II NATIONAL MEETING OF CITIZEN ROUNDTABLES FOR A PEACE AGENDA
Roundtable: ‘Illicits’ Crops and Peace Agenda
Alternate Peaceful Solutions to the "War on Drugs"
Bogotá, March 2001
With the initiation of the Plan Colombia, the issue of
crops used for illicit purposes has become the central topic of Colombian
politics. This will continue to be so in the years to come. If the
future of peace and war depends on the decisions made regarding this issue,
it is imperative for civil society to propose peaceful alternatives towards
promoting sustainable development, social justice and the respect of the
individual and communal rights of the peoples living in regions where Coca,
poppy and marihuna are grown. Those of us who are searching for peace have
the moral and political obligation to thwart a military offensive against
Colombian peasants carried out in the name of "the war on drugs and against
violence", which permits narcotics mafias to maintain their hold on international
havens and to increase their wealth thanks to the high prices, violence
and corruption which accompanies prohibitionism.
We wish to present the following programatic proposals regarding the
relationship between "'Ilicit' Crops and the Peace Agenda" to Colombia's
civil society, political parties, insurgency, government and to the international
I. Halt Fumigations Inmediately!
A recent instance of intensive aerial fumigation is that of the department
Putumayo. Acording to the Defensoría del Pueblo (Ombusdman), even
Alternative Development Proyects and projects sponsored by the international
community were fumigated; as were fumigated the licit crops of peasant
and indigenous communities who had already signed “letters of intentions
or of engagement" for voluntary manual eradication. Spraying with "gliphosate"
herbicide —states this official report— increased the deforestation of
the Amazon piedmont, destroyed food crops and medicinal plantations, affected
fishing sources, increased the migration of wildlife, contaminated waters
sources, jeopardized food supplies, raised the cost of living and led to
population displacement towards other regions of Colombia and to Ecuador..
Putting and end to fumigations against peasants, settlers and indigenous
communities is today one of the priorities towards defending the Human
Rights and the integrity of these communities and their families, their
health, staple crops, and the region's ecosystems and biodiversity, which
are all being endangered by the repressive policies applied against crops
which have come to be considered illicit.
Categorically reject all projects geared at carrying out research or using
weapons to eradicate marihuana, Coca or poppy crops. To this end, the
United Nations Narcotics Commission and the Biological and Toxin Weapons
Convention Conference shall be petitioned to impose a global ban on the
use of biological agents against crops.
II. Design a Fresh Approach to International Co-responsibility
A renewed concept of shared international responsibility —that not only
addresses the negative effects that the demand for narcotics has on producing
countries— but that also covers the effects generated by the punitive
policies imposed to control narcotics.
An equitable pratice of co-responsibilty cannot therefore consist of allocating
military "aid" for counternarcotics purposes to supplier countries nor
can it be minimal resources for an "alternative development" which solely
complements the use of force against peasant populations. It should rather
be the promotion of peaceful solutions and structural reforms with sufficient
funding from the countries which consume, produce and supply the chemical
precurssors and/or serrve as laundering havens to the profits of the narcotics
III. Assess Counternarcotics Policies
Conterdrug strategies and prohibitionism created the problem suffered by
producer countries such as Colombia. Accordingly, prestigious intellectuals
have promoted an international debate on legalization, they advocate depenalization
and insist that criminal organizations involved in the drug phenomenon
will only be defeated when their finacial structures —built on the profits
generated by prohibition— are dismantled..
Aside from being useless, "drug policies" sponsored by the United States
are dangerously fostering increasing levels of domestic lawlessness, regional
militarization, and the spill-over of Colombia internal conflict.
Colombian civil society has an important role to play if its voice is heard
on the international scene; as an expression of decades of experience on
the recieving end of "drug policies". Thus the importance of convoking
ad constituting a High-Level World Commission on the Drug Issue
that would assess 30 years of the "War on Drugs" and on the pontential
benefits of depenalization and legalization, as proposed at the International
"Peace for Colombia" Summit held in Costa Rica on October 2000.
IV. Decriminalize and despenalize: the basics towards concurrence
Apart from halting fumigation, another basic condition required to establish
a fair dialogue with the producers of this raw material used for
illicit purposes is to consider them as legitimate social interlocutors
in the search for peaceful, gradual and compromised solutions. To attain
decriminalization, civil society should lobby in the Congress of the Republic
of Colombia to have the National Narcotics Statute (Estatuto Nacional de
Estupefacientes) or Law 30 of 1986 modified.
Agile, unbiased and efficient mechanisms to process civil law suits
for damages from fumigation —suffered by peasant and indigenous communities
under "counternarcotics operations"— need to be implemented.
The rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional use of the Coca Leaf
need to be fully recognized, and no prohibition whatsoever should be
imposed on these crops for medical, foodstuff and licit industrial
uses. In order to keep these crops from falling into the hands of
the narcotics mafia, the state and the international community could buy
the marihuana, Coca and poppy harvests while the mid and long-term regional
development and crop-substitution projects take hold.
Considering the impossibility of totally eliminating drugs, educational
initiatives should be undertaken to promote social self-responsibility
among young people, and drug addiction should be dealt with as a public
health problem, much as tobacco and alcohol. Demand countries should take
into consderation the fact that depenalization of drug consumption
is not an integral policy as long as the war continues to be carried out
in supplier countries.
Focus “legitmate repression legítima” -Law Enforcement- on
the financial links of the illict trade chain, precussor supply and narcotics
traffic by eliminating the legal and tax facilites which allow for the
repatriation and legalization of illicit earnings through the development
of international co-responsibility accords.
V. Progressive, shared and equitable
Depending on the type of illicit crop refered to, the state and the international
community should apply differential strategies: concerted substitution,
gradual, manual, clean-cut and with financial reparation for peasant crops;
and uncompensated, manual, uncontaminating eradication for industrial plantations.
This implies repealing articles 3 and 4 of Resolución 005
of August 11, 2000, which authorizes the National Narcotics Council to
fumigate fractioned and/or mixed illicit crops, without regard to the area
Experience indicates that peasants cannot expect much of state subsidies.
Within a global notion of progressive or gradual implementation, the significance
of the illicit economy, including the number of hectares planted, should
be considered an advancement and not a necessary prerequisite to social
For this reason, manual eradication proposals —put forward by the state
or by the communities themselves— but which are born out of the intimidation
of fumigation, food shortages or the threat of war, are neither just nor
feasible. The structural problems which confront the Colombian countryside
require long-term solutions that have nothinbg to do with the peremptory
ten-month deadlines stipulated by the government. The question is:
as regards alternative development, who has the responsibility of showing
results? Peasants confronted by adverse economic factors or the state
which has fostered rural injustice and the critical situation of Colombia´s
A pact is an act of goodwill among the parties, which on equal standing
define its contents, processes and results. Civil society should advocate
for manual eradication pacts which honor their goals by keeping the use
of force from weakening the abilty of peasants, settlers and indigenous
communities from arriving at true compromises with the government. From
the standpoint of the defense of Human Rights, we must be vigilant
so that the strong actors of counternarcotics policies do not manhandle
the rights of highly vulnerable populations.
VI. Substitution or competitive policies?
In fragile ecosystems, substituting with licit crops does not necessarily
constitute a sustainable and productive reconversion endeavor. Depending
on the type of soils, instead of substituting crops it would be advisable
to develop activities which would compete with those agricultural
activities which are related to the narcotics trade with others which,
although not necessarily aiming at similar profitability, would guarantee
secure food sources and the wellbeing of the local inhabitants. One
proposal would be to improve farming and cattle ranching through sustainable
means such as arboreous fields, stabled cattle, reforesting, fisheries,
animal breeding, and other alternative and biodiverse models of agriculture.
Another socially, economical and environmental viable alternative is to
not the plant itself but it use towards food, medical and other purposes.
VII. Self-management, solidarity and environmental sutainability
Local empowerment, participative democracy and self-management are essential
prerequisites to the implementation of competitive and sustainable socia
This focus would strengthen communal solidarity and coexistence and would
foster a more harmonious relationship whith the natural environment. Afro-Americans',
indigenous people's and peasant communities' experience in the field of
successful productive models, organizational traditions and life planning
(planes de vida) should be incorporated into the design of local and regional
development policies and programs.
VIII. Agrarian Reform, Territorial Planning, and Employment
A new development model which encompasses opportunies for the poorer
sectors. This includes an a agrarian reform,which, in a period of
no longer than 5 years, would democratize land tenure there where the soil
can be destined for agricultural uses; recompose peasant economies so as
to secure the country's food sources; stabilize colonization processes,
revert migratory flows, and stem forced displacement of populations.
Incentivate environmentally-sound territorial planning which would distinguish
between occupied areas and protected areas, ban from colonization territories
located on fragile ecosystems o which cannot be reconverted to sutainalbe
productive use. The ensuing population relocation programs should
be voluntary and gradual with due guarantees for a dignified
and secure life in the areas of reception.
Land-distribution policies can be intitiated through forfeiture of narcotics
traffickers' rural landholdings. ,
the expropriation of private landholdings wich are idle, and through the
development of Peasant Reserves (Zonas de Reserva Campesina) in those
areas where land is meant for agricultural uses and not solely in colonization
It is absolutely necessary to design rural development, economic reactivation,
employment and training policies of a preventive nature in order to keep
young people from poorer urban centers from migrating and turning to the
planting, harvesting or servicing in the regions producing Coca or poppy
for illicit purposes.
IX. Rocognition of Indigenous People's Autonomy
A special set of laws must be enacted towards the protection
of cultural and biological biodiversity namely, protecting knowledge,
innovations and traditional practices of indigenous peoples, peasant and
Afro-American communities; in accordance with common and international
law as under the 1991 Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization
and the Biological Diversity Convention.
It is absolutely imperative that the autonomy, territorial rights
and collective nature of traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples be
recognized. To this end, a moratorium on biosprospection must be
declared until the cultural legacy of indigenous peoples and communities
is duly protected by national and international law. .
X. Actions by the peace and negotiation tables
Multilateral ceasefire and backing for a negotiated settlement to
Colombia's armed conflcit with the aim of creating a propitious environment
for peaace talks and negotiation, with the participation of civil society
and the international community.
Public Fund for Promoting Peace in Colombia, coordinated by the
national government, the insurgency and social organizations in order to
sponsor social development proyect with funding by the international community
together with the existing Peace Investment Fund.
“Alternative development, peace and environmental protection laboratories”,
on the basis of three-party agreements between the government, the insurgent
forces, and the local communities within a multilateral armed truce,
for the maintenance needs of the insurgency and crop substitution in predetermined
areas. An Oversight and Verification Commission would accompany
Latin American Peace Commission to assess the impact of the Plan
Colombia on the Andean and Amazon Regions and to support the peace process
and seek alterantives to chemical fumigation and to the threat of biological
warfare from foreign governments and multilateral agencies.
XI. Social Mobilization, support for regional oversight and processes
To strengthen the peace process and peaceful solutions to illicit use of
crops, social national and international mobilization must be incentivated
against fumigation with herbicidesand in favor of Colombian sovereignty
and of the defense of basic rights of Colombians to their lives and secure
food sources, health and a sound natuaral environment.
Likewise, regional integration processes as alternatives to the Plan
Colombia must be sponsored, as in the case of the Alliance of the
Governors of the South; support given to local, regional, national
and international oversight over the impact of fumigation against crops
used for illicit purposes and in order to carry out follow-ups on the manual
erradication pacts signed by the government and the local comunities.
This proposal summary is the result of a discussion process carried out
at different events during the past year. On the 22, 29 and 30 of March
2001 members of different social organizations participated in the Roundtables:
CINEP (Center for the Research and Education of the People), Observatory
on Drugs (Observatorio de Drogas), Legislative Unit of Senator Rafael Orduz,
Legislative Unit of Representative Gustavo Petro, ILSA or Latin American
Institute for Alternative Legal Services, Centro Debate, INDEPAZ (Institute
for Peace Studies), CEUDES (Democratic Corporations for Development), ANDAS
(National Association for Solidarity and Aid) , Corporación Telar
de Agua, Crisoles, ICANH (Colombia Institute of Anrhopology and History),
Indigenous Resguardo of Calderas, CIDER, Fundepublico, Conferencia
Episcopal, USO Syndicate Peace Assembly, Siempreviva, "Illicit" Crops Network
of the Andes University, Semilla Mejorana and independent researchers.
In order to widen the scope of these debates and to continue with them,
a proposition is made regarding the need to organize regional Roundtables
and discussion groups.
Defensoría del Pueblo (Ombudsman), Informe
Defensorial # 1, 9 feb/01; Resolución
# 4, 12 feb/01. www.defensoria.org.co
which was once chewed solely by the indigenous peoples of our isoltaed
mountains, became a luxury intem thanks to US government policies. Something
we had little say in, neither in its origins nor in its fatal results.
But now we are ‘The Colombian Connection’”, said the ex-president Alberto
Lleras Camargo (EL TIEMPO, Bogotá February 1979).
Law 333 of 1996
seeks to shortcut and lower the costs of identifying genetic resources,
or active principle of living organisms, in order to transform them, for
example, into pharmaceutic products. To this end, the collective knowledge
of local and indigenous communities is used. The problem rises when this
genetic knowledge and resources —which are inalienable— is usurped
through patenting, including that of living organisms, and through shady
“economic retributions”. It is at this point that biosprospection becomes
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