Colombia’s government and FARC rebels on Friday agreed to a pilot project that seeks farmers’ voluntary substitution of coca crops, used for the production of cocaine, for legal crops.
A crop substitution program had been included in a preliminary agreement on “The Problem of Illicit Drugs” that has long financed the FARC’s violent uprising against the state.
According to the country’s interim Prosecutor General, Jorge Perdomo, his office has evidence from five military operations that the guerrillas made at least $66 million trafficking cocaine and taxing coca farmers since 1995.
But in the village of Briceño, which earlier was the scene of a pilot demining program, the guerrillas will support attempts to reduce coca growth and stimulate the cultivation of legal crops.
Briceño lies in the heart of an important drug hub from where locally produced coca is processed to cocaine and trafficked to the nearby Caribbean and Pacific coastlines, mainly by neo-paramilitary group “Los Urabeños,” but also by the smaller ELN rebel group and the FARC itself.
The guerrillas, who have been formally talking peace since 2012, have vowed to abandon drug trafficking activities once peace is reached.
But with Friday’s announcement, the rebels seem to want to take steps ahead while still negotiating their demobilization and disarmament.
According to both the government and the guerrillas, the offer to facilitate the voluntary substitution of coca crops will take place in ten of the municipality’s townships.
The United Nations’ counter-narcotics organization, UNODC, will monitor the process. Other international agencies will help farmers’ transition from illegal coca growing to growing legal crops.
The local communities will be actively involved in the planning and execution of the crop restitution program, said the warring parties’ delegations.
Lessons learned from Briceño and previous attempts for crop substitution that failed under the administration of Alvaro Uribe will be used for a nation-wide program that seeks a way out of the illegal economy for farmers, most of whom are geographically isolated from the legal food market.
If the FARC and the government make peace it will end their 52-year-long armed conflict.