FARC Drug Trade Proposals a Mixed Bag for Govt Negotiators

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Colombia’s FARC guerrillas have published their proposal to end illicit drug production, and while some of it will resonate with government negotiators, an agreement is unlikely if the rebels insist on moves such as the demilitarization of traditional drug production regions. 

The National Program for the Substitution of the illicit Use of Coca, Poppy or Marijuana Crops, presented in Havana and published by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) on January 14 (see the FARC’s English summary here), includes a variety of proposals likely to be countenanced by the government delegation. Among them are drug crop substitution programs, the suspension of aerial crop fumigations, the establishment of rural community assemblies to consult on the process and agrarian reform — although the terms of such a measure could yet be a sticking point.

However, the demand for a demilitarization of traditional drug crop cultivation areas in order to facilitate substitution schemes is just one of several proposals the government delegation is likely to give short shrift. Others include an agreement never to exploit mineral resources or hydrocarbons in areas currently being used for drug crop cultivation.

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As highlighted by an article in El Tiempo, the proposal to demilitarize current drug crop cultivation areas completely ignores the fact that drug production facilities and trafficking routes — key targets for Colombian security forces’ anti-drug efforts — are situated in those same regions. Given that any peace agreement will have to involve a demobilization process for the guerrillas, the proposal is essentially a call for the government’s unilateral withdrawal from such areas, where other, non-FARC actors in the drug trade will continue their activities and likely move into any vacuum created by a FARC withdrawal.

SEE ALSO: FARC, Peace and Possible Criminalization

The government is also not likely to agree to put a freeze on resource exploitation in the regions in question. Colombia is rich in unexploited minerals and hydrocarbons, which promise a windfall in revenues in the event of peace and greater stability, and the government has made fuelling growth through mining and oil and gas extraction a central tenet of its economic policies.

However, there are numerous aspects of the proposal with room for compromise, and the document serves as a reminder of the unique opportunity the government has in being able to negotiate directly with the custodians of much of the base materials for Colombia’s drug trade.

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