Fresh approach to drugs control urged

05 January 2019

On 21 December, the UN Office against Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the National Commission for Development and Life Without Drugs (DEVIDA), published their much-delayed annual coca reduction monitoring report for 2017. The findings of the report, which show a 14% increase of production over 2016, despite coca eradication programmes, has aroused further criticism of the conceptual framework of the so-called ‘War on Drugs’ and its failure to prevent the spread of illicit production and trafficking from its heartland in the emergency zone of VRAEM (the valleys of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro rivers) to a total of 17 other valleys across the Amazon region, including protected areas and indigenous lands.

Economist Hugo Cabieses, a parliamentary adviser on coca and a former vice-minister at the environment ministry, calls instead for the voluntary substitution of crops, accompanied by integrated rural development programmes focused on meeting local and national demand, programmes consistent with environmental protection. Cabieses recognises that this alternative requires initiative from the top (President Martín Vizcarra) and a change from the current neoliberal model of development in the Amazon region. 

Cabieses argues rightly that both the spread of coca agriculture and its repression encourage illegal economic activity of various sorts (including trafficking in wood and illicit mineral extraction). He also alludes to the well-proven fact that alternative development programmes simply do not work.

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