democraciaAbierta: Investigation

"This is a deaf, dumb and blind government"

Éder Jair Sánchez is part of ANUC, Colombia's largest peasant organization. He has dedicated his life to defending those who live in the countryside. This is his testimony. Español

democracia Abierta Juanita Rico
4 September 2020, 12.00am
Éder Jair Sánchez
Archivo Personal.

Éder speaks:

I have been in social processes related to the defense of peasant rights for 25 years. I am a lawyer and Master in Human Rights candidate at Universidad Nacional of Colombia. Although the ANUC focuses on peasant issues, today we focus on monitoring the implementation of the Peace Agreement.

Crop substitution: the critical point

One of the most complex and least-fulfilled points of the Agreement is the fourth point, related to crop substitution.

To speak of crop substitution is still to speak of a dead end. Now more than ever, in the midst of the pandemic, the State continues to use various strategies to reduce or eliminate crops, while thousands of peasants wonder how to enter the legal economy that would allow them to survive in a dignified way.

Point 4 of the Agreement aims to provide a "Solution to the problem of illicit drugs". To achieve this, the Agreement agreed to create a Comprehensive National Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS in Spanish), with the purpose of overcoming the communities' affected by illicit crops poverty conditions by promoting voluntary substitution to generate productive opportunities and close the agricultural frontier. Likewise, it had the obligation to create a benefit package for the peasants who took advantage of the voluntary substitution pact.

Cultivo de coca en Colombia.
Cultivo de coca en Colombia | Fotos para periodistas del Pnud en Colombia.

A key part of this point is that it looks to: promote security conditions for communities and territories affected by illicit crops through community agreements for substitution, enact regulatory adjustments for differentiated criminal treatment of small growers and prioritize the application of programs in areas with higher crop density and National Natural Parks.

Where is the government?

For more than two years we warned that, with the arrival of the current government, the already-dire situation of social leaders was going to enter, and entered, into crisis. Why?

Because of the re-organization of illegal actors. The Duque government had already made the decision to resume spraying crops with glyphosate. Also, the president stated, repeatedly, that he was going to "tear the Agreement to shreds," which made us understand that it was up to us to protect ourselves and ask for guarantees.

In the case of Putumayo, more than 15 social leaders have been assassinated so far this year. Most worked with issues or organizations related to the substitution of coca crops. The truth is that many, if not all, have lost their lives betting on the Peace Agreement, which remains unfulfilled.

On July 2 and 20, two leaders were killed. One was a 15-year-old indigenous man in Villa Garzón, killed in the framework of a confrontation with the public force. Do you know what the worst part is? They did not want to give the body to his family. And when they finally delivered the body, he was in uniform. We believe he was going to be a victim of what are known as false positives [extrajudicial killings].

We have made many proposals to the government to improve the situation. But they have turned a deaf ear. We have no echo. We have proposed that there be a collective security protocol. Self-protection measures need to be given not only to the leaders, but to the communities.

Pandemic and silence

For us, as for many communities in the country, the pandemic was felt with double weight. On the one hand, we do not have health posts, we do not have how to comply with biosafety regulations. And on the other hand, the pandemic has been the vehicle for the Agreement to be broken further.

In the middle of the quarantine, we have seen how illegal armed actors arrive without any protocol and tear down coca crops, when we had thought that would not happen anymore after the Agreement. Things has gotten worse.

In July there was a mobilization. In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 1,000 peasants came out to protest in Puerto Asís for the way in which crops are being eradicated.

Every year, the Peace Agreement is audited, which, to a large extent, depends on the government in power. To date, the effective implementation of what was agreed in Point 1 has not progressed as expected, and productive crop substitution projects remain, mainly, on paper.

Added to this, the families that voluntarily eradicated crops are at enormous social and economic risk, because they lost their source of income and the productive projects with institutional support did not arrive. Likewise, the adjustments for the differentiated criminal treatment of peasants have not been processed, so we continue to be harassed by the State and the mafias that plague the regions.

As of December 2019, only 5% of what was agreed in Point 4 of the Agreement had been implemented. The fourth and most recent implementation report made by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies of the University of Notre Dame, commissioned by the parties to the Peace Agreement to follow up on its implementation, reached that conclusion. .

The report shows that the Comprehensive National Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops (PNIS) “presented delays during the first half of the study period. Although after April 2019 some progress was made in terms of food security projects, for example, they were not enough to rebuild the confidence lost due to delays ”.

The murder of social leaders for opposing forced eradication is also striking.

Lack of protection and massacres

At this time, communities have no protection. In Putumayo, we have requested a departmental dialogue table, but it has not happened. We have also asked for the participation instances that were created with the Agreement to be fulfilled, but since the beginning of the pandemic in March, the government has not convened any table. We demand that they be done virtually, that no more peasants continue to be massacred.

Putumayo is the third department with the most coca crops, so we need that table to dialogue. We cannot continue with forced eradication. According to our calculations, there are more than 10,000 peasants who live off these crops… 10,000! We need to know how each crop is to be replaced without confrontation.

The problem is that this is a blind, deaf and dumb government. Meanwhile they continue to massacre us, because they are massacres, not homicides, and we continue to wait.

This testimony is part of the demoAbierta series "Social leaders in danger" about social leaders, their stories and the reality that they live in Colombia.

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