Both the FARC guerrillas and Colombian coca farmers have called for the implementation of agreements for tackling coca cultivation, but doing so while the conflict continues to rage will prove difficult.
Earlier this week, negotiators from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) released a statement calling for the government to implement keys aspects of a preliminary agreement on the drug trade.
The FARC and the government reached this agreement during peace talks last year, which included the FARC’s commitment to sever ties to the illicit drug trade. The accord also outlined an approach for dealing with Colombia’s illicit coca trade: a mix of voluntary eradication programs and more investment in the rural areas where coca is grown.
In their statement, the FARC argue that there are no legal obstacles to implementing these plans starting now. Initiating an alternative approach to drug policy is particularly urgent, given recent reports that coca cultivation is on the rise in Colombia, the statement adds.
Coca farmers echoed the guerrillas’ remarks during a recent summit held in the southern department of Putumayo, reported La Silla Vacia. Leaders at the summit also called for the implementation of new crop substitution and eradication programs, even though Colombia’s peace talks have not yet concluded.
The coca farmers also called for additional measures not discussed during the peace talks, including a gradual eradication program that would allow farmers to keep producing coca as they switch to new crops.
Colombia’s peace talks are currently in a rough patch, rocked by rising violence and falling popular support. However, on July 8, the guerrillas declared the start of a new unilateral ceasefire in the hope of putting negotiations back on track.
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The FARC and the coca farmers are correct in saying there are few legal impediments to initiating the new coca programs, which, strictly speaking, aren’t even that “new.” The proposals are more like improved versions of projects already launched around the country, rather than a radically different approach to drug policy.
However, while it may be possible to launch small pilot schemes, a full-scale implementation of the drug agreement would prove difficult under current conditions. Coca cultivation takes place in some of the most war-torn parts of the country. Without an indefinite bilateral ceasefire in place, the volatile security conditions could endanger the projects.
Meanwhile, the FARC units that continue to fund themselves by taxing and trading coca will likely prove reluctant to see their revenues dwindle, without having any guarantees in place for their demobilization.