Posted July 11, 2023.
July 14, 2022
Posted July 11, 2023.
July 14, 2022
A data-heavy look at government compliance with the illicit drugs chapter of the peace accord, and an evaluation of drug policy options. (link at juanitaenelcongreso.com)
September 27, 2020
The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) releases its annual survey of coca cultivation and cocaine production in Colombia in 2019. It finds that 154,000 hectares of coca were planted in Colombia that year, a decrease of 15,000 hectares from 2018. It estimates that this coca was used to produce 1,137 tons of cocaine, up from 1,120 in 2018.
July 28, 2020
An interview about coca eradication and substitution with Pedro Arenas of Corporación Viso Mutop, former mayor of San José del Guaviare.
July 27, 2020
We’re pleased to share this letter, addressed to the U.S. Congress, from community leaders in Briceño, Antioquia. When Colombia’s government and the FARC were nearing a peace agreement in 2015, they agreed to set up pilot projects in Briceño for coca substitution and landmine removal. As the leaders’ letter explains, it has been both a positive and a frustrating experience. View or download a PDF version.
Briceño, Antioquia, Colombia, July 16, 2020
Dear U.S. Senators, Representatives, and staff:
We write from Briceño, a municipality in the northwestern department (province) of Antioquia, Colombia that has lived through the insecurity of an armed conflict, the violence of the illicit coca economy, and more recently, the hope of a peace process. Our experience as Colombia’s “Peace Laboratory”—the site of pilot projects for humanitarian demining and illicit crop substitution as part of the peace agreement between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas—shows what the peace process can achieve, and what can be lost if we don’t support it.
In the last week, US congresspeople have shown admirable leadership in public messages in favor of the Colombian people: first, a letter to Secretary Pompeo calling for protection for social leaders and, second, the House Appropriations Committee’s report seeking to use U.S. assistance to promote the peace accords’ implementation, and to support coca substitution as the most effective solution to cocaine production and trafficking.
With this letter, we wish to share some of the experience of Briceño in the hope that American legislators may take further concrete steps to encourage the Colombian government to use voluntary substitution as the priority strategy to diminish coca cultivation, and to respect and accelerate the implementation of the peace accords.
From approximately 2000 to 2017, coca dominated our local economy. As distinct from traditional crops like coffee and beans, it offered us four to six harvests a year, a relatively high price, and easy access to markets via armed groups that purchased coca paste in the territory. Nonetheless, coca also brought a wave of violence, as the FARC and paramilitary groups fought for control of the territory and its illicit economy. As in many rural areas of Colombia, civilians suffered the most in the conflict. In Briceño, we measured more than 9,000 acts of victimization (the majority forced displacement, homicide, or threats)—a number greater than the entire local population.
In 2015, a pilot humanitarian demining program, the first collaboration between the Colombian government and the FARC during their negotiations of the historic 2016 peace agreement, came to the hamlet of El Orejón in Briceño. This area, according to official FARC sources, had approximately eight antipersonnel mines for each inhabitant. In 2017, following the signing of the peace accords, Briceño was also declared the site of a pilot program for the substitution of illicit crops, negotiated as the accords’ fourth point. 2,734 families entered the program and pulled out their coca crops with the expectation of help with productive projects and technical assistance, along with a comprehensive land tenure reform, to allow them to transition to a licit economy. With demining and substitution, Briceño took on a leading role as the “Colombian Peace Laboratory,” awakening our hopes for a deeper territorial transformation.
The voluntary substitution agreement promised to provide these families with food security, productive projects, and technical assistance for two years, while simultaneously serving as an example of how to solve the world drug supply problem and transition from coca cultivation to legal economies. Importantly, we participated in the program’s construction, adding our voices to a joint effort involving the government, FARC representatives, and international cooperation. We then made the collective decision to pull out our coca, trusting that the help we need to change our lives would arrive. However, three years later, we are still waiting for the majority of the projects we were promised.
These problems notwithstanding, Briceño is the municipality in Colombia where the substitution program has advanced the most. In addition to the government’s failure to deliver promised resources to the 99,097 families nationwide who signed voluntary substitution agreements, we are concerned that the government has returned to violent and coercive solutions in areas where substitution has not even arrived. These include forced manual eradication, which during the COVID-19 pandemic alone has caused the deaths of six farmers at the hands of the Colombian army, and fumigation with glyphosate from aircraft, which has been prohibited in Colombia since 2015 for its damaging health effects but is on its way to a return with the Trump administration’s strong support.
Despite the problems we have experienced, the example of Briceño shows us that substitution works. In five months, without firing a single weapon, sacrificing a single human life, or creating a single victim, we voluntarily pulled out 99% of the coca in Briceño. And even with the government’s failure to live up to the agreement, UNODC officials certify that beneficiaries haven’t replanted their coca.
We have experienced the alternatives to substitution. In the times of coca, small planes arrived to fumigate our coca fields with glyphosate, which also killed our food crops and poisoned our water. We have experienced forced manual eradication, which brought deaths and injuries from armed confrontations and land mines planted within coca fields. In each case, when our coca crops were left destroyed, we were given no alternatives to change to other livelihoods. In each case, the great majority of farmers salvaged or replanted their coca. Our experience is consistent with the findings of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which has documented a replanting rate of higher than 45% in the case of forced manual eradication and higher than 80% for aerial fumigation.
Conversely, according to the same organization, the replanting rate for the voluntary substitution program has been 0.4%. With the productive projects and rural development provided for in the peace accords, Colombia’s coca farmers are willing and able to transition to licit crops. Without them, or with coercive approaches to coca cultivation, we fear the Colombian countryside will be caught up in yet another cycle of violence and illegal production.
The Peace Agreement represents a unique opportunity for the Colombian people to take an important step in the fight against the drug problem, extreme poverty, and armed conflict. Our example demonstrates that we can transform our territory, but the accords and specifically the agreed upon times must be respected. The danger of not living up to the agreement is evident in the multiple threats, displacements, and deaths that social leaders have suffered the implementation of the peace accords and particularly the Covid-19 pandemic. We appreciate the recent messages from the American Congress in support of the Colombian people. We know the influence on Colombian politics of the statements and economic aid that reach us from the US. We ask that you use this power to support the peace process, voluntary substitution, the victims of armed conflict, and our social leaders in the following ways:
Jhon Jairo Gonzalez Agudelo
Coordinator of the Association for Victims’ Effective Participation, Municipality of Briceño
President of ASOCOMUNAL, Briceño
Menderson Mosquera Pinto
Coordinator of the Association for Victims’ Effective Participation, Department of Antioquia
Researcher and Doctoral Student in Sociology, University of Texas at Austin
Director, Observatory of Crops and Cultivators Declared Illicit, Occdi Global
Corporación Viso Mutop
July 21, 2020
A discussion of the Kroc Institute’s June 16, 2020 report on implementation of the peace accord.
July 11, 2020
Two longtime Colombian drug policy experts analyze the costs and risks of the current supply-side, eradication-heavy model for dealing with illicit crops, and lay out alternative proposals.
June 30, 2020
Launch of a report on coca substitution alternatives, the product of a collaboration between a journalist and a scholar/expert.
June 24, 2020
A collection of accounts of campesinos who have successfully substituted coca through sustainable and innovative projects.
June 23, 2020
In Valle del Cauca, Sandra and Dora, members of CORTUCAN, tell how they are making ecotourism a sustainable livelihood for their families.
June 11, 2020
Saura and Johana tell how they came back to their lands in Catatumbo and how, after subscribing to the National Comprehensive Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS), they began to grow food where there were once coca crops.
May 28, 2020
Socorro attends the Rural Alternative School (ERA) of San José del Guaviare.
May 21, 2020
In Anorí, Antioquia, Mirian tells how PASO Colombia’s Contingency Plan To Support Ex-coca Grower Families enabled her to receive the first formal payment of her life.
May 8, 2020
An update from a scholar who has been sheltering in place with a campesino family in Briceño, Antioquia, the town chosen for a pilot crop substitution project before the 2016 peace accord was signed.
May 4, 2020
Nancy tells how she has implemented her leadership and gender-related insights in the municipal nursery of Anorí, Antioquia.
April 30, 2020
Emilse, from Caquetá, tells how after eradicating her coca plants, she joined with several neighbors to grow food and develop productive animal breeding projects.
April 20, 2020
Ariel Ávila explains the stubborn persistence of coca cultivation in Colombia.
March 30, 2020
March 19, 2020
From their fight to assert the rights of coca-grower movements in Bolivia to their contribution to peace building in Colombia, women growers have been crucial agents of change in their communities.
March 4, 2020
Two women from Putumayo talk about how coca cultivation and related violence have affected their lives, and their leadership of efforts to turn away from the crop.
February 27, 2020
February 22, 2020
A detailed update, as of October 31, 2019, on the state of the Colombian government’s illicit crop substitution program within the framework of chapter 4 of the 2016 peace accord. (Link at unodc.org)
February 4, 2020
February 1, 2020
January 24, 2020