Drugs on the agenda of Colombian peace talks

10 December 2012
Article

Inclusion of the drug issue on the agenda of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, which are being held in Havana, Cuba, is a smart move.

Inclusion of the drug issue on the agenda of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, which are being held in Havana, Cuba, is a smart move.  The illicit drug economy cuts across the conflict in different degrees and affects different geographical areas.  There has been a corresponding deterioration of living conditions in much of rural Colombia caused, among other factors, by the reverse land reform sparked by the drug trade.  A rural policy that addresses this situation is key to resolving the problem of illegal drugs in the country.  A political settlement in Colombian requires a change in the drug strategy applied unsuccessfully for decades.

In June 2000, within the framework of the previous peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, the TNI and Acción Andina researcher, Ricardo Vargas, produced the report, Drug Crops and Peace Process in Colombia: A proposal for Peace. At the time, Colombia was experiencing a boom in coca cultivation (and the related economy), making it the world’s leading producer of coca/cocaine. The United States had only recently launched its strategy to help Colombia fight drugs and insurgents.  Known as Plan Colombia, this strategy began operating at the end of that same year with a massive spraying campaign to chemically eradicate coca bushes. Taking into account this context, the paper provided a number of arguments designed to contribute to the peace process, particularly with regard to the problem of illicit crops.

The Caguán talks came to an end in early 2002, triggering an even more intense version of Plan Colombia. While playing a key role in the anti-insurgency strategy and reduction of coca crops in certain areas – even though the volumes of drugs exported mainly to the United States remained mostly unchanged – this strategy also produced serious social and humanitarian impacts that further undermined the social fabric in the peasant population, who were displaced by the fighting and movement of coca cultivation to new regions. Chemical fumigation employed under Plan Colombia, which is still in force, has been the subject of national and international controversy in the past decade.

More than 10 years would pass before a new government would begin the search for peace.  The first phase of these tentative talks was defined in the document, General agreement ending the conflict and building a stable and lasting peace.  There have been many setbacks in terms of social and economic development in rural farming communities since the failure of the Caguán talks.  The adverse effects of the illicit drug economy – among other illicit activities – are evident in a wider area. Resolving the conflict with the guerrillas is the first step to peace and needs to be based on a comprehensive land policy that recognizes the complexity of Colombian countryside. Illicit crops form a part of this complexity.  As proposed in the latest UNDP report for Colombia, “Reasons for Hope,” options to address the problem of illicit crops are linked to a rural development that contributes to the solution of structural problems in the countryside.

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Background information (previous peace talks)

Colombia: Conflict Analysis and Options for Peace-Building (pdf, 490KB) (2003)

Conflict, Sustainable Development, and the Illegal Drug Economy in Colombia: An Analysis of Trends and Policy Recommendations for a Peace Building Approach. By Martin Jelsma (pdf, 103KB) (2003)

Cultivos ilícitos y procesos de paz en Colombia - Ricardo Vargas (2000)

Drug Crops and Peace Process in Colombia: A Proposal for Peace - Martin Jelsma, Ricardo Vargas (2000)


Drug Policy and Peace

IV Conferencia Latinoamericana sobre Políticas de Drogas, Bogotá, December 2012. Panel: Drogas, violencia y seguridad (video)

Drugs and the peace process in Colombia - NOREF Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Center, Ricardo Vargas, 19 November 2012

Política antidroga global, clave en proceso de paz con las FARC - El Espectador, October 17, 2012

 

Rural development, land reform and illicit crops:

Las Farc proponen una reforma rural y agraria integral, socioambiental, democrática y participativa, con enfoque territorial - Agencia Prensa Rural, 14 January, 2013

Guaviare peasants ask for alternative public policies to eradication - Comunicado de los campesinos del departamento del Guaviare a la opinión pública nacional e internacional - 14 December 2012

IV Conferencia latinoamericana sobre políticas de drogas
"The agricultural policies of developed countries based on subsidizing agricultural production and exports have caused a crisis in the countryside in southern countries and the expansion of coca cultivation". Statement by representatives of social organizations in regions of Colombia, NGO representatives, experts and researchers in the IV Latin American Conference. - 7 December, 2012

Colombia the Current Panorama: Victims and Land Restitution Law 1448 - ABColombia Land Report, 2012

Displaced Residents Grapple With Hurdles of Going Home - The New York Times, December 02, 2012

Leyes de restitución de tierras y de desarrollo rural en Colombia: El camino seguro a la reprimirización de la economía y a la negación de la reforma agraria. - Agencia Prensa Rural, November 2012

Extranjeros en zonas rurales - El Tiempo, October 31, 2012

Política de tierras: más Estado y más mercado - Razón Pública, October 29, 2012

El despojo de tierras que no quieren reconocer las FARC - El Tiempo, October 27, 2012

La tierra en la agenda de la paz - TNI, October 24, 2012

Agro: columna vertebral en proceso de paz - El Espectador, October 24, 2012

La memoria histórica de 25 años del robo de tierras - El Tiempo, October 19, 2012

La tierra en las negociaciones de paz (Video Interview Absalón Machado) - Razón Pública, October 14, 2012

Qué reforma agraria para el país? - Agencia Prensa Rural, October 14, 2012

Las tierras despojadas por las FARC: un debate necesario - Razón Pública, October 14, 2012

 

Websites

Mesa de Conversaciones - Official website for the peace talks between the government and the FARC

Proceso de paz en Colombia y Centro de Pensamiento y Seguimiento al Proceso de Diálogos de Paz de la UN - Website Universidad Nacional Colombia

 Other Reports

Transitional Justice and Colombia’s Peace Talks - International Crisis Group, Latin America Report No. 49, 29 Aug 2013