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Panel: “Drugs and socio-economic development”

¿Illicit crops as a product of the lack of peasants with land ownership titles?

The lack of development policies for growers of crops declared illicit, dialogue scenarios and the promotion of participation by these sectors, as well as the apathy in dealing with depth on the traditional use of these crops, are some of the pending matters exposed by the representatives of peasant organizations, specialists and functionaries of United Nations in the morning of the first journey of debates held in the IV Latin American Conference on Drug Policies.


(Bogotá, 5/12/12; 14hs) ¿What relation does the drug phenomenon have with development processes in the region? ¿What are the policies that have been deviced to tackle the problematic? ¿How are the effects been assessed by the different actors involved? These were the questions posed by Tom Blickman, researcher for the Program on Drugs and Democracy of the Transnational Institute (TNI) in Netherlands, as a starting point for the panel Drugs and socio-economic development, within the framework of the IV Latin American Conference on Drug Policies, that is being held today and tomorrow in Bogotá, Colombia

Javier Gonzales Skaric, technical secretary of the Observatory on Crops declared Illicit (OCI) in Bolivia, stressed the importance of “generating processes of inclusion from the organizations as well as indigenous and peasant-based social movements, as genuine interlocutors with their local and national governments, as well as with international organizations”.

Peasant participation

“We don’t want intermediaries, we want direct dialogue”, stressed Gonzales Skaric, who emphasized that “promoting alternative development for growers of illicit crops should be a plan of action done by diferent countries and their states”.

Among the guidelines proposed in the Observatory, there are some that stand out like the recognition of traditional uses of prohibited plants and the problematic posed by forced eradications, within the framework of the global war against drugs.

The scenario offered by the Observatory of Crops declared Illicit emerged from a world forum held in Barcelona on the year 2009 with the aim of giving answers to the peasant and indigenous growers of illicit crops “who have been intentionally criminalized in recent years”, pointed out Gonzales Skaric. The initiative looks to take “interlocution as one of the most important instruments to generate participation and dialogue amongst peasants and their governments”.  

The problem of land ownership

On his part, Guillermo García Miranda, Chief of the Alternative Development Program for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC/ONUDD) in Colombia, maintained that “the most effective, efficient and sustainable mechanism of eradication is alternative development”.

For García Miranda, Colombia “knows very well how to eradicate illicit crops, is in fact the world champion in removing coca fields, but what we still don’t know is how to prevent the peasant from ever growing those illicit crops again”. The functionary explained that the underlying problem is the conditions of vulnerability of certain zones: poverty, lack of State presence, conflicts and ilegal property.

“If in Colombia there is coca in all those regions of the country, it is because there is no land ownership titles. We have been more concerned in generating income than in promoting active assets”, he concluded.

Rodrigo Velaides, agronomist, leader and peasant spokesman of the chocauán organization in the Caquetá zone of Colombia, coincided that: “a hundred percent of peasants that grow coca leaf do it because of the shortage of opportunities”.

The representative explained that there are existing experiences where peasants come to receive income derived from other alternatives of labor as they tend to give up the growing of coca plants. “Alternative Development will bring about conditions so that the peasants can assume their expenses with other forms of income. In this manner, they would stop growing coca leafs”, he concluded.

Coca, nourishment of the gods

On the other hand, Fabiola Piñacue Achicué, founder and legal representative of Coca Nasa, also member of the Andean Council of Coca Leaf Growers in Colombia, assured that coca is the nourishment of gods. We owe it respect. Coca is part of the ancestral people and of nature itself. I do not understand why modern man wants to eliminate the coca leaf”.

Through Coca Nasa “we aim to generate an alternative so that our products can reach every colombian habitant. The resistance that comes with pursuing the dignification of the coca leaf is our task. The coca leaf is part of our geography. What the bilateral agreement of Plan Colombia has done is demonize the coca usages”, considered Piñacue Achicué.

Also as well, she stressed that “the coca leaf cannot continue to be attacked by foreign policy” and remarked that “we need autonomy in the defense of our natural resources because the coca leaf is one of the pillars in the collective construction of knowledge and traditions”.

Piñacue Achicué call upon to reflect: “There is a need to think that drug is a term new to us in the andean culture. The coca leaf is a sacred plant, it is nourishment. The problem is the usage that is done of the plants. The coca leaf is taken and transformed into something else. But the coca leaf has a purpose. When transformed, its finality also changes.

The IV Latin American Conference on Drug Policy reunites today and tomorrow experts and government functionaries of different countries to define proposals on how to tackle the problems related to drugs in the region.

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