Feast of Lies
The Supposed Reduction in Colombian Coca Crops in 2002
By Augusto Fernandez C.
Special to The Narco News Bulletin
May 22, 2003
Publisher’s Note: As evidence of our battle cry in correcting falsehoods in the Commercial Media – “a lie gets halfway around the world before the truth can put its pants on” – today, Narco News Contributing Writer Augusto Fernandez C. lambastes, with facts and pointed questions based on fact, the claims by US drug czar John Walters and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe that there was a “reduction” in coca crops in Colombia during the year 2002.
And it is important that this lie be corrected, because look at what Marcela Sanchez of the Washington Post claimed last week:
“Interestingly, this broader strategy is beginning to show specific progress against drugs. Last year coca cultivation in Colombia decreased at least 15 percent and opium poppy 25 percent, according to U.S. figures.”
Sanchez used this “fact” to call for expansion of the U.S. military intervention called “Plan Colombia” into Peru and Bolivia!
But her premise is based on, writes Fernandez, “A Feast of Lies.”
Fernandez dissects the lie into dust – or should we say white powder? – on Narco News today:
The fact is that the aerial herbicide spraying that is the foundation of Plan Colombia has only succeeded in spreading coca crops into other states, regions, and deeper into the Amazon jungle, where it has been followed by more herbicide spraying, more environmental damage, more documented cases of human illness from the toxins in the fumigations, and more total defeat in the US-imposed “War on Drugs.”
The question remains: Will Sanchez and the Washington Post now publish a correction?
And will they stop believing official sources proven to lie and lie again?
Or is the next “NYT-Jayson Blair” problem going to come “desde Washington” ...from the Washington Post? Because what, after all, is the difference between repeating the falsehoods of proven liars like John Walters and Alvaro Uribe as fact, and making it up altogether. The Post’s Sanchez should know better, and we suggest, impertinently, that she does.
On February 27th of this year, the U.S. and Colombian governments, with President Alvaro Uribe in the lead, had a feast, widely reported by all the national media… they celebrated, with great fanfare to the international community, the fact that the coca crops in Colombia had been diminished by 15 percent, for the first time in the last ten years of anti-drug operations in the country. Particularly states like Putumayo and Caquetá (where the largest acreage exists) the crops were reduced by fifty percent.
The host of this feast… the one and only United States Drug Czar John Walters, who had presented a report to the U.S. Congress showing a reduction of 25,350 hectares of coca in Colombia at the end of 2002. The report was based on studies made by the State Department and satellite photos made by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) through sophisticated (expensive) surveillance systems.
The report says that the total number of hectares of coca – until August of the previous year – were 114,450 hectares compared to 169,800 hectares that existed during the same period ending in 2001. Walters told the Congressional panel of the Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere of the House of Representatives, that, also, another 40,000 hectares that were fumigated through December, but were not counted in this study, should be included.
Thus, according to the document, 122,695 hectares were fumigated. “These more than 122,000 hectares have the potential to produce 650 metric tons of cocaine. In the marketplace, these are 65 million dollars that no longer go to the narco-traffickers and the terrorists like the FARC,” he said, in a reference to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
Days after Walters presented his report to Congress, the United Nations entered the feast, announcing the reduction of 30 percent of coca crops between 2001 and 2002. While the statistics are even more magnificent, the better: And even more so if one takes into account that since the mid-1990s Colombian coca crops were increasing by an average of 20 percent a year. The past year they had their most drastic increase: 25 percent.
At the celebration of this “important victory” – as Uribe called it – the Colombian Justice Minister Fernando Londoño joined in the feast and in bellicose tones said, during a United Nations press conference on Colombia, based on various press reports, that “President Uribe’s commitment to permanently end coca in our territory is irreversible. It’s not just about resolving a problem, but, rather, about ending the nightmare of the Colombian people.”
Among all the festivities, Luis Alberto Moreno, Colombian Ambassador in the United States, told the daily El Tiempo of Bogotá that in the case of the state of Putumayo, crop substitution programs had begun to take effect. “If one looks at states like Putumayo, the coca plantations, after they were fumigated, did not reach 30 percent of their harvest, and a grand part of this is owed to the alternative development programs that are being proved effective. All of this demonstrates the success of Plan Colombia.”
Also at the feast, visibly content, were Klaus Nyholm of the UN office against narco-trafficking in Colombia, and Paul Simons, Assistant Secretary of State in the U.S.
The first said – during the press conference with Minister Londoño – that, “the reduction is owed to the alternative development programs and the market. The agricultural sector did well with products for which prices rose such as sugar and cacao, while the amount of coca diminished.”
Simons, for his part, said that “sustaining the methods of eradication we will continue diminishing the crop which will effect the price and the availability in the United States.”
As would be expected – and as he expected – President Alvaro Uribe drew the greatest applause, as the drug czar assured that it was since August of last year, when Uribe was inaugurated, that the evidence of reductions in illicit crops and the results of Plan Colombia began: “Never before have we had a president so committed to ending narco-trafficking and terrorism as Uribe. If we keep fumigating at these levels, at the end of this year we will have destroyed more than 200,000 hectares. That is the goal. What’s more, Plan Colombia begins to show that, yes, it can reach the goals that it was designed to meet.”
Everyone agreed in affirming, also, that the offensive by the Colombian president could reduce the supply of cocaine and raise the prices in the long run. All this supposes that Plan Colombia, after it began in 2000, including, supposedly, a package of social, economic, judicial and political reforms, has reached its first success.
The celebration closed with the authorization by Uribe – in full glory – to increase the concentration of glyphosate (the toxic herbicide used in the fumigation’s aerial spray), in spite of the opposition to this method by the Public Defender, Eduardo Cifuentes.
Behind the Curtain of
this “Historic Crusade”
But behind the splendor of the feast by the Colombian and U.S. governments there is a dirty curtain that nobody dares to uncloak… the War on Drugs. And in order to see what is behind it is necessary to pump out all the dirty water. So, kind readers, let’s go bucket by bucket:
1. It seems that there is not unanimity among the statistics that measure illicit crops in Colombia presented by the CIA and State Department to the U.S. Congress and those of the United Nations.
While the first set of statistics, made at the end of 2002 – after the eradication of crops – state that there are 144,450 hectares of coca compared to 169,800 that there were at the end of 2001, succeeding in a reduction of 15 percent, the UN’s statistics state that in 2002 there were 102,000 hectares remaining compared to 144,807 at the end of 2001, succeeding in a reduction of 30 percent. Why did the UN make its report public one week after the drug czar, John Walters, had presented his to Congress? Why is there so much contradiction between the statistics of one institution and those of the other? Isn’t it strange that such a rapid reduction has been achieved in so few months? (In March 2002 the same United States government had shown an increase of 25 percent of the illicit plantations.)
Could it be that there was a certain amount of hurry on the part of the CIA and the State Department to show congress eradication statistics that are better and better? Does this hurry have anything to do with the fact that the U.S. Congress – in its January report – had questioned the effectiveness of the systems that measure illicit crop acreage in Colombia by both departments? Could it be that, behind this hurry, is the fear by the U.S. government and its executive branch over the possibility that Congress might decide to cut the budget of Plan Colombia (characterized by the UN as the most important anti-drug strategy in Latin America) that is calculated to add up to two billion dollars?
2. With respect to the validity of the statistics: Martha Gutiérrez, Colombian attorney and expert on the issue of illicit crops, told Narco News:
“Inflating statistics has been the political history of all the U.S. administrations. These come at the moment that they want them. They have to justify to Congress the resources that have been spent, and those that are needed, for the war on drugs, and that includes the eradication of crops and a raise in budget to combat the guerrilla; they have to justify the budgets of military advisors. After the disaster of the Iraq war, they have to begin to justify the effectiveness of other foreign policies, the effectiveness of the anti-terrorist war, and of the anti-drug policy that is not completely accepted due to the effects of Glyphosate fumigations.”
And last February 28th, one day after the czar, John Walters, presented his report, the counter-feast had already begun. Various governors of the Colombian states most affected by illicit crops made declarations – published in the daily El Tiempo
– and not exactly in favor of the policy. Governor Parmenio Cuéllar of the state of Nariño said: “God willing it would be true what the United States report says, but here in Nariño the crops have increased. In the 64 municipalities in the state, 50 have coca crops. This simply means that the fumigations in Putumayo have spread the crops to Nariño.”
Governor Iván Guerrero of the state of Putumayo, for his part, was also worried because, within his state, the crops are being pushed into the jungle regions of the Amazon, on the outskirts of the state, where the state government has less control.
In the middle of all this, Governor Floro Tunubalá of the state of Cauca said – also to El Tiempo – that “the agencies charged with this issue must demonstrate, with facts, that the results cited in the report about fumigation are real.” And we haven’t yet mentioned the governor of Tolima, Guillermo Alfonso Jaramillo, who said that coca crops are arriving in the coffee-growing zones of his state. The governors, also, unanimously oppose the use of glyphosate for fumigating crops and have asked for more alternative development programs in opposition to the announcement by the Uribe government that it will continue with the aerial spraying.
And as if these opinions are not enough, here is one from Eder Sánchez – the coca growers’ leader of Putumayo and Vice President of the National Farmworkers Assocation of Colombia (ANUC, in its Spanish initials) – who told Narco News: “It’s true, there was a reduction in coca in Putumayo, maybe more than fifty percent. It is estimated that in 2001 there were more than 40,000 hectares. This year, according to the government, there are just 13,000. But, what is very clear is that the crops have spread to the same acreage in other states like Nariño and Amazonas; and now there are even crops in the border regions of Ecuador and Peru.”
These criticisms provoke the following questions: Is the problem of illicit crops in Colombia being solved by eradication or not? Is there no evidence of the displacement of crops and the ineffectiveness of the anti-drug crusade in Colombia? Taking into account the imminent rise in coca plantations, what is Attorney General Londoño trying to do when – according to a wire from Reuters – he said this month: “This ministry is not so crazy when it says that by the end of the year Colombia will no longer be en exporter of cocaine in industrial quantities”?
Is the minister a mytho-maniac? Why, with all the evidence of the failure of the anti-drug crusade, doesn’t he emphasize other methods of eradication like alternative development programs instead of increasing the aerial spraying as the government has announced? Is this to support the concept, broadcast by the Commercial Media, that this is the only way to end the “plague of narco-trafficking”? Or does Plan Colombia really have, at its core, the perfect pretext to increase interventionist policies in Colombia that seek to make the counter-insurgency war more violent, to protect the interests of the huge multinational corporations of petroleum, mining, agriculture, etcetera, and to deliver more profits to the private-sector military organizations like DynCorp that, absolutely, collect, already, nearly 635 million dollars for their “collaboration” in the work of fumigation and “other related services”?
3. Another aspect of the “glorious report” to put on the table is this one: Czar Walters said that the “triumph” of eradication in 2002 was important in the sense that the “122,000 hectares had a potential to produce 650 metric tons of cocaine. In the black market, these are $65 million dollars that would go to the narco-traffickers and terrorist groups like the FARC.”
Isn’t this a very warlike comment from the United States drug czar, taking into account that various studies demonstrate that the FARC collect a tax on farmers for coca and poppy crops, as well as drug traffickers that establish processing laboratories for cocaine hydrochloride in their territories, and yet neither the Colombian nor the U.S. government have been able to demonstrate that the FARC participates in the other stages of processing and sale, as Pedro Santana indicated in his text: “Narco-trafficking, Violence, and Human Rights: The Difficulties of Prohibition”?
Isn’t the scarcity of arguments to characterize this armed group as “narco-traffickers” with a very in-fashion word among military officials – “narco-guerrilla” – evident? Why not say that if the guerrilla is controlling these territories it is because of the scarce presence of the government? Why, in this institutional reports, are the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC, in its Spanish initials) only named superficially, when its very own boss, the paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño, also indicates, in the text by Santana, that various of his commandants have participated in the trafficking and sale of drugs?
Does the drug czar know about the case of the massacre of Mapiripán, in the state of Meta, in 1997, when Lino Sánchez – Commander of the Mobile Brigade #2 of the Army that operates in that region – planned, together with paramilitary boss Carlos Castaño, the mass decapitation of the inhabitants of this town with the supposed objective of stopping the FARC and guaranteeing economic control by the paramilitaries over the illicit crops of the neighboring state – that is, Guaviare – according to investigations made by the Human Rights Unit of the Attorney General of the Nation?
Also, if the governmental reports say that the armed groups outside the law are benefiting from narco-trafficking money, why not say that there are many members of public forces charged with carrying on “the heroic crusade against drugs” that also have enriched themselves but at the cost of the money from Plan Colombia, as the investigation that the Attorney General of the Nation opened – in June of last year – into a general, 11 colonels, 11 majors, 12 captains, four lieutenants, as well as other sub-officials, agents, and civilian personnel from the Anti-Drug Police, who were implicated in the case of embezzling two million dollars in U.S. aid for the fight against drug trafficking?
To all this, it’s worth the trouble to add two questions that the Colombian journalist and sociologist Alfredo Molana made brilliantly in one of his many books: “How is it possible that thousands of tons of cocaine, for example, continue moving without the knowledge of the authorities? And if they know, how many millions of dollars have they made in bribes?”
4. The czar definitely is right about one thing, when he says that: “Never before have we had a president so committed to ending narco-trafficking and terrorism as Uribe. If we continue fumigating at these levels, at the end of the year we will have destroyed 200,000 hectares. This is the goal. Also, Plan Colombia begins to demonstrate that it can reach the goals for which it was designed.” Effectively, Uribe has demonstrated a grand commitment, or, better said, an extreme submission to the interventionist policies of the U.S. government (remember that he was one of the only Latin American presidents who supported, unconditionally, the war against Iraq). This is made very clear when he prefers police and military solutions to problems like drug consumption – something that could be treated as a matter of public health – and also of illicit crops – which can be solved if effective economic alternatives are generated to better the subsistence farmers’ lot.
Here, we must make a brief insertion to underline that beyond these possible “short term” solutions there is one definitive way to resolve the problem of drugs in all its manifestations (production, trafficking, and consumption), and that can be summed up in just one word that makes the prohibitionist governments throughout the world tremble: Legalization. But, why do those governments, especially that of the United States, go crazy at the mention of this possibility, that has been contemplated not only by anti-prohibitionist organizations, but also by more orthodox social and political sectors? (It’s worthwhile to recall that the British magazine, The Economist, in its edition of July 26 of last year, based on the statements by Keith Morris, former British Ambassador to Colombia, who said that the continuation of the “unwinnable, expensive and counterproductive” drug war caused him to advocate legalization.) Is the case that they don’t notice – or don’t want to notice, or notice but decide to ignore – that this is the most intelligent manner to end the immense power of the grand international mafias that control the business, and, of course, have a great influence in international banking? Until when will the prohibitionist governments leave this hypocritical discourse behind – one that not even they believe – based on the idea that drugs are the principal threat against youth?
Has it not been proved that in some European countries legalization has brought a lessening of risks in the consumption, in the reduction of clandestine street traffick, and, consequently, the costs generated to society? Don’t the prohibitionist governments want to make the production legal in order to solve the economic problems of the farmers that live on coca and poppy crops, if only they could enter a free competition with other agricultural products of the world market? Isn’t it really that the governments are not afraid that the youth will fall, but, rather, the fall of drug prices that legalization would generate? And in the particular case of the United States, wouldn’t it be that legalization would end its excuses to continue applying its interventionist policies in Latin American countries?
Now, let’s return to the problem of the military solutions imposed by President Uribe. One of the most dangerous has been the aerial spraying on illicit crops of glyphosate that are seen, from the double morals of Washington and the Colombian government, as the most effective solution to the problem. But the Colombian farmers who live off these crops – because the State doesn’t offer any alternative – and the indigenous who have seen their sacred lands poisoned by the chemicals of the fumigations, and, including the fact that the farmers who try to grow legal crops, think very distinctly.
It seems they haven’t been invited to the feast. Although, just the same, they’re not interested in attending…
Erradícate Illegal Crops or Comply with Environmental Law?
Immediately after learning about the report by John Walters, President Uribe announced his authorization to increase the dose of glyphosate in the herbicide mixture… and nothing succeeded in ridding his mind, more closed every day to the criticisms made by the Southern state governors, the Public Defender, human rights groups, environmentalists, farmers and indigenous. Not even counting the protests by the international community – like the European Union – many sectors of Civil Society asked that the fumigations be ceased.
The protests are not for nothing; with the displacement of the crops the fumigations also spread to new territories and, with them, new damages to the environment. History demonstrates this fact. Just as Elsa Nivia revealed in her article, “Fumigation Causes More Illicit Crop Planting in Colombia,” published by the Mama Coca website: “Colombia is the only American country where the strategy of forced eradication with aerial fumigation of Roundup and other surface agents like CosmoFlux and CosmoInD, and it is where the plantings have spread the widest, particularly in 1999, the year in which President (Andrés) Pastrana announced Plan Colombia. In analyzing the dynamic of the hectares of illicit crops that have been identified and the eradications from 1992 to 2001, the conclusion is that, with fumigation, the number of annual hectares planted are greater, because sooner or later the eradicated area is replaced and even expanded in another location.”
With respect to the ineffectiveness of the fumigations, Martha Gutiérrez says that there is a technique that the farmers, homesteaders, and indigenous, of Putumayo have discussed a lot: “When they learn that the fumigations are coming, they dig up the plants where they are located and hide them far from the plantations. When the fumigation is over, they let a little time pass, dig up the hidden plants again – they don’t die from this process – to plant them again.” Thus it seems that the increase of the dosage of glyphosate does not increase its capacity to reduce the crops and, if anything, it simply increases the negative effects – due to its chemical components – that it causes to the environment and the health of people and animals.
Thus, while U.S. Government agencies – supported by the “studies” by entities like the World Health Organization – say that “glyphosate is less damaging than common table salt, aspirin, caffeine, nicotine, and even vitamin A” – and while the ex-Ambassador of the United States in Colombia, Anne Patterson, sends letters to the editor in response to newspaper editorials that speak about the complaints by indigenous organizations against the fumigations, arguing that “the use of glyphosate in Colombia for eradication of illicit crops does not represent any risk for human or animal health, nor does it cause environmental damage” – other scientific investigations – like those published by biologist and Narco News Contributing Writer Jeremy Bigwood – signal that the problem is not just the fumigations with glyphosate, but that it is mixed with other chemicals still that guarantee the definitive eradication of plants – due to its highly toxic contents – substances like Roundup, Paraquat and Spike (Tebethurion) that can remain in the soil a year or more.
In her article, Elsa Nivia wrote: “Roundup is, in some countries, among the first herbicides that cause incidents of poisoning in humans. The majority of those have involved skin and eye irritations among workers, after exposure during the mixing, loading, or application. Nausea, dizziness and vomiting have also been reported after exposure, as well as respiratory problems, heart palpitations, a rise in blood pressure, and allergic reactions.”
It’s also worthwhile to mention another brilliant idea of the U.S. government to erradícate illicit crops: The application of the fungus Fusarium Oxysporum, that not only destroys coca and poppy plants, but also the rest of the soil, owing to its highly toxic properties.
These scientific investigations have been backed by accusations by the civilian population, the majority of them supported by the Public Defender’s office.
One of those cases was brought by the Administrative Health Department of the Putumayo state government in 2001, when this agency visited, on February 9th of that year, the “El Rosal” section of the municipality of Valle del Guamuez. There, they interviewed the owner of one of the orchards affected by the aerial spraying with chemicals, who said that he was in the barn of his property when the airplanes passed overhead fumigating. Curiously, after the fumigation, he had an intensive dermatological reaction with a rash and pain in the face.
Also, the man noted the death of chickens and piglets that were sprayed by the chemical. An observation of the field and the house’s garden documented the death of banana, yucca, borojó, flowers, and other plants that were below the fumigation, and as another consequence the drying of various hectares of pasture for cattle, as well as the collapse of the gates to his farm.
Another case was denounced two months ago in the state of Guaviare: where the crops that once grew in Putumayo have now been displaced, and where that has brought more aerial spraying. Mauricio Salazar, director of the North and East Amazon Corporation for Sensible Development, told El Tiempo that “in the community many accusations of destruction of legal crops as well as root crops and health problems of people and animals are known.”
Seeing these cases, could Anne Patterson have been joking when she said – in her letter to the editor of the daily El Tiempo two weeks ago, as a response to its April 2nd editorial – that “in spite of numerous investigations made, there has not been a single complaint of damages to human health as a consequence of the aerial eradication program that has been proved”?
Another thing: Have the agencies that wage the “war on drugs” and conduct these aerial fumigations avoided spraying on indigenous reservations, where often there are no coca crops, or where there are few, because they are sacred and form part of millenarian cultures?
According to the complaints filed by diverse indigenous communities, it is not possible to speak of the restraint of the anti-narcotics forces (be they police or Army) when it comes time to fumigate. In the case of the Organization of Indigenous Peoples of the Colombian Amazaon (OPIAC, in its Spanish initials), that filed a complaint in June 2001 against the government agencies – including the Presidency of the Republic – that support the fumigation policy, arguing that the government had not sufficiently studied the impact of its own programs against health and the environment. The complaint also accused that there had not been any prior consultation of the communities before conducting the fumigations, violating Law 21 of 1991 which ratified the 169th Covenant of the World Labor Organization regarding indigenous and tribal peoples, that in its eight article stated: “The application of national legislation on the peoples affected should be taken duly in consideration of their customs and consensual rights.”
In 2001, the court decided against OPIAC, but in early April of this year its appeal was taken by the Constitutional Court, and on May 6th the court ordered the government to consult the indigenous peoples three months prior to conducting the fumigations. If the government does not comply with this order, the court has the ability to impose sanctions on the government agencies implicated, and thus, for what can be seen, the arguments that Ambassador Patterson made in her letter to El Tiempo are completely untrue.
A leader of OPIAC, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Colombian newspaper Actualidad Étnica: “The fumigations have affected the security of food supplies. There are problems in the environment. Our elders know that the coca cannot be coaxed out of the earth by burning it, it has to be sweetened, refreshed, and seduced out. That’s why there has to be a change in strategies, through a serious and real commitment between the State and us.”
“The fumigations at the foot of the mountains cause the people to bring it into our territories. We see the Amazon in two grand aspects: The foot of the Amazon hill – Caquetá, Guaviare, and Putumayo – and the lowlands – Amazonas, Vaupés, and Guainía. If they fumigate one hectare, they open the pass for three more inside the jungle, destroying that jungle. In the second place, the great fiction of the policy is that it has not succeeded in determining the real impact in environmental terms. We reject narco-trafficking and affirm that we are the ancient owners of the coca in the Amazon; the people still conserve our traditions, our culture, our language, our territory…” said the OPIAC leader.
And, well, it seems that with the indigenous there are possibilities of coming to some agreement that facilitates the solution to the problem. The farmers in Amazon region don’t seem to have the same luck, according to what can be inferred from the testimony of Eder Sánchez, the coca growers’ leader, regarding the fumigations of last year:
“Almost 40 percent of the crops that were fumigated were legal crops. The most concrete case was in pasturelands and palm cultivation. Also, according to our farmers, the coca hectares that remain are those of the narco-traffickers. Instead, they did more than 90 percent of the fumigation on the small coca growers.”
Taking into account the testimony of Sánchez, the question should be asked: Is the famous special treatment for large-scale producers over smaller ones – who supposedly benefit from alternative development projects – what is really happening inside Plan Colombia? Are they really conducting the spraying to combat the lucrative business of narco-trafficking or, more likely, are they stimulating its growth, taking into account the existing corruption in the same agencies that wage the War on Drugs? Why do they insist on criminalizing the small growers that, among other things, return to illicit crops as a direct consequence of the concentration and monopoly over land ownership that foreign multinational corporations, principally those from the United States, enjoy?
Alternative Development Projects
or the Jaws of Defeat
One of the weakest points in the report by the drug czar, Walters, is precisely related to the issue of alternative development programs, aimed at the peasant farmer population. It’s so weak that various U.S. Congress members rejected his report as they consider that the rise in fumigations has left this kind of program in second place and each day they receive less of the Plan Colombia money.
President Uribe said some days ago on a TV program that “the programs to substitute coca crops with cacao have been a total success.” A total success for whom? For the peasant farmers or for the large multinational corporations like Hersheys that make chocolate and has already made its deals with the government?
It’s that the alternative development pacts, according to various studies by non-governmental organizations and academics, have failed for various reasons:
- Among those crops that are fumigated with glyphosate there are also root crops below that supposedly have been the product of these kinds of programs.
- The major part of these pacts have been made with private multinational companies, disguised as non-governmental organizations, that in the end leave a very small percentage of the funds for the peasant farmer population.
- The programs already begun are dropped and don’t receive continued support due to lack of funds… the same funds that Plan Colombia invests in the war.
- The majority of the pacts are not negotiated between the government and the indigenous or farmer population, as the public is told, like with what occurred with the negotiating process between the government and the farmers in Putumayo in 2000. That’s when they agreed to manually eradicate the coca leaf, thinking that the government would stop fumigating. But the government did not keep its word and continued fumigating the lowlands of the region while it made the farmers keep their end of the agreement with threats, as Ricardo Vargas wrote in his text: “An Unequal Focus: Alternative Development and Eradication.”
“In effect, the government imposed two dynamics on the cultivators: deadlines of one year to eradicate all the coca agreed upon in the pacts, under the threat of being fumigated if they did not comply, and some political decisions made that bypassed the agreements, developed in such a way that, in practice, they ended up destroying the conception of development that had been the original proposal of the communities.”
- Many communities have been relocated onto lands that are not fertile for the cultivation of legal products, according to what various farmers’ community leaders who attended the Agrarian Congress last August in Bogotá.
As such, it seems that the new alternative development programs, created by the present Uribe administration, are demonstrating their ineffectiveness, as Eder Sánchez explained: “We (the farmers) had to make a counter-proposal to the government, that consisted in continuing to cultivate while they continue the fumigations. Because it was already known that the Save the Forest programs (created by the Uribe government with the annual delivery of five million pesos – about $1,000 dollars – to each of the families that voluntarily promised not to replant illicit crops, reforestation and conservation of the ecosystem) have no resources.”
For his part, Carlos Ancizar Rico, leader of Colombian Farmworkers Action (ACC), told Narco News that “there is a lot written and there are many pretty words recited about the Development Plans, but they are not being met by action, and the few who realize it, realize it without the real participation of farmers organizations and, that’s why, the effects are innocuous.”
To conclude, it’s worth the effort to ask: Do these pacts seek to negotiate with the farmers’ population or are they more to calm the anger and demobilize them? Will this strategy serve to delegitimize, later, what is already signed, through the practices of dirty war, while the fumigations continue?
Will the Feast Continue?
While statistics that please them about reduction of coca crops continue being tossed around, according to what Washington needs; while poverty continues assaulting the coca farmers; while the culture of the indigenous peoples continues to be ignored; while millions of dollars – with which thousands of poor families throughout the world could be fed – continue to be spent in the “War on Drugs”; while every day more violations of human rights occur through this absurd war; while the consumption of drugs around the world increases; while the nightmare continues… so does the feast for the grand capos of the international mafias who live, comfortably, far from the underdevelopment that delivers them such fine dividends. Here they are enjoying the 99 percent of the business that they have, duly protected by the World Bank. Here they are, seeing Uribe as a hero and drinking a few gin-and-tonics below the bush, or, better said, beside the bush.
 President of the Viva la Ciudadana corporation, Colombia. Member of the organizing committee of the World Social Issues Forum (FMST) in Colombia and member of the international council of the World Social Forum.
 Agricultural engineer with a degree in biology and chemistry. Executive Director of the Herbicides and Alternatives Action Network – Latin America (RAPALMIRA-RAP-AL, Colombia)
 Colombian sociologist, specialist in the issue of illicit crops. Director of the magazine Accion Andina and member of the Transnational Institutue (TNI).
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