PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil — Drug trafficking, militarization, racism, legalization and harm reduction all came up at World Social Forum workshops addressing the War on Drugs.
The workshops were primarily focused on coca trafficking and the effects of prohibition in South America.
A representative from Holland’s Transnational Institute said that runoff from herbicide fumigation of Colombian coca plants is an environmental threat to Amazonian rivers.
Militarization of drug prohibition was the top concern, however.
In January, Bolivian coca farmers fought pitched battles with the military over the right to grow their primary cash crop. The government there finally agreed to negotiations.
In Colombia, a massive increase in U.S. military aid and troops is part of an effort to control left- and right-wing paramilitary groups that are funded in part by drug trafficking.
At the World Social Forum, a Peruvian speaker linked drug prohibition and war, and called for Brazil to avoid getting border troops involved in the War on Drugs.
A volunteer from New York City’s Harm Reduction Training Institute said that the degraded state of impoverished American minority communities was related to the poverty and violence faced by peasant coca farmers in Latin America.
“You can’t deny the link between racism against Afro-American and Hispanic people and the War on Drugs,” she said.
That theme is echoed in an upcoming conference in Cartagena from June 16-20 entitled “Colombia is Not Alone: Democracy, human rights, violence and narcotraffick.”
Martin Barriuso Alfonso from Ai Laket, a Basque organization that advocates harm-reduction programs to reduce the social costs of drug use, said his organization is working with the pro-legalization group Bizitzeko to advance their agendas.
“Our aim is to build a common platform so that we turn the issue into a thematic forum at the World Social Forum in India in 2004,” he said.
Both groups are part of the International Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies, an organization that says the War on Drugs has only increased trafficking and abuse.
They advocate for the United Nations to end its 10-year strategy for “a drug-free world,” and are pressuring nations to change their commitment to the U.N. Convention on Drugs in April at an upcoming session in Vienna.
Vienna 2003 network
International Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies
“Colombia is Not Alone: Democracy, human rights, violence and narcotraffick”
The Drug Reform Coordination Network