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Speech by Lola Motrika, Convincing Farmers to Convert Crops

From: Bolivar Square in downtown Bogotá, March 19, 1986

Buenas tardes, my fellow Colombians; my special Colombians.††† We supply the food for the whole of Colombia.† Donít forget that is our agricultural duty to our people.† I am here today to focus on a major concern that has impacted us directly as farmers.† I want to talk with you about guerrilla warfare and how some of us are getting trapped into the guerrillasí ideas of how to make a living.† As an agricultural scientist and a farmer, my goal is to act, along with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, on making full use of our land.† Donít forget the true meaning of being a farmer.

As I look at this picture, not only do I see my mother picking plump carrots, but I also see an honest, hard-working woman.† She works ten hours each day - plowing and planting, sewing seeds, and harvesting.† Every year, for almost a lifetime, she gets down on her knees, her hands in the grubby earth, and what does she have to show for it?† She has a leaky shack in Neiva, stained ponchos from working out in the rain, and not a peso to spare.† Even today, in 1986, with all the drugs being transported throughout Colombia and around the world, my mother has managed to keep her carrot, coffee, and corn crops well maintained.† Her smile, in this photograph, illustrates her feelings of pride.

The United Nations can help push us all back on to the right path, so please listen today.† The fragile future of Colombia lies in your hands.

Civil conflict in Colombia has been occurring since the early 1900ís (Library of Congress: Colombia: The Period of Reconciliation, 1903-30, Online).† As you all know, the guerrillas are political parties who make violent attempts to control our country.† They thrive on the growth of drugs - mainly the coca plant - to eventually make cocaine to pay for their power.† They donít directly grow coca, sell cocaine, or traffic it, but they do try to convince and support other Colombians to do so.† Many of us are being forced off our farms if we refuse to grow coca for the guerrillas (Maldonado, Online).† Some of us think that growing coca is the only way to be successful, moneymaking farmers.†† Donít get sucked into the wrong way of life.† Growing coca just proves that you agree with the guerrillas, their violent ways, and their blurred concept of nationalism.† We need help from a greater influence: The United Nations.

Even though the United Nations has a current program to help control the growth of drugs and narcotics in countries, the plan is too old and does not apply to the needs of our country today.† ECOSOC (The Economic and Social Council) has a plan called ďThe Commission on Narcotic Drugs,Ē which was established in 1946 (United Nations, 179-181).† All it does is create treaties with the government to end drug growth.† Clearly this does not work because the problem is more than what the government can handle alone.†

Colombia has to handle this crisis, and the United Nations may not realize how devastating the situation is.† Letís bring it to their attention by showing them that Colombia does not want to be known as the country that makes money by growing illegal drugs.† Letís show them that we need assistance in making the guerrillas back down.† Little by little, our government can regain strength and reduce our enemiesí defiance.

As the drug situation here worsens, the guerrillas gain more power.† Parties such as the M-19 are taking over our government.† The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a paramilitary group, fight against the drug powered groups in order to run the government according to Colombiaís original ideals.† The Peopleís Liberation Army (EPL) is also trying to take the guerrillas down. (Library of Congress: Colombia: Guerrilla and Terrorist Groups, Online)†More violence occurs every day, making people homeless and without food.† The guerrillas are taking over and cutting down our precious forests and turning them into drug crops.† Places such as Medellin, our nationís industrial capital, and BogotŠ, our nationís capital, have been ransacked.† Guerrillas breeze through killing people needlessly everyday.†

A clear example of this happened just last year, when our Palace of Justice was attacked by the M-19s.† It was torched and destroyed.† Nearly 300 people were taken hostage and about 115 of them were ultimately murdered.† Among these, were eleven court justices.† None of the soldiers responsible were even tried for this terrible act. (Carrigan, 279).† Political parties are slaying our government and vice versa.† We become more afraid of them and feel we have to obey their selfish commands.† Long-term effects of the torching of our palace still occur today.

Ever since, court justices and lawyers are looked down upon.† They are disrespected and mocked.† Some are even kidnapped.† My good friend Milia Rosa is a paralegal and she is having a hard time finding work.† She doesnít want to become a defender for drug lords, but that seems to be the easiest way to earn money.† The guerrillas would pay her to do that.† I hope she realizes that this is not the true Colombian way to make a living.† She needs to follow the right path because there are other choices, even though Colombia is currently at a financial loss.

Economically, Colombia is in deep debt because of the drug growth.† Colombia produces about 75% of the worldís cocaine (Library of Congress: Colombia: Economy, Online).† We are even responsible for some of the drug problems taking place in other countries, because we export it illegally to places like the United States and Mexico.† We can decide what we are to grow.† There is another crop that is doing extremely well right now.† Coffee production has taken a giant leap (Library of Congress: Colombia: Crops, Online).† Many farmers who grow coffee bean plants are doing well financially.† What can we, those who already grow cocaine, do?† We can convert our crops.† Take a stand and show the guerrillas that they can no longer run our land.† Without our help, they are nothing.† The majority of them donít farm; they are political people; they canít.† They need us, a skilled people, in order to make their money.†

Would you rather our country starve because we grow more drugs than food, or should we grow our food crops and distribute it throughout Colombia so that we can survive?† I donít know if places like Santa Martin can get any worse.† Homeless children roam the streets praying that someone will give them a peseta.† Rural cities like Baranquilla arenít getting enough of food to share with the many people who live there.† The drug refineries are taking over the coasts, resulting in a loss of food crops and a gain in drugs. These are the effects of growing these illegal crops:† Colombians starving and some are dying.

By growing crops for the guerrillas, we are saying that we agree with their outlook on life.† This is not what Catholicism teaches us.† Our religion and the Bible say, ďThou shall not kill.Ē† We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves.† We are not making sure these laws are carried out.† As I look at this picture of my mother again, I know that I cannot fall into this guerrilla trap.

We, as farmers, hold most of the potential to make Colombia drug-free, violence- free, and well fed.† We do not have to do this alone.† In fact, we can contribute to this by converting to legal crops.† The International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) can provide funding for the switch.† The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) can assist us in preparing our land for the new crops, machinery to get started, and new techniques to ensure good harvests.† This should take care of our hunger problems.† Now, the next part of the solution is a little more difficult, but I have an idea.

There is not an organization that directly helps governments with the control of drugs and narcotics, but we can change that.† The United Nations will want to help us to destroy this problem, so Iím sure that they will want to create a new organization that deals with this.† Letís make one.† We let the United Nations know, telling them that we need an organization that more directly deals with drug control.† We need a program that puts an end to drug trafficking, helps to convert our coca crops, works with our paramilitary groups to make them cooperate in carrying out such a needed plan, and provides money to keep us on the right track.† Iím sure this suggestion will also work, but we need everyone to help.

With all of us cooperating together, the guerrillas will have no choice but to back down.† There isnít a question in my mind that none of us support the guerrillasí violent government tactics, needless killing of civilians, and stealing of private property.† Letís show them that we donít want to be their employees.† We want to be free to run our own farmland.† When times get tough, just think of my mother.† If she can do it without a husband and just a few helpers, then anyone in this room can.† Thank you for listening to my plan of action.† I hope you decide to join in and help to make Colombia the best it can be, agriculturally.

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