The Colombian conflicts -- criminal drug organizations versus the Colombian state versus leftist insurgents versus rightist paramilitaries -- drag on with no end in sight, fueled by the profits of prohibition and the seemingly inexhaustible supply of war toys from Washington. And so do their diverse dire consequences: thousands killed in political violence each year, hundreds of thousands turned into internal refugees, thousands of acres of fertile croplands sprayed with powerful herbicides. But Colombia's state of perpetual war also has deeply corrosive effects throughout its society, with labor leaders gunned down in their offices and academics assassinated walking across campus, the wealthy and their children fleeing to the safety of Miami, and a peasantry the state cannot afford to help -- only repress.
The government of President Alvaro Uribe and its allies in Washington report this week that their unrelenting aerial eradication campaign against coca planting is finally bringing significant reductions in the coca crop and speculate that the drug cash that supplies the various belligerents will dry up soon. But any elation from that announcement was undercut by figures reported the next day in the New York Times showing that Colombian heroin production was on the increase, with Colombian smack dominating the eastern US market and Mexican brown dominating the West. So it goes when the US war on drugs meets Colombian social reality and the law of the market.
DRCNet, in the person of Week Online editor/writer Phillip Smith, will be there. Smith will address the conference in one of a number of panels and sessions devoted to drug cultivation, the drug trade, and alternatives to drug prohibition, as well as reporting on the conference in coming issues of the Week Online. He will also work to deepen and broaden the hemispheric and international drug reform connections made at and after February's Mérida, Mexico, "Out from the Shadows" conference. The Drug Policy Alliance will also have representatives at the conference.
"Issues like drug trafficking, violence, terrorism, resistance and peace, human rights, and the construction of democratic states and societies are items of great interest in the global agenda," notes the Global Social Forum document explaining the need for the Cartagena meeting. "Phenomena like drug trafficking, money laundering, the trade of chemical products to process illegal drugs, the negative effects on public health, the associated violence, the increased corruption in state and private sectors, and the penetration of drug money in legal activities, are enough reasons to put these items on the spot at this World Social Thematic Forum."
Prohibitionist policies adopted by the United Nations "seem to have failed," the document notes. It has brought both widespread corruption and the persecution of drug-growing farmers, both of which the conference will address. "Furthermore, discussions around legalization, punishment or repression, and its critical effects on human health are of great importance in the context of finding solutions and alternatives to this problem in a global context," the document said.
But conference organizers also place the forum squarely within the context of the global mobilizations associated not only with the "anti-globalization movement," but also those opposing the unfinished US invasion of Iraq and the whole US emphasis on global and domestic security in the post-September 11 era. The massive anti-war demonstrations worldwide "showed the rejection of the politics of allowing the governments of the United States, England and Spain to determine what is good for humanity."
Stay tuned for reports from Cartagena over the next two weeks. For further information on the conference, its agenda and its participants, available in English, Spanish or French, visit the Global Social Forum Special Thematic Meeting web site at http://www.fsmt.org.co online.