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Saturday, January 28, 2023
Analysis by Constanza Vieira*
BOGOTA, Feb 23 2009 (IPS) - The anti-drug, anti-insurgent Plan Colombia is, paradoxically, at the heart of the tragedy involving Awa indigenous people who were murdered this month by the FARC guerrillas.
The Marshal Antonio Jose de Sucre Column of the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) acknowledged that it had "executed" eight Awa people, accused of being army informants, in the conflict-ridden department of Narino, in the southwest part of the country.
Huge tracts of land on the way to Narino are now planted with coca and populated by drug laboratories, displacing villagers, ever since the Plan Colombia, financed by the United States, demolished drug production in Putumayo and Caqueta successively over the course of 2000. The two regions are neighbours to Narino looking eastward and north eastward.
The objective of Plan Colombia was to expel the coca-growing population and isolate it from the FARC, which emerged in 1964.
But the strategy failed to take into consideration the "globalizing effect", observed by drug experts. When you "oppress" the business in one area, it will move to another. Now there are 20,000 hectares of coca in Narino.
"The Awas probably have been hit hardest by this colonisation and coca bonanza, since large fields of coca have been planted around and within their lands," said anthropologist Efrain Jaramillo Jaramillo.
The reason: Feb. 24 will be the 100th anniversary of the first meeting of 13 countries in the Chinese port city of Shanghai to study the international drug trade, as part of the International Opium Commission.
Their recommendations were incorporated into the first worldwide drug control treaty – the International Opium Convention – signed in The Hague in 1912.
In 1909, it was estimated that there were 800,000 drug users. Today there are more than 240 million, or 4 percent of the world population, according to the INCB.
"We haven’t won (the war), but it’s not lost," said Dr. Camilo Uribe in the report released in Bogota. Uribe is second vice-president of INCB and president of the Permanent Committee in the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.
The new report reveals that coca planning grew by 27 percent in Colombia, the country which is the world’s largest producer of raw cocaine.
Efforts by Colombian officials to eradicate coca, supported by the Plan Colombia, ran up against "violent attacks by armed and criminal groups using guns and anti-personnel mines to protect their illicit plantings,’ wrote the INCB in its report.
This is "a war which will last as long as the human race," said Gen. Alvaro Caro, director of narcotics police, at the presentation of the report in Bogota, or at least for the next "400 years."
But not everyone agrees that war is the best way to fight the consumption of drugs.
"Violence and organized crime associated with illicit drug trafficking constitute one of the most serious problems in Latin America," according to the report "Drugs and democracy in Latin American: towards a change of the paradigm."
Released on the 11th of this month in Rio de Janeiro by a commission headed by ex-presidents Cesar Gaviria (Colombia), Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico) and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), the report calls for a "correction in the strategy of a "war on drugs" which has been applied over the last 30 years in the region."
Plan Colombia did not reach its goals, noted the ex-presidents’ report, which were "to end the armed conflicts in this country, elaborate a strategy for confronting narcotraffick, eradicate the production of coca, revitalize the economy of the country and offer alternatives to the rural producers."
The cultivation of coca was nonexistent or marginal in Narino, but the war on drugs of Plan Colombia triggered it, according to regional statistics.
For the Awas, the fumigation of coca fields in Putumayo and Caqueta unleashed a deluge of coca growers and people looking to buy acreage in their ancestral lands.
Further, damage to the environment grew as forests were chopped down and fertilisers and other chemicals were used by the growers of coca and producers of cocaine, all added to the aerial spraying with a powerful herbicide "glyphosate" – known as "matatodo" because of its killing power.
But, "what will in the long run be most harmful to this population is the violence and socio-cultural decay, produced by drug manufacture," warned Jaramillo.
The sustainable economy that had given them good food and health was replaced by an illegal one, which established norms of "cultural, environmental and spiritual poverty", previously unknown to the Awa, noted the anthropologist.
Today, in the former Awa paradise, "death is everywhere in the form of drunken fighting and banditry," she added.
After each act of violence, the indigenous people have demanded the de-militarising of their lands, as when at the Council of Indigenous and Popular Resistance last October, a massive mobilisation of native peoples was organised to challenge President Alvaro Uribe at the end of last year.
This month, after the massacre at Columna Sucre by the FARC, the indigenous Council declared: "We will catch the assassins and see that justice is served."
"Our solidarity will be seen very soon," they warned.
*This article is part of a three-part series about the massacre of some eight Awa people, committed in February by the Antonio Jose de Sucre Column of the FARC.
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