12/11/19 Pedro Arenas Garcia

Century of Lies
Pedro Arenas Garcia
Drug War Facts

On this installment of Century we hear from Pedro Arenas Garcia with the Colombian NGO Corporación Viso Mutop-Observatorio de cultivos y cultivadores; plus an interview from 2012 with activist and journalist Kevin Zeese and the late activist, documentary filmmaker, and writer Mike Gray.

Audio file



DECEMBER 11, 2019

DEAN BECKER: The failure of the Drug War is glaringly obvious to judges, cops, wardens, prosecutors, and millions more now calling for decriminalization, legalization – the end of prohibition. Let us investigate the Century of Lies.

DOUG MCVAY: Hello and welcome to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

On this installment of Century of Lies we are going to hear about Afro Colombian and indigenous cultures in Colombia, coca growing, and cocaine. Before we get in to that I was recently in Berkeley, California for some meetings and I took a walk through campus and found myself in Sproul Plaza. The following was recorded 55 years ago on December 2, 1964 in front of

You know, I just wanna say one brief thing about something the previous speaker said. I didn't wanna spend too much time on that 'cause I don't think it's important enough. But one thing is worth considering.

He's the -- He's the nominal head of an organization supposedly representative of the undergraduates. Whereas in fact under the current director it derives -- its authority is delegated power from the Administration. It's totally unrepresentative of the graduate students and TAs.

But he made the following statement (I quote): "I would ask all those who are not definitely committed to the FSMcause to stay away from demonstration." Alright, now listen to this: "For all upper division students who are interested in alleviating the TA shortage problem, I would encourage you to offer your services to Department Chairmen and Advisors." That has two things: A strike breaker and a fink.

I'd like to say -- like to say one other thing about a union problem. Upstairs you may have noticed they're ready on the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall, Locals 40 and 127 of the Painters Union are painting the inside of the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. Now, apparently that action had been planned sometime in the past. I've tried to contact those unions. Unfortunately -- and [it] tears my heart out -- they're as bureaucratized as the Administration. It's difficult to get through to anyone in authority there. Very sad. We're still -- We're still making an attempt. Those people up there have no desire to interfere with what we're doing. I would ask that they be considered and that they not be heckled in any way. And I think that -- you know -- while there's unfortunately no sense of -- no sense of solidarity at this point between unions and students, there at least need be no -- you know -- excessively hard feelings between the two groups.

Now, there are at least two ways in which sit-ins and civil disobedience and whatever -- at least two major ways in which it can occur. One, when a law exists, is promulgated, which is totally unacceptable to people and they violate it again and again and again till it's rescinded, appealed. Alright, but there's another way. There's another way. Sometimes, the form of the law is such as to render impossible its effective violation -- as a method to have it repealed. Sometimes, the grievances of people are more -- extend more -- to more than just the law, extend to a whole mode of arbitrary power, a whole mode of arbitrary exercise of arbitrary power.

And that's what we have here. We have an autocracy which runs this university. It's managed. We were told the following: If President Kerr actually tried to get something more liberal out of the Regents in his telephone conversation, why didn't he make some public statement to that effect?
And the answer we received -- from a well-meaning liberal -- was the following: He said, "Would you ever imagine the manager of a firm making a statement publicly in opposition to his Board of Directors?" That's the answer.

Well I ask you to consider -- if this is a firm, and if the Board of Regents are the Board of Directors, and if President Kerr in fact is the manager, then I tell you something -- the faculty are a bunch of employees and we're the raw material! But we're a bunch of raw materials that don't mean to be -- have any process upon us. Don't mean to be made into any product! Don't mean -- Don't mean to end up being bought by some clients of the University, be they the government, be they industry, be they organized labor, be they anyone! We're human beings!

And that -- that brings me to the second mode of civil disobedience. There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can't take part! You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus -- and you've got to make it stop! And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it -- that unless you're free the machine will be prevented from working at all!!

That doesn't mean -- I know it will be interpreted to mean, unfortunately, by the bigots who run The Examiner, for example -- That doesn't mean that you have to break anything. One thousand people sitting down some place, not letting anybody by, not [letting] anything happen, can stop any machine, including this machine! And it will stop!!

We're gonna do the following -- and the greater the number of people, the safer they'll be and the more effective it will be. We're going, once again, to march up to the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. And we're gonna conduct our lives for a while in the 2nd floor of Sproul Hall. We'll show movies, for example. We tried to get (Un Chant d'Amour). Unfortunately, that's tied up in the court because of a lot of squeamish moral mothers for a moral America and other people on the outside. The same people who get all their ideas out of the San Francisco Examiner. Sad, sad. But, Mr. Landau -- Mr. Landau has gotten us some other films.

Likewise, we'll do something -- we'll do something which hasn't occurred at this University in a good long time! We're going to have real classes up there! They're gonna be freedom schools conducted up there! We're going to have classes on [the] 1st and 14th amendments!! We're gonna spend our time learning about the things this University is afraid that we know! We're going to learn about freedom up there, and we're going to learn by doing!!

DOUG MCVAY: That was Mario Savio speaking at Sproul Plaza at the University of California Berkeley on December 2, 1964. Audio came to us courtesy of the Pacifica Radio Archive 55 years ago and today his words ring truer than ever.

You are listening to Century of Lies, I am your host, Doug McVay, Editor of

Back in 2012 I had the pleasure of attending the national conference for NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. While I was there I saw my good friends and mentors, Mike Gray and Kevin Zeese. I managed to talk them in to letting me record some audio with the two of them and here it is.

KEVIN ZEESE: What is great about having victories is that you can see that what we are doing actually works and does not create the crisis that the prohibitionists feared or that they propagandize. It actually creates a safer environment. There have been so many positive changes and so much evidence that what we are doing is actually going to make a better society. We have an incredible opportunity and I hope that we can all stay organized. I wanted to reemphasize the point about solidarity. It is so important. So often in politics it is the side that is divided that loses and divide and rule is the classic strategy of those in government who want to stop things from moving forward. It we are going to have divisions they should be in private rooms where we can talk and debate and discuss but once somebody is on the ballot we need to come together and support it and make whatever change we can make within the reality of the political sphere and push from there to the next level of change. Let’s see more solidarity and less division as we get closer and closer to our ultimate goal.

MIKE GRAY: When did you first get involved?


MIKE GRAY: In ’78!

KEVIN ZEESE: I remember coming in to the NORML office as Keith Stroup was leaving. He was carrying a box out as I was walking in. He was leaving under a cloud and thankfully that cloud is removed and he’s continued to do good work but I do remember me coming in and him going out. I was a law student at that time.

MIKE GRAY: Wow. That is amazing.

KEVIN ZEESE: Yeah. Scary, isn’t it?

MIKE GRAY: Yeah. Well you have sure proven yourself to be unstoppable.

KEVIN ZEESE: Persistent?

MIKE GRAY: Unstoppable. Persistent at the very least.

KEVIN ZEESE: That is a huge part of politics –

MIKE GRAY: It’s not only that – in Hollywood that is the one thing they can’t handle.

KEVIN ZEESE: Persistence?


KEVIN ZEESE: What do you mean?

MIKE GRAY: Well if you keep coming back finally the guy says, “If that sonofabitch comes back again”, and then you show up again and he says alright he will talk to you.


DOUG MCVAY: That was an interview with Kevin Zeese and the late Mike Gray that I recorded back in 2012. We were at the NORML National Conference in Los Angeles. Mike and Kevin were both board members of Common Sense for Drug Policy, a nonprofit for which I work, and who sponsors the website, Sadly, Mike passed away in 2013. He is sorely missed.

You are listening to Century of Lies. I am your host, Doug McVay. The Commission on Narcotic Drugs will meet in Vienna, Austria on December 12, 13 for its reconvened 62nd Session. Those meetings are webcast live and until recently were only webcast live with no archived copies being made available; that has changed slightly. Their October Intersessional meeting was webcast and in addition to the UNODCs usual livestream the webcasts were streamed via YouTube on a channel belonging to the Secretariat to the Governing Bodies UNODC. Those videos are still on YouTube but unfortunately they are unlisted which means that they don’t appear on the user page for Secretariat to the Governing Bodies UNODC, nor are they listed in YouTube’s search results or in Google search results. You can only view those videos if you can find the actual URL, which I am glad to help you with. I have those URLs on my Facebook page at Now hopefully CND will continue to use YouTube to stream their meetings. It would be great if they would also make those videos public. Crossed fingers they do. I will still record the audio just in case as these are major policy discussions that have lasting impact. They should not go on in darkness. All right, enough of my rant. Let’s get to the next segment.

One of the people who spoke to the delegates at that October Intersessional was Pedro Arenas Garcia, an NGO Representative from Colombia.

PEDRO ARENAS GARCIA: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good afternoon. My name is Pedro J. Arenas Garcia. I'm Colombian. In the 80s, like many other people, I went to work in the field collecting coca leaf, from the crops that grew in the region. I was just 13 years old when I started to earn my own income. After I was the mayor of my local city I was a congressman from 2002 – 2006. Currently I am the Director of the Corporación Viso Mutop-Observatorio de cultivos y cultivadores and my role consists in accompanying communities where they are implementing the crop substitution program starting with the last Peace Corps in my country. As a leader of civil society and a decriminalization lawyer for farmers I work from a human rights perspective where I have been working for the defense of human rights. I have witnessed the organization of Colombian farmers who came together under an umbrella association including indigenous individuals. There are people who depend on the culture of coca, poppy, and poppy crops. I would like to state that we stood against the glyphosate air campaigns where they were dropping this pesticide over a period of 25 years. More recently though I have also witnessed the commitment taken by these indigenous farmers who decided to rebel against their own bosses as for the cultivation of coca from 2017 to 2018 almost 40,000 hectares were destroyed in a voluntary manner through the families who committed to the program and national plan for crop substitution. This was a high point but let’s look at who was behind these programs. Each hectare is about 500 tons of cocaine. In my country each hectare produces about 2.5 kilos of paste which is then made in to cocaine through a processing process which leads to one kilo of cocaine per base input. There are five crop harvests of coca each year so you can calculate that for yourself. We are talking about an equivalent to what the Counter Narcotics Authorities get when they seize an international delivery.

According to the Colombian government, just this year more than 400 tons of cocaine were ceased. We are seeing an increase in seizures of cocaine in Africa, Asia, and in the Americas yet Colombia without a doubt is the country doing most when it comes to seizures. This being the case, in Europe and America there continue to be deliveries of alleged bananas which actually contain cocaine. Cocaine is also camouflaged in other types of export products. This is a containerization if you like of cocaine and it is obvious even if you just follow the media with regard to Colombian seizures of cocaine. This is what we must address because programs such as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the U.N. are good, but this container issue has to be addressed. Now when it comes to initiatives allow me to point out that civil society which I represent here sees alternative development as a way for risk and damage reduction in productive communities. This is a human rights based strategy and one which reduces risk when it is done in a participatory manner. When you voluntarily replace crops you see that local communities are able to take part in the implementation of programs but crop substitution and alternative development in general are processes. It is not possible to require short term results as we heard this morning from other panelists. This is because the type of short term projects as was stated this morning are simply not lasting or sustainable in nature. Very often you are talking about weak results – short term results. This is what happens when there is obligatory irradiation of crops. In India we saw that when this strategy is not a part of integrated alternative development what you get is the reseeding phenomenon after forced eradication. At that point you get a 60% increase according to UNODC of crop production than before the forced eradication. In countries like Colombia we saw that families engaged in crop substitution one year after having pulled out illicit crops don’t go back to reseeding them so you don’t get that phenomenon. With crop substitution an alternative development you still need to visit other measures in terms of the hectares. You have to measure efforts with respect to development across the entire territory impacted. This is about land ownership for families without land, ensuring that the process is a way to substitute as well as provide technical assistance, food security, and long and medium term production strategies with added value crops such as food crops. There has to be infrastructure for access to markets and ensuring security. When it comes to access to markets the statement made by Senegal this morning was extremely relevant. What he said was that there had to be focus on the substitution strategy but not just about coffee or cacao. Mexico also said this morning that there was need to ensure that alternative development with regard to illicit crops would take in to account the context of the behavior of other farmers. Coca leaf for an example is a crop just like potatoes or grapes in another context. Those are crops that feed millions of families in terms of sustenance. In Colombia we are talking about 200,000 families in more than 100 municipalities in 2017 and 2018.

Moreover, more recently there have been changes in the laws ensuring that medical use of marijuana is permitted. This means job creation, scientific progress, and the development of new medications for people. Indigenous persons and farmers often lack access to opportunities offered by this new market. In the majority of cases this is a new market which as Jamaica said, could be an opportunity for alternative development and for indigenous communities yet this is impossible as long as this sector remains in the hands of the pharmaceutical companies whose sole interest is increasing profit. This market must be open to small communities as well by way of conclusion as for civil society we ask for the United Nations to fully integrate in to crop substitution strategy as the guiding principles of alternative development ordered logically including local communities in the development process and with regard to the SGGs and human rights. This means the nonuse of force from government with respect to these communities but instead acknowledging the fact that these people are fully fledged citizens. The U.N. should adopt measures providing for new opportunities for indigenous communities when it comes to legalized cannabis. We have just published the report that I am showing you here and it is exactly about this topic finally for the U.N.s role. Most respectfully, we think that the UNODC could provide technical assistance to governments promoting alternative development without undermining the sovereignty of states. In some cases, the UNODC could monitor commitments undertaken for progressive reduction of crops for illicit production and this could be through financing national governments ensuring that they become driver and participant in the process also increasing their accountability to citizens. This is the challenge, ladies and gentlemen. Better understanding crop trends in the current context of international trade.

Another challenge, and we agree with many who said this this morning is better accessing the production of certain crops and I am talking about follow up from international organizations on crops based on true productivity indicators, or yield indicators. One might say that an increase in seizures in South America and in the rest of the world could be replaced by new crops in other countries with available land for cultivation and with governance issues. There is another challenge that is according priority to integrated agriculture as a way of risk prevention in agricultural communities. Thank you.

DOUG MCVAY: That was Pedro Arenas Garcia who is a representative from a Colombian NGO. He spoke to the U.N.s Commission on Narcotic Drugs at their most recent intercessional meeting. Again, the CND will meet for its reconvened 62nd Session on December 12, 13 in Vienna, Austria. The 63rd Session of the CND is tentatively scheduled to be held March 2 – 6, 2020 in Vienna, Austria.

DOUG MCVAY: For now, that is it. I want to thank you for joining us. You have been listening to Century of Lies, I have been your host, Doug McVay, Editor of We will be back in a week with 30 more minutes of news and information about drug policy reform and the failed War on Drugs.

For the Drug Truth Network this is Doug McVay asking you to examine our policy of drug prohibition, the Century of Lies. Drug Truth Network programs are archived at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Public Policy.