Colombian farmers who have personally suffered from the negative effects of illegal crops are asking for antidrug policy reform and for an agrarian reform.
“We come to this meeting with the same demands that we have had for decades, to find a concerted approach to producers of coca, marijuana and poppies,” said Eberto Diaz, president of the National Agricultural Union Federation, who was interviewed by Prensa Latina at a national farm forum.
To this day, national anti-drug policies are focused on fighting the effects and not the causes of a social problem that is affecting more than 60,000 families in 250 municipalities in 20 of the country’s departments, Diaz said.
“We are bringing to this debate a proposal to substitute these crops, in coordination with the communities, and we need an agrarian reform that will democratize land ownership,” he said.
Diaz, who is also a representative of the National Farm Committee for Interlocution and Agreement, called for a financing program based on a national fund, and a concerted program of investment in communities.
Referring to a recent national farm strike, which began on Aug. 19, Diaz said that a timetable had been worked out with the government last week to find a solution to the rural crisis.
The first meeting will take place Thursday in the northern city of Medellín and will focus on two issues: guarantees of protection for peasant leaders who participated in the protest, and the situation of illegal crops.
Subsequently, meetings will be held in other departments until Dec. 12, and “we hope that at the end of this cycle, we will have agreements for short, medium, and long-term solutions for the crisis in Colombia’s agriculture.”
He noted that the strike was not over, and was merely on hold after a month of roadblocks where demonstrators were attacked by security forces, leaving 12 people dead, 485 injured and four missing.
Diaz announced 50,000 people were expected to participate in a national farm summit in Bogotá in November, to present the country with a proposal for agrarian policy.
The national forum currently in session with 1,200 delegates is the fourth item on the agenda of the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC-EP guerrilla in Cuba. The talks have been taking place in Cuba since November of last year.
The forum is slated to conclude tomorrow and after that it will be extended from Oct. 1 to 3, in the southern department of Guaviare.