A radically different approach to the current War on Drugs must be developed and integrated into the Peace Plan for Colombia otherwise the drug circuit and armed conflict will continue to undermine the prospect of realizing the goals of the Peace Process ultimately bringing to an end the war in Colombia.
In the area of failed alternative development (AD) projects, the Andean region has its sorry share to contribute. The constant peasant uprisings n the Bolivian Chapare and the social tensions rife among cocalero peasants in the South of Colombia are woeful indicators of such failure. In January, TNI attended a conference in Germany, hosted by the German government and UNDCP. The purpose was to critically evaluate experiences in AD and draw conclusions for its future.
In 1961, the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs prohibited planting crops having no medical or scientific purpose, fixing a period of 15 years - for opium - and 25 years - for coca - as deadlines for their ultimate extinction. Those targets were clearly not met. In 1998, ignoring decades of lack of success in addressing the issue of illicit crops, the UN set the year 2008 as yet another deadline by which to eliminate coca and opium. At the UN Special Session on drugs, AD was identified as a key instrument to be used in fulfilling this objective, as part of an integral anti-drugs strategy. The strategy's other components were eradication and law enforcement. Experience has demonstrated that the simultaneous use of these means - commonly known as the 'carrot and stick approach'- is counterproductive.
This issue of Drugs & Conflict is dedicated to this central theme in international drug control policies. Supply reduction, one of AD's objectives, has proven a failure in the Andean region. To what was this failure due? What may be expected of AD programmes in the future, given the accumulated experiences?
In reference to eradication pacts and AD projects undertaken in the Putumayo (Colombia), Ricardo Vargas points out that there is no fair compensation between what is expected of peasants: destroying the main source of their livelihood, and what the state offers them in exchange: non-viable projects doomed to fail and the impending threat of fumigation should deadlines not be met. International anti-drugs policy forces the Colombian government to measure its results by the number of hectares eradicated, without regard for the region's specific development conditions.
State institutions in Colombia have no capacity to operate effectively in the Putumayo. Locked into a crisis combining US pressure to intensify aerial spraying, a collapsed peace process and guerrilla action against the economic and services infrastructure, the central government is not in a position to guarantee the adequate running of AD programmes. To add fuel to fire, there is now the argument that finance for terrorism must be combated. This further erodes the social and economic rights of the peasants and down-plays the impact of aerial spraying on health and the environment.
In spite of widespread recognition of the failure of current 'carrot and stick' policies (a mixture of AD and repression), a 'zero option' mentality persists and deceit about success still abounds. The final declaration issued at the German policy conference is not radical in this sense. It does, however, offer some leaps forward in terms of fine tuning the AD concept, based on a better understanding of livelihood decision making processes, the importance of regular evaluations and, the acceptance of the reality that the communities most affected have not been allowed to participate sufficiently in their own development process. The declaration also manages to define somewhat more precisely the troublesome balance between AD and repressive law enforcement. It is worth noting that the UNDCP participated actively in the conference, displaying real willingness to seriously exchange opinions on these issues. This yields a modicum of optimism regarding the possibility that international bodies can learn to identify best practices and see the need to separate these from the current repressive policies, increasingly recognised as more harmful than drugs themselves.
The anti-drug strategy in Colombia limits the establishment of the basic political conditions necessary to attain the socio-economic goals of alternative development in the midst of war. President Álvaro Uribe's strategy only serves to make the ground fertile for more violence and instability.
Uno de los principales retos de Colombia está en cómo alcanzar objetivos de desarrollo alternativo en plena guerra. "Desarrollo alternativo" se refiere en este contexto a la creación de medios de vida alternativos para los campesinos de cultivos ilícitos. En escenarios de conflicto, el debate gira en torno a si el desarrollo alternativo está contribuyendo a generar condiciones de respeto a la vida y libertad de las personas; a si los poderes locales están logrando realmente la gobernabilidad; a qué ampliación de la democracia, fortalecimiento y participación de las comunidades se está alcanzando.
Reports of the discovery of a coca plant in Colombia's Sierra Nevada that have a high cocaine content and a higher level of purity, and also resistant to the effects of aerial spraying is based on evidence that is riddled with errors and distortions. It reflects badly on the INCB and the media that unquestioningly reported it.
The consequence of associating the 'war on drugs' with the 'war on terrorism' is that the failure of the former could end with the failure of the latter. The predominant military approach to 'narcoterrorism' fails to recognise the complex factors underlying both the drug problem and the violence; it assumes that the drug problem can be solved by force and that the armed conflict can be resolved by intensifying the conflict - that is, more war on war; and it has facilitated the consolidation of conventional drug-trafficking structures.
El riesgo de asociar la 'guerra a las drogas' a la 'guerra al terrorismo' es que el fracaso de la primera puede terminar convirtiéndose también en el fracaso de la segunda. La óptica militarista que predomina contra el 'narcoterrorismo' desconoce las complejas problemáticas subyacentes tanto al problema de las drogas como al de la violencia; da por hecho que el problema de las drogas se resuelve por la fuerza; que el conflicto armado se resuelve con la intensificación del conflicto, más guerra a la guerra; ha facilitado la consolidación de estructuras narcotraficantes convencionales.
The forced crop eradication policy implemented by the Peruvian government over the past 25 years has failed. The official strategy has exacerbated social conflicts; contributed to various types of subversive violence; jeopardized local economies, also affecting the national economy; and destroyed forests as crops have become more scattered. Worst of all, it has not resolved any of the underlying causes of drug trafficking, such as poverty, marginalisation and government neglect.
La política de erradicación forzosa de cultivos aplicada por los gobiernos peruanos en los últimos 25 años es un fracaso. Esta estrategia agudiza los conflictos sociales, alimenta la violencia subversiva de cualquier origen, perjudica las economías locales con efectos sobre la economía nacional, y destruye bosques al dispersar los cultivos. Pero lo peor es que no revierte ninguna de las causas subyacentes al narcotráfico, como la pobreza, la marginación y la desatención del Estado.