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The following text is a Working Paper for the 2002 candidacy to the presidency of Colombia :
"Lucho Presidente".

 Presidential candidate Lucho Garzón has clearly expressed his views on the drugs issue. These include, among others, demands to ban chemical fumigations and to cease hostilities against peasant and indigenous communities and other forced eradication strategies under the consideration that all of these measures ensue in Human Rights violations. As stated in his “Government Program”, Lucho considers that "Counterdrug policies should be redesigned to focus on health and public education, to abandon current prohibitionist repression, and to launch a scientific and political debate regarding legalization alternatives at the national and international levels.” 

 According to Lucho’s proposals ¾apart from addressing harm reduction for those who suffer from abuse of chemical substances and from demand control policies¾ crop-growing countries must stop incriminating and waging war against their peasants. Harm reduction in the case of drug abuse and depenalization of consumption must go hand in hand with the decriminalization of growers of natural plants used to extract illicit chemical substances and a halt to forced eradication of their crops. 

 Colombia lacks autonomous policies to address its particular circumstances while, at an international level, the terms of “shared responsibility” need to be redefined and legitimate law enforcement should be redirected to focus on narcotics trafficking finances, the chemical precursors trade, and money laundering havens. 

 Clearly, the search for global and productive alternatives to drug abuse requires structural economic and social measures, namely, democratic policies such as agrarian reform, territorial organization and employment.

Working paper

Frente Social y Político- Luis Eduardo Garzón
Colombian Presidential candidate 2002

Narcotics Traffic and Counterdrug Strategies

The drug issue involves two basic aspects which are closely linked:
  1. The first aspect is the illegal drug economy which has three basic components, firstly, production of illicit crops and processing of raw materials for the world market; secondly, trafficking, which not only includes drug exports but also related activities such as money laundering ¾probably the most significant aspect as concerns the illegal economy¾ and lastly, drug abuse and consumption-related issues.
  2. The second aspect involved refers to antidrug policies founded on the prohibitionist paradigm which serves to design public policies. Colombian antidrug policies are closely tied to its bilateral agenda with the United States. The “narcotization” of the bilateral agenda ¾aggravated by its import on other issues shared with Washington¾ has meant Colombia’s total loss of autonomy in dealing with the drug issue as drug management has become an instrument for negotiating other strategic topics of government interest.
Considering the aforementioned and, in the search for an alternative proposal which would distinguish between the different components of the drug circuit, we suggest three basic levels of analysis so as to have a clearer grasp of the issues involved and of the means to address them. To sum it up graphically:


Links in the illegal drug circuit Policies Levels of nationwide state management Government instances in charge International Cooperation
Production Alternative Development Autonomy with cooperative criteria Environment, Agriculture and Development authorities Technical Cooperation for Development
Processing and traffic Law Enforcement (legitimate application of rule of law)  International shared-responsibility agreements  Attorney General, Police, Judiciary, Financial Control, and Narcotics Directory  Shared information systems, money laundering repression agreements, forfeiture consultancy, judicial cooperation,
Abuse and consumption related issues Public Health  Autonomy with cooperative criteria Health Authorities and Mayors Offices Information sharing regarding experiences in addressing drug abuse 

Drugs and Autonomy

The proposed distinctions show that there are two areas where it is feasible to design more autonomous policies:
  1. In the field of production, namely, crops used for illicit purposes.
  2. In the area of abuse and consumption-related issues.
Taking up partial crop substitution proposals under policies which do not address the global issue and the distinct levels of this circuit, including trafficking, is a self-defeating undertaking doomed to repeat the failures of the past and present paradigm which places the emphasis on reducing drug supply. A comprehensive proposal should contemplate policies geared towards harm reduction based on the following criteria:
  1. Drugs cannot be “eradicated”. Society should aim at addressing the complexity and diversity of the drug scenarios, including law enforcement, while achieving an inevitable coexistence, where the harm for those involved with these products ¾growers and consumers¾ is minimized.
  2. Both drug production and abuse generally answer to social, economic and cultural conditions which vary from one region and country to the other. The drug traffic, on the other hand, ¾of an international nature¾ takes advantage of all of these scenarios, stimulates both ends and keeps the profits in the hands of the great “legal” and illegal fortunes of the globalized world. It is therefore highly unfeasible that by focusing on producer regions, where the problem is intimately related to structural deficiencies, we can solve such a complex, global and conflict-ridden situation.
  3. One-crop farming dependence on coca, poppy and marihuana generates a series of problems for these regions such as social, economic and environmental instability which endangers: food sources, proper use of biodiversity, indigenous communities’ social and cultural heritage, settlement processes in the Amazon and other frontier territories; not to mention the fact that producers are unfairly made the target of this indefensible war.
  4. The fact that the armed groups are partially responsible for the existence and control of crops used for illicit purposes within the framework of a war which is in part sustained by these resources makes their role in the search for solutions particularly important. These solutions should, naturally, be designed in accordance with the obligations which have been agreed to as of peace negotiations, and accompanied by the duties assumed by the state.


a. Production : Alternative Proposals to dependence on monoculture of crops used for illicit purposes.

This proposal is to be framed within social and economic development programs at a regional level. In other words, the impact of wide-ranging rural and environmental development policies will serve as the framework for decision making beyond the sole consideration of “substituting” crops used for illicit purposes by legal productive activities.

Circumscribing the way the problem is addressed to ¨projects¨ and their funding (as has been the case up to now) is not by any means an appropriate management principle if not laid down within a framework of prior strategic definitions of the drug issue and the need to design policies of a national nature.

As refers to production, this policy focuses on :

  1. Banning fumigation
  2. Concerted alternative development strategies. These would be designed in agreement with the communities involved and implemented through gradual substitution measures as of tailored investments which consider the rational use, management and organization of these territories in accordance with environmental protection requirements
  3. Decriminalization of small crop growers.
  4. Agreements with armed actors. A solution to the drug problem in our country as of a redefinition of the peace process to include the autonomous participation of the communities involved in this economic process.
  5. The assurance that peace, personal safety, human rights and international humanitarian law will be respected in the implementation of this policy in the territories involved in this economic process.

b. Traffic and Processing

The basic criterion is:

A drug policy for Colombia which would incorporate international co-responsibility concepts and practices.

  1. On the basis of autonomous definitions both as concerns production and consumption-related issues, we recognize the fact that narcotics trafficking is a problem of international scope and that, as such, international co-responsibility policies and agreements are required to address this issue with other than the current distorted management being given to the issue.
  2. The international community should set itself a certain number of goals regarding the following aspects:
  3. Money laundering
  4. Weapons trafficking
  5. Contraband
  6. Chemical precursors exports
  7. Adequate monitoring of synthetic drug laboratories.
  8. Addressing the issue of illegal economic activities tied to narcotics traffic resources in the countries of the North, namely, international prostitution networks, slave trade, gambling activities which serve as cover up for these illegal drug trafficking economies.
  9. Forfeiture policies for assets acquired through drug trafficking
  10. Institutional reforms designed to target drug trafficking, mainly as concerns:
As of these sure and tangible agreements on the part of the international community, Colombia would develop the goals to be fulfilled insofar as production is concerned, autonomously addressing this aspect.

c. Consumption Related Problems

  1. Reformulating this aspect as pertaining to the realm of Colombia’s health authorities.
  2. Addressing the issue first and foremost from a harm reduction perspective both as concerns drugs themselves and the policies designed to deal with the drug phenomenon.
  3. Redesigning institutions along criteria according to which, drug abuse issues and management should be the responsibility of health authorities and should not fall within the scope of repression. This focus should be applied both at municipal and nationwide administrative levels.
  4. Developing legal and institutional approaches towards decriminalizing personal doses and drug use. Legal precedents ¾such as the 1994 Constitutional Court ruling regarding personal consumption¾ should be followed up on by adapting the pertinent institutions and designing adequate public policies.
Translated by María Mercedes Moreno, Mama Coca

[1] The current state of affairs is one of an extremely alarming lack of organization where different assignments and instances overlap due to the inexistence of a coherent policy stipulating  the corresponding responsibilities.

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