, Baldo Cáceres’s appeal Coca: tradition and promise, clearly mentions the difficulties encountered by any attempt at revalorizing this traditional crop. The distinction, Coca is not cocaine, seeks to portray the virtues of the Coca leaf and its potential. A most superficial knowledge of the subject suffices to understand that cocaine corresponds to treatment of this leaf which chemical precursors and NOT TO THE LEAF ITSELF. Coca and cocaine are clearly distinguishable and as such require different and well-informed approaches and in no case does their use justify the penal repression and military killing which is going on in the name of prohibition. On the other hand, the Coca leaf not only serves to make cocaine, just like marihuana is not only useful as a pill to counteract the side effects of chemotherapy. Conscious-altering natural plants have their mystique and, as has been pointed out on numerous occasions….for many indigenous peoples of America, the Coca leaf enables their ties with their spiritual being. Alan Labrousse tell us how these natural plants, marihuana, poppy and Coca, have been historically used as “weapons of war” and to subject the peoples of the colonized world and how, prohibition has contributed to their widespread use as chemical substances. Unfortunately, still today, the most crass disregard of history pretends to expound the universality of values which pertain to a self-defeated era and culture of prohibition; and, what’s worse, to impose them by armed force. Currently, as pointed out by Pulso of Bolivia, many Latin Americans consume the Coca leaf on a daily basis. Classifying this as drug abuse would be the equivalent of saying that drinking a cup of tea is an addiction.
The real “drug”-in the pejorative sense that’s been assigned to these substances- is brainwashing which tells us that it’s better to plant the world with landmines than with poppy, Coca and marihuana; and that: it’s either one or the other. Pierre Salama’s economic analysis, Cocaine, Counting and Miscounting, points to the fact that, microeconomic income tied to Coca growing under illegality is more of the same: bondage. Gilhem Fabre, in his book, and traces the ever-growing ties, under the shadow of illegality, between the different modes of traffic. The illegal arms market, according to Bruce Bagley, could become a major impediment to economic growth and democratic consolidation in some Latin American countries and Roberto Steiner observes that Colombia is perhaps the main victim of the illegal drug trade. What is evident is that, abiding by existing policies, we will cultivate and consume weapons as long as it revives a Neoliberal economy whose sole apparent reason for being is to open and conquer markets. The question would then be: Who consumes weapons? Governments and armed groups which make civilians the target of their wars all uphold the weapons manufacturers of the industrialized countries of the North. Nonetheless, the need to keep recession at bay through war does not detract from the fact that no justification is needed for this new crusade, now against terrorism: we are now defending ourselves against these same weapons.
And who are the rest of us? Those of us from the South to the North who are rebelling against such a preposterous “proposal” to build a non-inclusive globalization; the inherent contradiction is nothing if not obvious. Social unrest is widespread believing that a better world is possible but that this is only possible if inclusive and strong social structures are the norm. State terrorism and the “other” terrorism are entangled in an armed conflict (and if we let it, an all out global war) to impose their reductionist views in wars where the great majority of the people who are killed and persecuted are civilians.  In some of the countries of the North, apparently, social protest is unpatriotic while, in the countries of the South, as ever, anyone who dares go against is either put in jail or assassinated. Thus territories are controlled, resources monopolized, weapons are further justified, peddled, and the spiral of criminality allows more and more Human Rights and IHL violations. In this context, possibly the transition has not been effected yet from a South dedicated to growing and processing “illicit” natural plants to a South consumer of designer drugs. However, despite the triumph of laboratories, the Andean Amazon Region’s state of emergency is not over. We have been forewarned (in a not very subtle manner) by US officials that the we can expect more of the same in the name of countering narcotics traffic funded terrorist activities. It is yet too soon to say how the Plan Colombia and the Andean Regional Initiative will set off their “collateral damages” but what is obvious is that warmongering politicians will not fail to use this passe-partout “terrorism” to maintain the War on Drugs, this time within the frame work of the “Terrorist War”.
What is highlighted in the studies here compiled is the consensus (so often repeated and ignored by decision makers) regarding the absolute failure of the War on Drugs. Another observation is the growing narcotization of the US agenda with the Andean Region with all that this implies as concerns limited autonomy to implement direly required structural reforms adjusted to the region’s needs. This is the case of Development models in vogue Currently, the favorite is Alternative Development which comes together with “voluntary” social eradication pacts; it’s either that or chemical war. Pesticides, as shown by the studies of the worldwide Pesticide Action Network, are destroying lands and peoples. In Colombia, the situation is even more dramatic since the country’s peasants and indigenous communities are being bombarded from the air with chemical substances. The Colombian state, instigated by Washington, declared a chemical war on its citizens almost 30 years ago within, naturally, the framework of the War on Drugs. Pastrana himself -prior to becoming the country’s president- talked in Congress regarding the destructive effects of fumigation. War necessarily means Human Right abuses and several writings point to the threat which hangs over Colombia of the most inhumane of all: biological war. The studies published here by Mama Coca are the testimony, fact-founded observations, recommendations and demands made by the Andean Region’s experts and US and French academics. They refer to the prosperities of crime and the growing scope of organized corruption in a market of fools sustained thanks to the misery and criminalization of small crop growers.
María Mercedes Moreno
February 2002