Colombia’s government and the FARC have reached an agreement on drug trafficking and illegal crops, though the fate of the peace talks may hinge on the result of the country’s upcoming election.
On May 16, both parties announced in a joint press release they have agreed on illegal crop substitution programs, public health programs to prevent drug addiction, and a plan to combat drug trafficking.
According to the terms of the agreement, the government will create an illegal crop substitution program that will involve local communities in both the planning and implementation stages. The program will encourage growers to voluntarily remove illicit plants and replace them with legal harvests, although the government will be allowed to intervene in extreme cases.
In order to prevent drug consumption and treat addiction, the government will also develop public health programs that foster collaboration between different institutions and address social inclusion issues.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has agreed that when the peace process is finalized, they will cut all ties to drug trafficking organizations and assist the government in removing landmines.
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The Colombian government and the FARC have been involved in peace negotiations since October 2012 and had previously reached agreements on land reform and political participation. Although this latest agreement seems promising, it may prove difficult to enact. Rivals to President Juan Manuel Santos in upcoming presidential elections on May 25 have also suggested the agreement was hurried to boost his performance at the polls.
In the past, crop substitution programs have also proved difficult to implement. Problems transporting food crops from remote rural areas and the relative stability of coca prices compared to legal crops make such programs unappealing for many growers. According to El Tiempo, coca is replanted in 42 percent of the cases in which the government eradicates the crop.
If crop substitution programs prove unpopular among rural communities, dealing with this problem could cause tensions between the FARC and the government. Although the FARC wants the government to commit to manual eradication in these instances, Humberto de la Calle, the government´s chief negotiator, said Colombian authorities reserve the right to spray illegal crops.
Another impediment to the proposals could also be the possible criminalization of FARC elements and their continued activity in the trade. Such a development carries precedent, with former guerrillas from the now defunct Popular Liberation Army (EPL) prominent in the evolution of Colombia’s primary criminal group, the Urabeños.
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Depending on who wins the presidential elections on May 25, however, these agreements may never be implemented, with Center Democratic party candidate Oscar Ivan Zuluaga — who was leading in the polls last week — a fierce critic of the negotiations.