|From anti-government fighters to anti-drug fighters? |
FARC guerrillas on the march. (Photo: Wikipedia)
It is potentially great news for Colombia, since, as chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle said, illegal drugs are the "gasoline" of Colombia's long conflict. Without active guerrillas, Colombia will have a much easier time fighting criminal groups and convincing peasant farmers to abandon drug crops, de la Calle pointed out.
"The goal," he said, "is to liberate Colombia of illegal crops, of coca plantations and cocaine production."
It's an admirable goal, and would be a great thing for Colombia. However, as Sr. de la Calle might observe, guerrilla groups are far from a necessary ingredient for illegal drug production.
Look at Bolivia, which has never had a viable guerrilla force, but is the world's third-largest and a growing producer of coca leaf.
Then there's Peru, which has nearly defeated its own guerrillas, the Shining Path, but recently
|Picking coca leaf in Peru: Their guerrillas are almost |
gone, but drug production has risen. (Photo: COHA)
And then look to Central America and Mexico, which have no guerrilla groups, but are major drug growers (of poppy and marijuana) and distributors to the United States, and have become battlefields for narcotrafficking gangs similar to the cartels which wracked Colombia during the 1980s and '90s.
When there's demand, there will be supply.
Eliminating the FARC guerrillas - if that happens - will hopefully reduce Colombia's violence, expand government control and allow more assistance to peasant farmers. But it's still a long way from eliminating the drug trade.
Still, the agreement is a big step forward. It's the third point the government and guerrilla negotiators have signed onto and shows that the guerrillas really do have an intention of reaching a peace deal. Coming just over a week before the first round of presidential elections, it's a boost for Pres. Santos and seems to indicate that the guerrillas are want him to win - if only because they see the right-wing candidate Zuluaga as a stand in for their arch enemy Alvaro Uribe.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours