A First Hand View of Campesinos and the War on Drugs

By Pedro Jose Arenas Garcia

Pedro Jose Arenas Garcia is a former Colombian congressman and the former Mayor of the San José del Guaviare, Colombia.  He is currently the Director of the Observatory on Growers and Crops Declared Illicit in Colombia and a participant in the U.N. General Assembly Special Session on the World Drug Problem.  He participated in the Global Forum of Producers of Prohibited Plants last January.

My name is Pedro José Arenas Garcia. I am a former Colombian congressman and the director of the Observatory on Growers and Crops Declared Illicit in Colombia, a civil society organization that takes interest in the human rights of rural workers associated with coca, cannabis, and poppy production. The Observatory works toward putting these issues on the public agenda and raising the concerns of peasants and farmers in the reform movement.

When I was a child – only 12 years old – I worked with my hands picking coca leaves in my region, the Guaviare, in the southeast of Colombia. My grandparents were poor, and they lived off fish and planting. My first job was as a “raspachin,” someone who sells coca base. Many boys in my region were raspachins.

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