Forced crop eradications continue during COVID-19 pandemic

COCCAM, the organsiation representing coca leaf farmers, together with ASCAMCAT, the Peasant Association in the northeastern region of Catatumbo, have denounced continued Army operations to forcibly eradicate coca crops in spite of the peace process stipulating an agreed substitution program. 

One of the key measures on the drugs chapter within the agreement stipulates that communities involved in growing illicit crops should have access to crop substitution programmes, envisioning these communities as participants in the planning process. Only in the event of the government failing to reach an agreement with a community is it sanctioned for eradications to take place. 

Communities in the region of Catatumbo have repeatedly appealed at local and national level to be considered for these substitution programmes. The recent violence not only threatens the livelihoods of dozens of families but puts the entire community at risk of infection from the coronavirus, given the distances travelled by the military. In response, COCCAM and ASCAMCAT have declared the area as a reserve belonging to the peasant community.  

Their key demands include the suspension of forced eradications to protect the community from the pandemic; the initiation of crop substitution planning; and for the department governors to fulfil their promise to the community in March 2020 to monitor the human rights situation within peasant communities.