FARC proposal to protect coca, cannabis growers
At the peace talks with the Colombian government that just re-convened in Havana after a holiday break, the FARC rebels released a proposal Jan. 14 outlining a plan to decriminalize and "regulate the production of coca, poppies and marijuana." The proposal came in a lengthy document entitled "The National Program of the Substitution of the Illicit Uses of Coca, Poppy, or Marijuana Crops," described in a press release as a "special chapter of rural and agricultural reform, social-environmental reform, democracy reform, and participatory reform." The guerrilla group, said to largely finance itself through the drug trade, agreed that growers should be encouraged "to voluntarily grow alternative crops"—a reference to the largely ineffectual crop substitution programs the US has long funded in Colombia. But FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo rejected the model of prohibition and eradication. "Instead of fighting the production [of illicit substances] it's about regulating it and finding alternatives," he said. "The fundamental basis of this plan lies in its voluntary and collaborative nature, and in the political will on the part of the growers to take alternative paths to achieve humane living and working conditions." Catatumbo also said that the "medicinal, therapeutic and cultural" uses of the substances should be taken into account.
The proposal invokes the notion of buen vivir or "good living" to describe a sustainable way of life based on local peasant self-sufficiency—including cultivation of the psychoactive trio of coca, cannabis and poppy. This is a phrase used by the leftist governments in Bolivia and in Ecuador to more generally describe a program of land redistribution and ecological development. The proposal emphasized government control of the legal market for these crops, for purposes including "nutrition, medicine, therapy, culture, artisanal uses, and industrial uses." The plan envisions demilitarizing the conflicted coca-production zones, and designating them "Territories for Construction of Peace with Social Justice."
Addressing the narco trade was initially to be the fourth on a six-item agenda; but it was pushed up to the third item after the two delegations reached agreements on the first two points of agrarian reform and political participation. (Colomia Reports, BBC News, Jan. 14)