December 21, 2013
At the beginning of this week, representatives of the government of Colombia and the FARC-EP initiated their 18th round of peace talks in Havana. Concurrently, a unilateral ceasefire declared by the FARC on December 8, went into effect for a month beginning on December 15, 2013. This round of talks has focused on the issue of illicit crops and drug-trafficking. On December 20, the peace delegations completed the relatively brief round of discussions and issued a joint statement, Communiqué #30 (read it here). The delegates acknowledged the proposals made by civil society through a variety of forums and thanked the group of nations–Cuba, Norway, Chile, and Venezuela–that have been accompanying the talks.
The joint statement indicated that during this week, the table had received “valuable contributions” from experts in the academic community, peasant leaders, and community organizations of women regarding the issue of illicit drugs. A separate statement released by the FARC on December 20, provided more details about the week. (Read it here.) The FARC noted that the week was launched with a visit by experts from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, and included presentations in Havana facilitated by the National University of respected scholars including Darío Fajardo, Ricardo Vargas, Francisco Thoumi, Rodrigo Uprimny and Alfredo Molano, as well as peasants from Meta, Guaviare, and Cauca.
The FARC also expressed appreciation for the inputs generated from the two forums on illicit crops and drug-trafficking organized by the National University and the UN on September 24-26 in Bogota and October 1-3 in San Jose del Guaviare. The organizers had collected and systematized the proposals from more than 1,300 people representing more than 550 social organizations from all over the country who participated in those forums and delivered them to Havana at the beginning of the previous cycle of talks on November 29. (See more here.)
Civil Society Inputs
In the civil society forums in Bogotá and San José del Guaviare, participants complained that the cure was worse than the problem and called for new approaches that considers the socio-economic roots of illicit crop production. (Read about the forums here.) Such policies should not criminalize the small coca producers or the consumers, should respect cultural and medicinal use, and should focus on “policies of prevention, regulation, health, and education.” They also noted the need to dismantle the networks that profit economically from the commercialization drugs overseas, and that participate in the chain of money laundering. (See El Espectador on this topic.)
In the regional forum in San José del Guaviare, Fabrizio Hochschild, the UN coordinator for Colombia, underscored the “disproportionate negative effect of drugs and illicit crops on women and youth. “In the case of women, we heard testimonies regarding the increase in prostitution, rape, the use of women as “mules” [to transport drugs], and adolescent pregnancy. We also heard testimonies about an increase in domestic violence,” noted Hochschild. The consequences of illicit crop cultivation and drug-trafficking for youth includes an increase in school drop-out rates, the loss of traditional peasant identities and a loss of the deep connection of the younger generation of peasants to their lands, and increased vulnerability of youth and adolescents to recruitment for the production of illicit crops and drug-trafficking. (See his complete comments here.)
An earlier set of forums carried out in October and November 2012 during the first round of regional tables to contribute to the end of the conflict (mesas regionales para contribuir al fin del conflicto) convened by the Peace Commissions of the Congress provided additional proposals for the table in Havana. In meetings in Barranquilla, Bogotá, Bucaramanga, Florencia, Medellín, Pasto, Popayán, Sincelejo, and Villavicencio, some 2,990 people, representing 1,333 organizations, presented 4,000 proposals on the first three items of the Havana agenda–integral agrarian development, political participation, and illicit crops. These proposals were systematized by the United Nations and included the following key proposals:
- Suspend aerial fumigation and forced manual eradication in favor of alternative development programs;
- Design crop substitution programs with the participation of the affected communities;
- Promote rural alternative development;
- Consider the regional territorial differences in the design of alternative development programs;
- Give amnesty to the small producers of illicit crops who face prosecution;
- Decriminalize the use of coca for ritual, medicinal, and industrial purposes;
- Legalize psychotropic plants like coca, marijuana, and poppy plants.
In addition to the aforementioned “official” channels shaping inputs into the Havana process, there continue to be a variety of efforts to articulate concrete visions on the theme of illicit crops and drug-trafficking from the regions, and negotiators have acknowledged that they are aware of these efforts. Such is the case of last week’s national meeting of small producers of illicit crops who held their first national gathering of peasants, indigenous, and Afro-descendents on this theme in Bogota on December 11-12th.
Talks Resume in January
A nineteenth cycle of talks is anticipated to begin on January 13, 2014, when the delegates will continue to discuss illicit crops and drug-trafficking and begin to craft accords on the topic.
In the meantime, in this season of hope and dreams of peace on earth and good will to all, I wish you safe journeys, happy holidays, and a renewed commitment to making your dreams for peace a reality.