FARC Proposes Drug Regulation During Peace Talks

The Colombian government and the left-wing rebel group, the FARC, have been participating in peace talks for the last year in Havana, Cuba. The drug regulation plan was proposed by the FARC during these talks, now in the 19th round. There are six major points to be addressed in this agreement; land reform, political participation, illegal drugs, disarmament, rights of the victims and a peace deal implementation. Currently, there are 7,800 active FARC members and another 10,000 fringe members. Drug trafficking largely finances the guerrilla group, which has been engaged in a war against Colombia for 50 years. This week during the peace talks, the FARC suggested a program to regulate the production of coca, poppies, and marijuana rather than continue to wage war over drugs.

Three South American countries, Peru, Bolivia, and Colombia are the top producers of coca. Coca is the raw material needed to make cocaine. Colombia also grows marijuana and produces small amounts of heroin. During negotiations the FARC suggested that growers should be persuaded to grow other, legal crops. In the fight against the drug trade, the Colombian government has spent millions of dollars on different forms of eradication. Some of these efforts include: pulling each plant out by hand, encouraging growers to switch to legal crops, and spraying herbicides. Although this war on drugs has not been entirely successful, significant progress has been made. Figures released by the United Nations show a 25% drop in the overall area of land being used to farm coca between 2011 and 2012.

Recently, FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo spoke out against eradication and prohibition of these crops. Catatumbo argues: “Instead of fighting the production [of illicit substances] it's about regulating it and finding alternatives […] The fundamental basis of this plan lies in its voluntary and collaborative nature, and in the political will on the part of the growers to take alternative paths to achieve humane living and working conditions." Catatumbo also emphasized the “medicinal, therapeutic, and cultural” uses of some of these plants. Coca has been used for hundreds of years as an altitude sickness remedy and as a mild stimulant. In Bolivia, coca production is legal in small amounts while cocaine production remains illegal. Recently in Uruguay, marijuana was voted to be legal and stands to be the first country in the world to legalize the substance. While drug regulation may be the clear answer for the FARC, both sides must agree before any peace agreement will be signed. Currently, the FARC and the Colombian government have agreed upon two issues: land reform and political participation by the FARC. These peace talks will continue in Cuba until both sides agree fully on every issue.

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Kelcey Hadden-Leggett
Kelcey Hadden-Leggett is an undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh pursuing a degree in Spanish, a Certificate in Latin American Studies, and a related area Certificate in Portuguese. She recently completed the Pitt in Ecuador program in the Amazon.