Three leaders of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement were indicted July 1 in US District Court for the Southern District of New York. Those charged are Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, who was captured by Peruvian security forces in February 2012; and the brothers Victor and Jorge Quispe Palomino, who remain at large. The charges include conspiracy to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization; narco-terrorism conspiracy; and two counts of use of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence. (Newsweek, July 2)
Colombia's coca eradication program was cited by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as reason for historic lows in cocaine production in the Andean country. According to the UNODC's World Drug Report 2014, Colombian cocaine production fell 25% in 2012, driving a global decline in cocaine supply for the year. In 2012, Colombian security forces manually eradicated 34,486 hectares (85,217 acres) of coca and sprayed over 100,549 hectares (247,000 acres) with herbicide, by official figures. The country's potential cocaine production estimates for the year fell to 309 tons, the lowest levels in nearly two decades. Coca cultivation has been cut by half from 2007 to 2012, the report boasts. However, the area under coca cultivation remained stable between 2012 and 2013, at some 48,000 hectares. Colombia remained the second largest coca producer, ahead of Bolivia and behind Peru. Gains were also claimed in Peru and Bolivia. Peru reduced the area under coca cultivation by 17.5% between 2012 and 2013, bringing the figure down to 49,800 hectares. The area under cultivation in Bolivia dropped to its lowest in 12 years, decreasing 9% from 2012 to 23,000 hectares. (Colombia Reports, BBC News, June 26; AP, June 23)
Colombia's government and the FARC guerilla organization announced an agreement May 16, entitled "Solution to the Problem of Illicit Drugs," in which they pledge to work together against the narco trade. The FARC, whose top leaders face extradition to the United States on trafficking charges, agreed to "end any relationship" with the illicit drug trade, and cooperate in a "National Program for the substitution of the illicit uses of coca, poppy, and marijuana crops." The accord calls for "integral development plans" for rural communities impacted by the drug trade, to be drawn up with the participation of those communities, in the context of an "Integral Rural Reform." It also calls for an international conference to be held under the auspices of the UN to reconsider global strategies against drugs—the one veiled reference in the agreement to the FARC's earlier proposals to decriminalize cultivation of coca leaf and cannabis. "With this we will eliminate the gasoline that has fuelled the conflict in Colombia—drug trafficking," said the government's lead negotiator, Humberto de la Calle.
An official from the capital district government of Bogotá on March 28 called upon Colombia’s national government to open debate on broadening the policy of cannabis decriminalization. "We really need leadership from the Congress and the government to regulate the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana," said the general secretary of the Bogotá mayor's office, Susana Muhamad. Despite efforts by the previous government of President Alvaro Uribe to roll back the policy, since 1994 cannabis has been decriminalized in small quantitites—recently established by the judiciary as up to 22 grams. However, sale and cultivation remain illegal. Muhamad appealed to current President Manuel Santos to examine lifting these limitations.
Coca-growers in Bolivia's lowland jungle town of Yapacaní on March 27 clashed with police in a protest against the construction of a new base of the Mobile Rural Patrol Unit (UMOPAR), the hated coca-eradication force. Protesters set up roadblocks in an effort to prevent construction crews from breaking ground on the new base. When National Police troops used tear-gas to break up the blockades, protesters replied by hurling rocks. Regional police commander Johnny Requena blamed drug gangs for the opposition to the base, which is being financed by the European Union to the tune of $1.3 million.
Peru's National Police on Feb. 4 announced the discovery of over 100,000 cannabis plants at the high Andean community of Minasel, 4,000 meters above sea level, on the border of Áncash and Huánuco regions. The plants were burned in the fields, police said, while the growers escaped into the mountains. (RPP, Feb. 4) On Jan. 15, elite troops of the Special Anti-drug Operation Division eradicated 65,000 plants of moño rojo (red bud) at the remote mountain village of San Martín de Porres, Chinchao district, Huánuco. (Peru21, Jan. 15)
At the peace talks with the Colombian government that just re-convened in Havana after a holiday break, the FARC rebels released a proposal Jan. 14 outlining a plan to decriminalize and "regulate the production of coca, poppies and marijuana." The proposal came in a lengthy document entitled "The National Program of the Substitution of the Illicit Uses of Coca, Poppy, or Marijuana Crops,” described in a press release as a "special chapter of rural and agricultural reform, social-environmental reform, democracy reform, and participatory reform." The guerrilla group, said to largely finance itself through the drug trade, agreed that growers should be encouraged "to voluntarily grow alternative crops"—a reference to the largely ineffectual crop substitution programs the US has long funded in Colombia. But FARC negotiator Pablo Catatumbo rejected the model of prohibition and eradication. "Instead of fighting the production [of illicit substances] it's about regulating it and finding alternatives," he said. "The fundamental basis of this plan lies in its voluntary and collaborative nature, and in the political will on the part of the growers to take alternative paths to achieve humane living and working conditions." Catatumbo also said that the "medicinal, therapeutic and cultural" uses of the substances should be taken into account.
News accounts revealed in December that the US-funded glyphosate spraying in Colombia has been indefinitely suspended after presumed FARC guerillas shot down two fumigation planes—killing one US pilot. One plane came down Sept. 27, killing the pilot, whose name was not revealed. Reports were unclear where this incident took place. The Los Angeles Times on Dec. 17 named the village of Tarra, which is in Norte de Santander, along the Venezuelan border; Bogotá's El Tiempo implied it was in the southern jungle department of Putumayo. A second crop-duster was brought down Oct. 5, apparently at a location in Caquetá—also in the southern jungle. This prompted the US embassy to halt the spraying, according to anonymous sources. Neither the embassy nor the State Department would confirm the report.