Secretary of State John Kerry said the newest agreement to emerge from the talks, signed by both parties Friday, on the issue of drug cultivation and trafficking will play an important role in any eventual peace deal reached during the negotiations, which have been continuous since November 2012.
“Resolving the question of narcotics production and trafficking is central to achieving that peace” said Kerry.
Details of the deal will not be announced until such time as the negotiation teams reach an overarching settlement, yet there have been indications that the agreement will address Colombia’s US-sponsored coca aerial fumigation strategy, which the FARC has repeatedly criticized publicly.
According to a joint statement released by the peace delegations, the agreement will create a program to help farmers convert fields planted with illicit plants to alternative crops, an approach advocated for by the FARC and by various human rights groups.
A previous Colombia Reports investigation confirmed widespread reports that the practice of dumping herbicide on suspected coca fields has indiscriminately killed licit crops and contaminated nearby water supplies and civilian populations throughout the country.
In his statement, however, Kerry went on to express continued US support of aerial fumigation, saying that “reducing cocaine trafficking, including through eradication and interdiction, helped establish the conditions for the peace process now underway” and praising the “success” of the controversial US aid package known as Plan Colombia, which Amnesty International has called “a failure in every respect.”
According to the US State Department, Colombian officials have reaffirmed the importance of “maintaining manual and aerial eradication capabilities,” though Colombian Minister of Justice Alfonso Gomez recently called for a shift away from the policy, during a trip to the United States. Gomez’s sentiments have been echoed by others within the Colombian government, as well as independent groups active in humanitarian work in the country.
Eradication has been an integral part of Plan Colombia, a broad aid package that has sent over $9 billion to Colombia since 1999, mostly in the form of military funding.
Drug cultivation and trafficking is the third of six topics on the negotiation agenda for the Colombian peace talks, currently being held in Havana, Cuba. Agreements on the first two, agrarian reform and political participation, were signed in May and November of last year, respectively.
- The United States Welcomes Progress in Efforts To Achieve Peace in Colombia (US State Department)