They've financed their struggle with proceeds from the cocaine trade, but Colombia's FARC Guerrillas decided to roll out an anti-narcotics strategy nevertheless. If the armed conflict in Colombia is going to stop anytime soon, politicians will have to listen to what the rebels have to say.
The guerrillas' ten point anti-narcotics plan, which was released earlier this week, will be discussed in ongoing peace negotiations between the rebels and the government.
Curiously, it is kind of similar to what the governments of Colombia and other Latin American countries are already advocating for when it comes to drug policy, and somewhat different to what the U.S. government wants.
Here are some of the things the guerrillas want: [you can see the full list here]
- Treatment of drugs as a public health problem, and decriminalization of drug consumption. [ie. don't put weed users in the slammer]
- Rural development programs, to encourage farmers to replace illicit crops of coca leaf, poppy and marijuana with legal crops.
- Immediate suspension of [US backed] coca fumigation programs, and reparations for the victims of these fumigation campaigns.
- Recognition of the medicinal, nutritional and therapeutic uses of the coca leaf, marijuana and the poppy flower.
- Demilitarization of drug policy.
- Anti drug policies that focus on going after the financial structures that support drug dealers.
Adam Isacson, a drug policy expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, said that the guerilla's anti-narcotics plan is important because it lets us know what they're thinking when it comes to drug policy.
He said that the drug policies of the Colombian government and the FARC are somewhat similar.
"They're not as radical as we might have feared," Isacson said of the rebels and their ten point plan. "They're not calling for full legalization, only for decreased enforcement of the illegal use of drugs."
For about a year, the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas have been talking about how to end the country's sixty year old armed conflict.
Drug policy is one of five main issues that must be agreed upon if the guerrillas are going to lay their weapons down.
When it comes to drug policy, one of the sticky topics might be what to do over coca fumigation campaigns that use toxic chemicals and have caused major environmental damage.
Isacson said the government might agree to stop aerial fumigation, if the guerrillas promise to contribute with the manual eradication of illicit crops, and promise not to kill workers who are trying to eradicate coca crops, as has occurred in the past.
“There’s a strong likelihood that they could agree to stop the fumigation,” Isacson said.
So what would Colombia's drug policy look like if a deal is reached between the government and the guerrillas?
Colombia would decriminalize the consumption of some drugs [it's already legal to carry small doses of cocaine and marijuana], stop fumigation campaigns, and allow some entrepreneurs to grow marijuana and coca for medicinal use.
Its drug policy wouldn't be quite as liberal as that of Uruguay, which is set to legalize the sale and production of marijuana for recreational use, but it would be more flexible than that of the U.S. government.
Manuel Rueda is a correspondent for Fusion, covering Mexico and South America. He travels from donkey festivals, to salsa clubs to steamy places with cartel activity.