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ENCOD Statement to Commission on Narcotic Drugs

ONE YEAR LEFT Dear delegates, On behalf of the European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, a platform of more than 150 citizens’ association from around Europe, we wish to ask your attention for the following. Next year, a crucial deadline expires. During the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in June 1998, in New York, a political declaration was adopted mentioning two important objectives and a target date. In this declaration, the UN General Assembly committed itself to “achieving significant and measurable results in the field of demand reduction” as well as to “eliminating or reducing significantly the illicit cultivation of the coca bush, the cannabis plant and the opium poppy” by the year 2008. The failure of policies based on this assumption is proved every day by citizens, by the farmers living in coca and opium producing areas in South America and Asia, by people in jails, on dancefloors, in coffeeshops, in user rooms, but also in institutional corridors. According to figures published by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the annual prevalence of drug use (as percentage of population aged 15 and above) is showing a slight increase with regards to ecstasy, opiates and cocaine (for instance, in the USA, the annual prevalence of cocaine use raised from 2.6% in 2000 to 2.8 % in 2004), and a larger increase in the use of cannabis (USA: from 8,3% in 2000 to 12,6 % in 2004) and amphetamine (USA: from 0,9% in 2000 to 1,5% in 2004). Considering the cultivation of illicit plants, the amount of produced opium has increased from 4.346 tons in 1998 to 4.620 tons in 2005, cocaine has increased from 825 tons in 1998 to 910 tons in 2005 and cannabis from an estimated 30.000 tons in 1998 to 42.000 tons in 2005 (a third of which is produced in from North America). It is obvious that the global efforts to “eliminate or significantly reduce drugs demand and supply” before the 2008 deadline have not been successful. These efforts have caused considerable damage to human rights, public health, environment, sound economy, sustainable development, the state of law and the relation between citizens and authorities across the world, yet they have not been effective. In a year from now, you will have to take an important decision. When you meet here in this room in March 2008, you need to have a story. Your government or organisation needs to present its conclusions of the past 10 years, as well as its recommendations for the future. Essentially you have two possibilities. You can either choose to ignore the evidence, and continue on this costly, ineffective and counterproductive affair called the War on Drugs. Future generations will hold you responsible for the failure of drug policies in the years to come. You will have missed an excellent opportunity to repair a historical mistake. Or you can decide to make a genuine and sincere review of the impact of current drug policies and start to consider a change in international drug legislation in order to allow countries to start with policies that may be more effective in reducing harms and increasing benefits. Hundreds of millions of people are challenging current drug policies. They feel they have no other choice than to break the law on drugs in order to survive, exercise their human rights or reduce harm related to drugs consumption . Today, harm reduction is embraced by many local and regional authorities in Europe as an effective approach to the most urgent health problems related to drug use. Still many options to apply harm reduction measures are being jeopardized by national legislation and blocked by the international legislatory framework (i.e., the UN conventions on drugs and their narrow interpretation and inappropriate application). As a consequence of the pragmatic attitude of most European citizens towards the use of cannabis, the possession of small quantities of cannabis is no longer considered an offence in most countries. In countries where the cultivation of cannabis for personal use is depenalised, consumers are taking initiatives to organise a transparant, controllable, and closed circuit of cannabis cultivation, distribution and consumption by adults. These initiatives should be embraced by governments as a way to reduce the size of the illegal market . The international depenalisation of the coca leaf could allow the export of tea and other benefitial coca derivates and thus contribute to the worldwide recognition of the great nutritional, medicinal and cultural value of coca. This could help to reduce the dependence of coca farmers of the illegal economy and establish a sustainable economy based on renewable agricultural resources. And finally, depenalising the cultivation of opium and allowing the use of this substance for benefitial purposes, among others as a pain killer, could become an important option to increase the life standards of opium farmers in Afghanistan, Burma and other countries. Vienna 2008 should mark the start of a different era in drug policy. A minimum standard of tolerance could be established within the international legislatory framework , which can facilitate the legal and political space for local, regional and national authorities to apply policies that are not based on prohibition. We are convinced that very soon, drug prohibition will be considered as an ill-conceived strategy that has only produced harm to producers and consumers and benefits to organised crime. We hope to see you next year in Vienna. Best wishes, On behalf of ENCOD Steering Committee FOR A BETTER SYSTEM: EUROPEAN COALITION FOR JUST AND EFFECTIVE DRUG POLICIES (ENCOD) Lange Lozanastraat 14 2018 Antwerpen Belgium Tel. 00 32 (0)3 237 7436 Mob. 00 32 (0)495 122 644 Fax. 00 32 (0)3 237 0225 Website:

As Promised, More Pictures from Phil

Phil took a day off from his reporting to visit the famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu, but coca seems to be everywhere... stunted coca plant in garden, Machu Picchu (click this post's title link or the "read full post" link for more pictures -- not coca or drug policy, but breathtaking) Machu Picchu, Rio Urubamba below Temple of the Sun Inca sundial, pointing to true magnetic north intrepid editor Phil Smith view of Machu Picchu
United States

Coca at Machu Picchu--Who Knew?

Yesterday, I visited the world class Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. Despite it being a cloudy, foggy, rainy day (it is that season, after all), it was a very impressive experience, one I cannot recommend too highly. Located atop a mountain peak several thousand feet above the raging Rio Urubamba (to enter its waters at this time of year is certain death), Machu Picchu was the primary center for scientific and philosophical research for the Inca empire and a place of retreat for the Inca nobility. Its stonework is amazingly well-hewn, and the complex is huge. About a thousand people lived there full-time, with others coming for special occasions along the Inca trail from Cusco, the capital of the empire. If you ever get to Peru, seeing Machu Picchu is an absolute must. I’m sure I haven’t done it justice with these brief comments. I benefited from traveling with a small group that had a very well-informed tour guide, and it was from him that I learned that coca was part of the Inca diet. In addition to using it for its hunger-suppressing and energy-providing qualities, the Incas used it to keep their teeth strong! The coca leaf is heavy in calcium, and because the Inca lacked cows and llamas provided only enough milk for their young, the coca leaf was their primary source of calcium. Our guide was quite proud of the fact that Inca skeletons always showed strong, healthy teeth, a fact he attributed to chewing the coca leaf. Among the ruins at Machu Picchu, there is a garden packed with plants used by the Inca. Among them is coca, even though it is ill-suited to grow well at such elevations. In fact, the coca plant in the garden there was stunted and scraggly, growing only about 18 inches high, or about one-half to one-fourth of the size obtained by coca plants at elevations to which it is more suited. Still, they grew it at Machu Picchu, for the reasons mentioned above. Today, I’m trying to catch up on emails and news and all that good stuff before heading for Bolivia tomorrow. One thing I will do today, though, is visit the Buen Pastor shop, that place I mentioned a blog post or two ago, where they sell coca products here in Cusco. Look for something about that later today or Wednesday, since tomorrow will be a long day of bus travel across the 12,000-foot altiplano past Lake Titicaca and up to La Paz. I think I will be heading on to Cochabamba the next day, where my friends from the Andean Information Network await me. The coca leaf is ubiquitous around here. My hotel provides some with breakfast every day. All the restaurants offer mate de coca (coca tea). Little indigenous women near Machu Picchu offer it to travelers getting ready to trek around the heights. And the US government wants to eradicate it all. Now, I'm off to visit the coca shops of Cusco. Stay tuned. Note: Dave Borden will be posting some Machu Picchu photos I sent him later today. Come back and check 'em out!

More Pictures from Coca Country -- Ayacucho and Cusco

Pictures from Phil, Ayacucho province and Cusco -- more of them (and good writing) can be found in Phil's Drug War Chronicle scene article here. Many more to come... cocalero Percy Ore in his fields, near the town of San Francisco, Ayacucho province coca waiting by the side of the road to go to market (Click the "read full post" link if you're not seeing the rest of the pictures.) Ayacucho highlands, seen from highway A washout (landslide) on the road back to Ayacucho kept Phil and other travelers waiting for three hours -- delaying publication of Drug War Chronicle in the process. at the market in Ayacucho overview of Ayacucho Cusco's main cathedral view of cathedral from Plaza de Armas

On the Gringo Trail, Getting Whispered Solicitations, and Sipping Mate de Coca

I'm not sitting in Cusco, the old Inca capital, where the Spanish invaders built their churches and houses on the ruins of the Inca city. There is still that fine Inca rock work all over the place; in fact, the place I'm staying in, the Posada de Loreto, has exterior walls that are made of Inca stone, and the whole Callejon de Loreto is one of the streets most noted for its Inca stone work. In Ayachucho, mine was a rare white face; in the rural countryside of the high Andes and the Amazonian selva, mine was the only white face; one that men and women stared at and little child hid from. That's not the case here in Cusco, the gringo capital of Latin America. This city of about 400,000, with its incredible Inca cachet and closeness to the ruins of Machu Picchu, attracts droves of tourists, from tour groups of old people to the international youth backpacker set to the Andean hippies (you know the type, long haired, wearing indigenous ponchos and caps and playing flutes and beating on drums and getting quite messed up on local substances, could be American or German or Australian or even Peruvian). And where there are lots of gringo tourists, there are people wanting to sell them things, including drugs. I don't know what it is about me—is there a neon sign above my head?—but once again it didn’t take more than a few minutes from the time I ventured into the main square this afternoon to be offered cocaine, marijuana, and women. My worry-wart boss will be happen to know I passed on all them, although I feel remiss in not having inquired about prices. Maybe tomorrow. Cusco is high, some 11,000 feet, so I figured this was the time for me to try mate de coca (coca tea) for the first time. I've chewed the leaves before, several times in the last week, as a matter of fact, but I had never had the tea. It was basically a glass of hot water with coca leaves steeping in it. According to my waiter, I was supposed to chew the leaves as I sipped the tea. I did, and I got a nice coca jolt within seconds. Did it help me cope with the altitude? Well, it seems likely; I certainly felt more energetic. I also discovered that there is a store here in Cusco that sells various coca products, along with other hip, "socially conscious" stuff. It's name is the Buen Pastor (Good Shepherd), but they were closed by the time I tracked them down this evening. Since I'll spend the day at Machu Picchu tomorrow, I'll track them down on Monday and see what the deal is. And since I'll be gone all day—up at 5am to catch the train up the Sacred Valley, getting to Machu Picchu about 10am, spending the day at the site, and returning to Cusco about 8pm—you won't be hearing anything more from me for awhile. But there should be some pictures posted. I'm going back to my hotel right now to get the camera, so I can upload them and Borden can download them. On Tuesday, it's on to Bolivia…

What a trip it's been, and it's only the end of week one!

Since last I blogged, I've gone by overnight bus from Lima to the Andean highlands city of Ayacucho, thence over the top of the Andes and down into the Amazonian selva (actually, the "ceja de selva," the eyebrow of the jungle) to the small towns of San Francisco, Ayacucho, and Kirimbiri, Cusco, on the other side of the rain-swollen Rio Apurimac deep in the heart of the coca growing region known as the VRAE (Valleys of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers), and then back to Ayacucho. It has been brutal—hours of travel on crappy, crappy dirt roads over mountains and across flooded out stretches of road through some of the poorest land in the country. Tomorrow (Saturday) morning, I get up a 5AM to catch a flight back to Lima and then on to Cusco, for a little rest and tourism at Machu Picchu. (Ayacucho is halfway between Lima and Cusco, but as they say, "you can’t get there from here." There are no city to city flights in Peru except to and from Lima. Go figure. An Aero Condor rep told me it's because they're a Fourth World country.) The travel to coca country was mind-bending: Huge mountains, endless switchbacks on dirt roads with no shoulder and a thousand-foot drop-off, indigenous people herding sheep and goats and burros and horses, the women wearing those funny Andean hats. (I hope Dave Borden will be good enough to post some more pictures here.) It is rainy season, so water is pouring down the mountains in spectacular cascades, but also ripping the road open and causing landslides that block the road. Local people come out to fix it, but put rocks in the road to collect a toll for their labors. From the crest of the Andes, somewhere at about 12,000 feet near Tambo, it was downhill all the way to the Apurimac River, a tributary of the Amazon. You go from jacket weather to dripping with sweat in the heat and humidity of the Amazon, pine trees turn to palm trees and tropical fronds. It was in some towns along the Apurimac that I hooked up with some local cocalero leaders and went out into the poverty-stricken countryside to view the fields myself. I've seen a lot of poverty in my day, but the conditions in which the coca farmers live are truly grim. They have to walk miles just to get to the nearest town, they have no running water or electricity, and even with four coca crops a year, they barely make enough money to feed and clothe their children. One of the highlights was one of the cocalero leaders pointing out the houses (more like shanties) of the cocaleros and demanding to know "Where are the narco mansions?" Well, certainly not around here. Every cocalero I've talked to has had the same refrain: This is our sacred plant, we have nothing to do with the drug trade, either leave us alone or provide real agricultural development assistance. And that refrain resonates: Of 70 municipalities in the VRAE, cocaleros hold power in all 70. This is also the home of the country's premier cocalero leader, Nelson Palomino of CONCPACCP, with whom I talked in Lima earlier this week. Will it be pretty much the same in Bolivia? I don't know. Check back later. Editor's Note: I certainly will post Phil's pictures, but it will be a little later this weekend. In the meanwhile, be sure to read Phil's Drug War Chronicle article from Peru, published earlier today -- three pictures, interviews with key people and lots of good info. -- Dave

Chronicle on the Scene Feature: In Peru, Coca Growers Struggle to Survive

On the eastern side of the Andes, where from their heights, the mountains drop down thousands of feet into the jungles (selva) of the Amazon basin, several hundred thousand Peruvian peasants are making a living -- but not much of one -- by growing coca. While the farmers and the coca leaf chewers they supply consider the plant sacred and an integral part of the culture of the Andes, it is also the stuff from which cocaine is made.
Chronicle editor Phil Smith with VRAE leader Abdon Flores Huaman
This makes Peru's coca farmers, or cocaleros, targets of the US government, which seeks to eradicate as much of the coca crop as possible. It also makes them targets of the Peruvian government, which, when it comes to drug policy, has shown itself all too willing to follow the lead of the gringos. While both governments and a host of non-governmental organizations are also seeking to provide alternative development opportunities to the cocaleros, those programs have failed to work and are rife with corruption, say cocalero leaders.

"We cocaleros are people who live in extreme poverty and we have to grow the sacred leaf to survive," said Nelson Palomino, head of the country's largest coca grower union, the National Confederation of Agricultural Producers of the Coca Valleys (CONCPACCP). "We are honest, hard-working Peruvians, and we are not guilty of anything for growing the coca plant to subsist," he told Drug War Chronicle during a meeting in Lima, chewing coca leaves as he spoke. "What are we to do? Alternative development has failed. The foreign money that is supposed to come to the valleys goes into the pockets of functionaries in Lima," Palomino complained. "We hope the world will understand that our intentions are good."

"The NGOs and the government are vampires," said Abdon Flores Huaman, secretary of the cocalero defense organization the Federation of Agriculture Producers of the Valleys of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), as he was interviewed in the CONCPACCP office in nearby Kimbiri on the banks of the rain-swollen Apurimac River. "They use our names to gain support for their so-called alternative development projects, but only 10% to 15% of those resources actually reach us," he claimed. "What we want is to get rid of these intermediaries that prey on us and get direct support for our local and regional authorities and directly to the campesinos, too. Our unions can play a role in this."
drying coca leaves for market -- about $60US
A Drug War Chronicle visit to the coca fields of the VRAE this week seemed to back up Palomino's contention that cocaleros are not getting rich, but merely surviving by harvesting the leaf. There, 125 miles down a dirt road over the crest of the Andes from Ayacucho, the nearest large city linked to the national highway system, tiny peasant villages where residents live in what are essentially shanties without electricity or running water depend on the coca leaf for what little income they can generate.

"Where are our narco-palaces?" asked Huaman scornfully. "Do you see any narco-palaces here? We are lucky to make $2,000 a year with four coca crops. That is barely enough to feed and clothe our children."

"We barely survive," said cocalero Percy Ore, as he stood in a small field tending his coca plants in the municipality of Pichari on the east bank of the Apurimac in Cusco province. "Look at this land," he said, pointing to the rugged, hilly terrain where he and his family toiled. "What else can we grow here? Coffee doesn't do well here, and if we try to grow fruits like the aid workers tell us, we have no way to get them to market."

Indeed. Even to get from his village to the nearest town requires a trek of several miles down a dirt road that only the toughest of four-drive vehicles can navigate during the rainy season. But cocaleros like Ore don't have four-wheel drive vehicles; they are more likely to carry their coca leaves to the local market on burros or on their own shoulders. Numerous peasants could be seen walking down the road in Pichari carrying their bags of coca leaves to local markets.

In the VRAE alone, Huaman said, there are some 40,000 coca growers. While about 9,000 of them are registered with ENACO, the Peruvian government coca monopoly that handles all legal buying and selling, the remaining 30,000 are not. Cocalero leaders consistently insist their crops are not ending up as cocaine, but cocaleros acknowledge off the record that the leaves not bought by ENACO are destined for the black market.

The situation does not sit well with the cocaleros. "We want to be legal," said Pastor Romero Castillo, subsecretary of the VRAE federation. "We reject the narco-traffic."

For the leadership, what is crucial is to separate coca, "the sacred leaf," from cocaine, the drug that afflicts the gringos as well as some of their urban countrymen. "Coca is our culture; coca is Peru," Palomino said fiercely. "To talk about coca is to talk about health. The coca needs to go for medicine, food, and other uses. Why can't the rest of the world accept this? The coca plant contains many alkaloids. While some are bad, others are good, and we worry that your country does not know about the good side of coca. We need for the American press, the American Congress to know this information."

What coca growers need is true alternative development, an agricultural policy that addresses their needs, and an increase in legal markets for their product, say the cocaleros. Some Peruvian entrepreneurs are working hard to do just that.

"Although there is abuse, the coca leaf is natural," said Manuel Seminario Bisso, the entrepreneur behind Mana Integral, a Lima-based company producing coca products as well as products based on other native Peruvian plants, including maca, tarwi, kiwicha, quinua [Editor's Note: "quinoa" on US store shelves], and kaniwa. "We want to revalorize the coca leaf, and we are investigating various products. Already, we make products like coca flour, tea, and other coca products for food. We use it in tamales, we have lemonade with coca [Editor's Note: Very tasty and refreshing]; it is one of the best foods we could use."

"There have been 45 years of aggression against the coca plant since the UN Single Convention in 1961," said Seminario. "We have seen the results of this stupid, stupid policy of eradication. We don't need eradication; we need to develop alternative uses, alternative markets. Holding up a display pack of coca flour energy packets ("Energize Yourself! Eat Coca! [coca flour] Without caffeine or taurine: Pure Coca…our sacred plant) that wouldn't look out of place at the check-out counter of your local convenience store, Seminario argued that if the market for coca as a food item could expand, there would be no need to eradicate crops. "It's very simple to solve this problem," he said. "If everyone in Peru ate 12 grams of this leaf every day, we would use up the entire crop. We like to say 'a coca leaf eaten is one coca leaf less for the drug trade.'"

But Seminario bemoaned a variety of problems facing an expanded coca food industry. "It is difficult to sell coca products and there is a lot of prejudice against them because they demonize it. They say that coca is a drug, and it's my job to convince people that it has benefits. We must revalorize the plant."
statues of coca leaves, Municipal Park, Pichari
Coca product producers also face higher prices from ENACO, the Peruvian state coca monopoly through which all legal coca must be bought and sold. "ENACO has raised prices dramatically for no good reason. It is a bid to end production increases. ENACO sets the prices, and that's the problem with having a monopoly like that. We need a free market. The government talks about the free market and globalization, but they want to control the market," Seminario complained.

And it isn't just the Peruvian government that is the problem, according to Seminario. "The United States government needs to quit bothering us. We want to sell these products, and it is allowed in Peru," he said. "We don't need to sell it to the rest of the world. It is not the coca that kills or produces corruption, so please just leave us alone and respect our nutritional sovereignty. The US needs to stop defaming our product and trying to undermine us."

[Editor's Note: This first article based on the Drug War Chronicle's visit to the Andean coca heartland provides only a first glimpse of a number of complex issues related to coca, cocaine, and the drug trade. Look for more in-depth articles on the politics of the cocalero movement in Peru, as well as reporting from Bolivia in coming weeks.]

Phil is Back in Ayacucho -- Report and Pictures Coming Tomorrow AM...

Phil called me this afternoon from a small town called San Francisco, off in the wilds of the Peruvian state Ayacucho -- the heart of coca country. He promised a bunch of pictures, including some of coca fields, when he got back tonight to the city of Ayacucho itself -- all three Internet cafes in San Francisco were offline, so he couldn't send them or post to the blog from there. Among other things, Phil told me that the roads are really bad there, and together with it being a real mountain region he can see why it is difficult to transport most crops out of there to larger markets. Phil was expecting to get back to Ayacucho around 7:00pm, but debris left by a landslide had to be cleared off of the road, and they were delayed for three hours. The hotel doesn't have Internet or even phone lines in the rooms to try a dial-up, and he was left with a little over an hour with which to post some Chronicle articles for me to proof, and with much of the Chronicle writing job in front of him. So no blogging from Phil tonight, unfortunately. But check back tomorrow morning, when Phil will recount the tale of his trip over the top of the Andes and down into the edge of the Amazonian jungle to visit with coca growers...
Ayacucho, AY

First Pictures from Coca Land

Mana coca foods (and other foods) store owner of Mana, with coca energy powder changing of the guard, Municipal Palace, Plaza de Armas, Lima cocalero leader Nelson Palomino, with coca leaves Drug War Chronicle editor Phil Smith with Nelson Palomino National Cathedral, Plaza de Armas Phil Smith with Peruvian academic and coca expert Baldomero Caceres upscale Lima suburb Miraflores pedestrian shopping street Jiron de la Union, Lima Municipal Palace National Cathedral

Off to Ayacucho and the Valleys of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers

Oh, my situation is fluid. I was supposed to travel to Ayacucho today to visit cocalero leader Nelson Palomino and check out what is going on in the coca fields of the Valles de los rios Apurimac y Ene (VRAE), one of the most conflictive coca zones in the country. But last night, I got word that Palomino and his crew had come to Lima for meetings. I managed to hook up with them this morning, as well as visiting Mana Integral, a small company devoted to the nutrional uses of coca. It makes coca wheat, coca yoghurt, coca energy packets (they would look great at your local convenience store). And now, although Palomino is headed up to San Martin in the northeast for more meetings, one of his men is going to accompany me on an overnight bus ride, getting into Ayacucho at dawn, then another ride of four or five hours into the heart of the VRAE. It´ll be up and over the Andes and down into the selva at the edge of the Amazon basin. Should be very, very interesting in the VRAE. It takes so long to get there that we will stay there tomorrow night and return to Ayacucho Thursday afternoon. This has some implications for near-term blogging and for getting the Chronicle out in a timely manner this week. I don´t think I´m going to find high speed internet access in the VRAE, so you may not hear from me for a day or two. I also had very interesting and disturbing conversations with coca experts Baldomero Caceres and Ricardo Soberon yesterday. Look for some of that in one of the articles I do for the Chronicle this week. This working from the road in the Third World is really kind of a hassle. I have to rely on internet cafes, and often the people working them don´t have a clue about why my connection won´t work. Then, if I have to use their machines, I have problems with the strange keyboards. But I do my best.

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