NOTE: this an unedited version of the final text. For reference or quote use the printed publication.

María Clemencia Ramírez

The Politics of Recognition and Citizenship in Putumayo and in the Baja Bota of Cauca: The Case of the 1996 cocalero movement

(text not edited)


What surprises me is the bravery of some of the people there in such a complicated environment, negotiating in the presence of the drug traffickers, the guerrillas, the protest movement, the repression against the movement... (Interview with the advisor to the Minister of the Interior during the negotiations of 1999.)

During the months of July, August, and September of 1996, more than 200,000 cocaleros (peasants who cultivate and harvest coca) marched to the cities and capitals of Guaviare, Putumayo, and Caquetá Departments and the Baja Bota region of Cauca Department in Colombiaís Western Amazonia to protest the Samper governmentís policy of coca crop fumigation.

The 1996 cocalero movement in Putumayo cannot be understood in isolation from previous civic movements. From a long term perspective, these movements represent conjunctural manifestations of a social movement of the regionís inhabitants centered around the demand for recognition by the Colombian nation-state of both their citizenship and their rights. These mpvements are manifestations of the politics of recognition. (Taylor 1995) and the politics of citizenship, through the demand for "the right to have rights" (Dagnino 1998).

This study of the 1996 events will demonstrate that civic strikes and movements followed by the initiation of negotiations must be seen as more than just demands for better living conditions by the inhabitants of this Amazonian region. The civic strikes reiterate to the ruling class the historical condition of Putumayo as home to a marginal population, a zone of "abandonment" to which the "development" of the central region does not extend. This may be due to a lack of political will at the center, the conception of Putumayo as an "empty" region destined to receive populations displaced from the interior, local government corruption, or the implementation of programs that do not take into account the realities of Amazonia, among other reasons.

A regional political leader referred to the civic strikes in Putumayo since the 1970s in the following words:

These social phenomena are due to and stem from the vacuum of traditional political leadership. If truth be told, this traditional leadership is oriented primarily toward benefitting individuals, interest groups, or parties, but with few exceptions there hasnít been representation at the congressional or provincial level that has taken the leadership to truly stimulate the development of the department. As a consequence, confronting this vacuum and the innumerable problems they face, the people have taken it upon themselves to organize themselves in social movements, in civic movements that have resulted in very long strikes. This may have been costly for the region in weakening the fragile economy, particularly commerce, in the different municipalities of the department. It has also been costly in lives and costly because it has generated a conflictive environment; it deepens some conflicts that have sprung up here among the people. (Interview with local political leader. Mocoa, 1999)

The repeated civic strikes can be characterized as strategic actions by the colonos, or settlers, to make themselves visible, to be heard, and to confront the Stateís image of the region. In this context, by rejecting the fumigation of their coca crops, the colonos are questioning their characterization as people at the margins of the law, migrants only looking for easy wealth, not as people seeking to improve their standard of living, as they describe themselves. They assert their identity and reject the idea that they have no roots in the Amazon region, that they only wish to enrich themselves as individuals and return to their places of origin. These representations ignore the campesinos and make them invisible, even though they have inhabited the region for three generations and consider themselves Putumayans, not criminals.

At the center, the perception of the Amazon frontier, of the periphery, is mediated by these identifying markers, as is evidenced by the repressive measures taken in response to these civic mobilizations. Even when the demonstrations have not been violent, they have been repeatedly characterized as "guerrilla instigated" since the 1980s. This has effectively denied the regionís inhabitants their agency, subsuming their demands, their needs, and their construction of collective local and regional identities into the dynamics of the armed conflict, and recently into the implementation of the international war on drugs and/or the war on insurgent groups.


Conditions for the beginning of the cocalero marches of 1996

As a result of Decree No. 1956 of 1995, entitled "Colombiaís Commitment in View of the World Drug Problem," the Samper government instituted measures for a frontal assault on drugs that were immediately felt in Putumayo. In December 1995, another civic strike was announced, in view of the noncompliance of the government with the agreements signed as a result of an earlier civic strike, from December 20, 1994 to January 11, 1995. Thus, on January 4, 1996, El Tiempo featured the headline, "Another Strike Brewing in Putumayo," and went on to explain that "the campesinos are only waiting for the word to initiate the Putumayo strike." The article describes a letter sent to President Samper on December 26, 1995, in which the campesinos reject the National Plan for Alternative Development--PLANTE (Plan Nacional de Desarrollo Alternativo), saying that it offers no solution to the campesino, and informing him that they "are organizing and preparing the second strike, of course in solidarity with other departments as well" (El Tiempo, January 4, 1996: 1A).

For its part, the government took measures in the drug war that turned out to guarantee that the strike would break out and would have the active participation of the campesinos: first, the police and the army acted to control the sale of gasoline and cement, both necessary in the production of coca paste, in the departments of Guaviare, Caquetá, Putumayo, Vaupés, Vichada, and Meta, through the May 13, 1996 Resolution No. 0001 of the National Narcotics Council (Consejo Nacional de Estupefacientes). Second, by means of Decree No. 0871, also of May 13, 1996, all municipalities in the departments of Guaviare, Vaupés, Meta Vichada, and Caquetá were designated as special law enforcement zones. Third, two military operations were to be carried out. Plan Condor was intended to destroy crops and laboratories, seize precursors and interdict trade. Operation Conquest, in the words of President Samper, entailed "the destruction of more than 27,000 hectares of coca, which represents 70% of the coca cultivated in Colombia and approximately 15% of the world total. To this end, the Armed Forces and Police will carry out an anti-narcotics operation in an area of Guaviare Department where nearly 60% of the illegal crops in Colombia can be found." The government asserted that together with operations Condor and Conquest, it had "continued to move forward in the consolidation of the PLANTE program (La Nación, July 10, 1996:17).

The presidentís ignorance of the concerns expressed for a year and a half by the campesinos concerning both the PLANTE program and the fumigation of their crops was evident. A few days after Guaviare was designated as the target of a military anti-narcotics operation on July 16, 1996, Operation Conquest was begun and the cocalero marches ensued. The campesinos began to mobilize against the declaration of a special law enforcement zone, against the consequent army abuses, and against the widespread fumigation that was being carried out in the department.

In mid-1995, an International Seminar on Illegal Crops had been held in Bogotá, and an agreement had been reached to mount coordinated demonstrations if fumigation were initiated in any one of the three departments. Thus the events in Guaviare set off support marches in Putumayo on July 25 and 26, heading for the cities of Orito, San Miguel (la Dorada), Valle del Guamués (La Hormiga), and Puerto Asís. Likewise in Caquetá Department, where the Anti-Narcotics Police had begun fumigation in Remolino del Caguán on July 22, marches set off on July 29 (La Nación, July 27, 1996:11).

The Armed Forces and Operation Conquest

Concerning the demonstration in Putumayo, police authorities "said they were surprised by the arguments used by the demonstrators," since until that time "the Government [hadnít] been specific about implementing fumigations in this department," one of the reasons given by the police for their assertion that the movement was sponsored by narco-guerrillas. (El Tiempo, July 28, 1996:15A). Nor had the Putumayo Department been declared a special law enforcement zone, in contrast to Guaviare and Caquetá. However, the leaders of the movement expected it to be so declared at any moment, and were doing everything possible to avoid this outcome. Strongly identifying with the struggles in other departments, they were also supporting them in their declarations against the measure.

The idea that the guerrillas were behind the strike was again put forward by the Armed Forces and the central government, as it had been in the previous civic strike. This had permitted and legitimated the use of force to repress the movement, and violent measures had been taken against it. On August 7, 1998, General Bedoya, then ex-commander of the Armed Forces, accused the government of not having supported "large operations against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of ColombiaóFARC (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia)ólike Operation Conquest," adding that "[w]e have a new tragedy, the result of bad government, of a lack of will to make the political decisions to liquidate the problem of drug-trafficking" (El Espectador, August 7, 1998:5A). This statement makes it clear that to General Bedoya, who was directing military operations in the zone at the time of the marches, drug-trafficking and the FARC were equivalent. Thus from his point of view, the priority of Operation Conquest was to oppose the insurgency, or narco-guerrillas, as the military call them, and to be directed only secondarily against illegal cultivation, the target as defined by President Samper. This logic explains the statements of General Bedoya after the initiation of the marches in Guaviare: "Weíre going to take back this territory that is flooded with illegal crops. The government and the Armed Forces are going to combat this scourge. This is a war and weíre going to win it. Weíre beginning it; itís going to take a while, but weíre going to win it completely" (Statements on Noticiero AM-PM, July 7, 1996).

The conquest of Amazonia becomes the narrative that dominates, directs, and legitimizes the actions of the Armed Forces. A group identity is imposed on the cocaleros, who are represented as "mafioso masses, sponsored by the FARC cartel" (Statements of General Bedoya in Padilla, Cambio 16 #164, August 5, 1996: 18). They are assigned, that is, a negative collective identity as a social group outside the law. This view essentially recreates the historical period in which the Amazon region was represented by the Spanish conquistadors as being inhabited by "savages," today by migrants and criminals under the orders of the guerrillas. In each case an "indomitable" group of people must be brought under control, dominated, and "normalized." Thus is the public image of the campesino movement transformed.

Whatís more, General Bedoya emphasizes that the mafiosi lend money to these migrants to plant, harvest, and process the coca and that once they begin to collect on those loans, "these people from every part of the country have no way to respond and are trapped, kidnapped by the FARC, which forces them to promote strikes like these which we are seeing." He asserts that the repressive measures must be sustained and the special law-enforcement zones maintained "to protect the people who are prisoners of the mafia. They are slaves, moved around like herds of animals by the FARC terrorists" (Statements of General Bedoya in Padilla, Cambio 16 #164, August 5, 1996: 18-20). It is thus denied that the campesinos are independently motivated, that they take any initiative. They are even compared to animals, and in thus dehumanizing them their exclusion from "civilized society" and their "barbarism" are reaffirmed. The "cleansing" of the region of crops and laboratories and of migrants and adventurers at the margins of the law, the incorporation of this border region into the nation state and, even more importantly, into the rule of law and civilization, are what legitimize the military operation.

Amazonia is portrayed as an uncivil society needing to be civilized in order to develop into a true civil society. This seems to be the underlying logic of the discourse used by the central State in its approach to popular mobilization or, in the words of the military, "the disturbances" in the zone. This perspective legitimizes the use of repressive measures and the exercise of state violence to pacify these colonos, be they victims or accomplices of the guerrillas.

General Mario Galán Rodríguez illustrates this point of view, saying that "the strike in Putumayo is unquestionably being led by Fronts 32 and 48 of the FARC, which have forced the campesinos to come out and protest against the government. The campesinos don't know why they are in these protests, and the terrifying thing is that theyíve been compelled to leave their farms to gather in the three municipalities. The only interests at stake here are those of the narco-guerrillas," and those interests are purely economic (La Nación, August 2, 1996: 9). This exemplifies what Gutierrez and Jaramillo (2001) call the criminalization of social protest, "a key instrument in the repertoire of responses to contestation" in Colombia, and the paradoxical relationship between the political and the criminal that began to manifest itself during the 1980s, when "the conscious effort of organized crime to become a political actor and of opposition groups to explain their ties to criminality" were observed.

"We were obliged to march voluntarily": The FARC and the Civic Movement for the Comprehensive Development of Putumayo (Movimiento Cívico por el Desarrollo Integral del Putumayo) in the organization of the cocalero movement


The previous civic strike had taken place between December 20, 1994 and January 5, 1995, and had covered the municipalities of Orito, San Miguel (La Dorada), and Valle de Guamés (La Hormiga). During that period, the Regional Civic Movement of Putumayo was formed. After a year and a half of existence, it expanded to cover other municipalities of Lower Putumayo, like Puerto Asís and Puerto Guzmán. Local movements were also organized in a coordinated fashion in Orito, Puerto Guzmán, Puerto Asís, and Puerto Leguízamo, in an attempt to assert political and ideological hegemony throughout the region.

We returned to Putumayo [after the International Seminar on Illegal Crops, July 14 and 15, 1995] and the leaders agreed to organize another strike. The problems to be addressed were on the one hand organizational and on the other operative: What will we do? In Orito the problem was tactical and in Puerto Guzmán and Puerto Asís it was organizational and political: What social and political characteristics will this movement assume? The decision was then made for all the leaders of Putumayo, Upper, Middle, and Lower, to meet together. At this meeting the leadership broke with the Civic Movement of Orito, Valle del Guamués, and San Miguel, and with Campesino Unity (Unidad Campesina) of Puerto Guzmán, and formed the Civic Movement for the Comprehensive Development of Putumayo. The movement was organized by veredas, or districts. Leaders were chosen for each vereda and financial contributions were pledged or made by all present. Orito, Valle de Guamués, and San Miguel were the most experienced. (Interview with advisor to the Base Group, 1999)

This Regional Civic Movement of Putumayo, which became the Civic Movement for the Comprehensive Development of Putumayo, set out to build a "unified struggle," meaning not only the unification of all kinds of movements in the department, i.e. ethnic, political, and social, but also coordination with movements in other departments where illegal crops were cultivated, like Caquetá, Guaviare, and Meta:

We discussed a national mobilization so that the House of Representatives would meet in order to address this matter as a social problem affecting the country. And in a year and a half we have been able to prepare ... we wrote a very ambitious document and we were aware that it was utopian; we were saying, we need to mobilize at least a million campesinos in Colombia to make the State understand that this is not a criminal problem, itís a social problem. (Interview with indigenous leader, the director of OZIP during the marches, 1999)

This national mobilization was also intended to put forward the necessity of agrarian reform, given the magnitude of the problem. In addition, the creation of a National Board of Negotiations (Mesa Nacional de Concertación) was proposed to analyze State policy with regard to crop substitution, seeking to upgrade the discussions theretofore conducted only at the regional level.

In Putumayo, the Civic Movement for the Comprehensive Development of Putumayo began the process of identifying leaders in the community such as members of the Communal Action Committees (Juntas de Acción Comunal), teachers, health workers, etc., to begin preparations for the marches. The goal was to build a department-wide civic movement that would involve all 13 municipalities of Putumayo, and in which not only indigenous and campesino coca growers and harvesters, but also leaders of other sectors would participate.

This Civic Movement was not exempt from the ambivalence that has characterized social and political practice in Putumayo. It was subject to tension over whether or not to maintain autonomy as a social and/or political movement with respect to both the traditional parties and the armed groups that operated in the region. During the 1996 cocalero movement, two things had become clear: the structural problem of the Western Amazon region (Putumayo, Caquetá, and Guaviare) in relation to the violence and conflicts engendered by the growing of coca and drug trafficking; and the strong and active connection between the campesinos and the guerrillas.

The ambiguity of this alliance is made clear in the words of a campesino: "We were obliged to march voluntarily." The guerrillas not only supported the movement, but promoted it in an authoritarian manner. Nevertheless, to claim that the cocalero movement was the result of fear and/or guerrilla terrorism is to gloss over the organizing processes characteristic of the local population, to legitimate the view from the center that could assert in the press, "Guerrillas Responsible for Strike in Putumayo," and to deny the campesinos and other inhabitants of Putumayo their agency in the organization of the movement, as well as their desire and ability to participate in the discussion over regional development plans and policies during negotiations.

In addition, it is important to stress that the FARC have promoted the practice of decentralization and citizen participation in the Amazon region as a function of their general political line:

Popular local governance is an alternative form of participation in civil society that affords people an opportunity to denounce the reigning clientelism and corruption, and to move toward the solution of their most deeply felt needs and problems. For this very reason citizens have the political obligation to exercise it, in order to be really free...local power should contribute to the stabilization and adaptation of localities seeking to construct a collective identity within the framework of their given local diversity. It should help prepare the people to come to terms with social change, always seeking the common good, the basis of all republican legitimacy. (FARC, Revista Resistencia, 1998)

From this perspective, FARC promotes not only the demands made by the campesinos for State services and infrastructures, but also their demands for citizen participation in the planning and execution of other projects to benefit the region. It follows from this political line that FARC does not seek to substitute itself for the State as a provider of public services and welfare. The State should serve the people and be answerable to them for its actions. This concept is reflected in the FARC approach to public administration at the municipal level. The mayor must produce an administrative plan, implement projects, and present reports to demonstrate that funds have been used to benefit the community and have not been squandered or mismanaged, i.e. that the needs of the community are being served. In the same way, FARC supports the civic strikes to demand that the State fulfill its functions. Thus it is not so clear that they oppose the State presence and investment in the Amazon region. FARC activities have been interwoven with State policies in the region. I therefore differ with Ferro and Uribe (2001) who, in their study of Caquetá, conclude that for the FARC, the marches were "primarily seen as part of the development of a political-military project" whose strategic goal is the taking of power. Thus, they describe "alternate citizenship" as a "political project of the FARC, which intends to engage the population as citizens of a new State ruled by that organization."

By lending logistical support to the cocalero movement, the FARC not only help strengthen the negotiating position of the Civic Movement leadership in their demands upon the State, but are also able to present themselves as defenders of campesino interests. In the words of Comandante Joaquín of FARCís Southern Block, "FARC supports the civilian population in the demands they make of the corrupt elements, because we have nothing to defend but the interests of the population." And in reference to the August 31, 1996, takeover of the Las Delicias military base in Putumayo and the holding hostage of sixty soldiers, he says: "Ours was an act of solidarity against the inhuman, repressive, and punitive treatment being meted out to the campesinos in the south of the country, whose only crime was to demand that the State fulfill its obligations" (ANNCOL, 1998: 3).

Nevertheless, one must keep in mind that the relationship FARC establishes with the campesinos is ambivalent. While on the one hand they promote participatory democracy, they simultaneously exercise authoritarianism over the population. This provides the basis for the FARCís double discourse; by proclaiming themselves the defenders of campesino interests, they legitimize both their military actions and their authoritarianism. This was made clear in the outcome of the movement.

The Communal Action Committees as organizational network for the marches and their relative autonomy from the FARC


The role played by the FARC in the organizational conception of the marches, at both the preparatory stage and at the time of their execution, has been acknowledged. However, "it was the Communal Action Committees that took responsibility for what needed to be done in each vereda." (Testimony of a campesino in Puerto Asís, 1999). It should be pointed out here that the Communal Action Committees were brought together in a network that facilitates social and political relations among the inhabitants of Amazonia at the vereda, municipal, and police inspectorate levels. Government, FARC, and political party representatives establish their working relationships in the veredas through their contacts with the leadership of the Committees. The leaders of the Civic Movement for the Comprehensive Development of Putumayo and of the Pacific Movement of Cauca (Movimiento Pacífico del Cauca), for the Case of the Baja Bota of Cauca, organized the marches through the Communal Action Committees:

At first we organized it through the police inspectorates. That was the first part, that the police inspectorate would call the veredas together. In the meeting of veredas we would just deal with the presidents of the Communal Action Committees. Then we went down as soon as this group was oriented, and there were three- or four-day workshops; we did workshops on the whole problem, on the whole situation that was coming. They went and they led their workshops as they understood things and then we would get the reports. The people gave their reports and among the most important things that we saw was that they didnít respond to the campesinosí questions but rather that they would bring questionnaires with them to find out about the strengths and weaknesses of the people, because we were going to go vereda by vereda and at one point we spread out. Sometimes forty of us would go and sometimes one would go alone. They would tell us in such and such a place three veredas are meeting, so one guy would go here and one there. Thatís how we divided ourselves up. (Interview with an indigenous leader, director of OZIP during the marches, 1999)

Consciousness-raising was begun in these workshops about the imminence of fumigation as a central policy of the government at that time and about the importance of unifying the Civic Movement regionally and by department, incorporating municipalities not theretofore identified as coca-producing, such as Upper Putumayo, Sibundoy, Santiago, San Francisco, and Colón. Further, there were explanations of the national and international contexts relevant to illegal crops. In this way the leaders sought to stimulate voluntary and informed participation by the inhabitants of the veredas involved in the mobilization. In addition to the workshops, there were forums on illegal crops and fumigation. The desire for the genuine participation of the community is a constant throughout each phase of the mobilization and afterwards, when the movement is evaluated and compliance with the accords is monitored. The leaders try not to reproduce the practices of the dominant political culture from which they want to distinguish themselves. In their own words, they don't want to "become a head without a body" (Statement of a leader at a Civic Strike evaluation meeting, September 24, 1996).

It is clear that the actions promoted or supported by the FARC have not negated the capacity of the governed to react or to act as individual or collective subjects. The people of the region negotiate with the FARC as an institutional representation of authority, but while the FARC does exercise authority to maintain order, control, and discipline in the region, they are not seen by the inhabitants of Amazonia as a State within a State, as some have asserted, but as "a government within the government," as Manuel Marulanda Vélez has defined their practices. (Interview in Semana, January 18, 1999: 22) The authority of the FARC is at once accepted and resisted by the population. A leader of the Communal Action Committee in Piamonte comments:

Itís the FARC that have empowered us and they are responsible for the organizationís progress. The guerrillas help the people organize and promote the coordination of the Communal Action Committees. The guerrillas establish order in the region and they are obeyed. And the community has become aware of the necessity to organize itself and give information when the census is taken. Before they didnít want to collaborate and they treated me like I was just being nosy. (Testimony of the leader of the Communal Action Committee of La Consolata, in Piamonte, 1988)

Although the FARCís orders are obeyed, they are often challenged and negotiated. This was the case in the Baja Bota of Cauca when the marches were about to begin. The FARC had determined that some of the veredas would head for Caquetá, and some for Putumayo. However, people from some of the veredas of the Baja Bota were opposed to leaving their zone, because their agenda included pressuring for the creation of a municipality and they saw this as their great opportunity:

We were never advised by the guerrillas; what we have done has been based on the convictions of our own leaders. As I was telling you, in the strike they opposed us, the guerrillas, because they wanted us to go to Putumayo and Caquetá. We didnít do that and they disagreed with us. Because we said that we had to struggle in Cauca. No, there was no confrontation. They just stopped helping us. They didnít help us. There wasnít any discussion about it, they just sent word that they werenít helping us and we would see what we could do. Because they thought we were a weak group. Both the guerrillas and the government thought that since it was such an isolated zone, our strike was going to fail. And it was one of the best strikes there was, because it had a national impact due to its being peaceful, because of the quality of the negotiators, and because of the things we gained in the negotiations. It was one of the best.

One complains louder when the pain is greater. If the pain isnít great, you hardly complain at all. But if the pain is great, then yes, there can be a dialog. Thatís what happened to us, because since we felt the need, and saw the need, we motivated ourselves because we had to solve the problems. (Interview with a member of the Negotiating Commission of the Civic Strike in the Baja Bota of Cauca, 1998)

It is clear that the space to negotiate with the guerrillas is created by the population and stems from their own needs and earlier struggles. The establishment of a municipality in the Baja Bota of Cauca had been proposed by the community since the 1980s. This demand had been the focus of earlier civic movements and the people of the zone took it up again on this opportunity. However, although some veredas of the Baja Bota did not head for Caquetá and Putumayo, others did. So the tension and ambivalence in the relationship with the FARC didnít go away, although it is maintained that they werenít "advised" by the guerrillas. It is important to point out that the government and the guerrillas were seen in the same light. Both predicted that the strike would fail, and both were proven wrong; the movement maintained its autonomy and won a victory in the establishment of the Municipality of Piamonte.

With respect to Putumayo, the womenís representative in the Base Group also points to the relative autonomy of civil society in relation to the FARC:

The guerrillas named some people and civil society named other people to lead the marches, so they opposed their orders [referring to orders from the FARC]. (Interview with the womenís representative in the Base Group, February 1999)

With regard to the role of the FARC in organizing the movement, a campesino woman from the Baja Bota of Cauca says:

Letís say coordinators, not directly, but yes, they were working with us there. They took charge of forming the committees; they saw who would distribute the supplies, and they also requested help from Popayán. Baby formula for the children was sent over from there, and they organized who would prepare it for the children. Every day the children got formula. If they hadnít been there maybe things wouldnít have been as organized as they always were, because you know sometimes when there are things like that, some people want more than others, and problems come up. Even the way it was there were fights sometimes. After three days when the people were set up with their shelters, then they arrived and got it organized how we were going to build the shelters. (Interview with Oliva Macías, 1999)

We can conclude that the FARC reserved for itself the responsibility for the general organization of the march and for overseeing each of the tasks and prohibited the production of coca and commercial activities during the organizational period, but that the campesinos, through their leaders, brought concrete proposals to the negotiating table on behalf of the movement and that their leaders defended the interests of the population they represented.


The negotiations: a space to confront identities and demand the recognition of their history of violence and displacement

The central governmentís negotiating delegation was made up of a delegate from the Presidentís office, an advisor from the Ministry of the Interior, the Vice Minister of Agriculture, and representatives of the Ministries and decentralized State institutes. This delegation traveled to Putumayo with orders not to negotiate on any point concerning eradication or fumigation of illegal crops, but to reach agreements on the provision of services and the construction of infrastructural projects already budgeted for (Interview with the delegate of the Presidency at the negotiations, 1999).

For their part, the leadership of the Civic Movement, meeting with the leaders of the Communal Action Committees in the different towns where they were active, elected their representatives to the negotiations and traveled to Orito to begin the process.

The Orito negotiating team was selected by the Civic Movement for the Comprehensive Development of Putumayo. There were 600 people from Puerto Guzmán, and they joined with Puerto Limón and Santa Lucía to make a total of 4,000. They demanded the right to elect a delegate to the talks themselves. They didnít allow the car to set off from Mocoa without him and they threatened to turn back if the car didnít take him. They called the mayor to ask his permission and thatís the way it got done. (Testimony of the womenís representative in the Base Group, 1999)

As can be deduced from this testimony, the campesino participants in the marches were able to exert pressure to be allowed to participate in the negotiations, but the Civic Movement maintained its leadership. The goal was to have a representative of each municipality, representatives of the organized campesino groups, and of the Civic Movement leadership.

Among the government negotiators in Putumayo there was a consensus to recognize the Civic Movement as the representative of the cocaleros. In the words of the Interior Ministry Advisor, comparing the negotiations in Orito with those in Caquetá, where different groups led the negotiations, "in Putumayo we always had the same interlocutors and always saw the same people." Another government representative also recognized "the long-standing civic tradition of combativeness and of struggle" in Putumayo (Interview with a representative of the governmental Solidarity Network during negotiations, 1999). Ferro and Uribe (2001) do not ascribe autonomy to the campesino march leadership in the Caquetá negotiations, even though a FARC Commander interviewed by them states that "although the movement followed some very general orientations, its organization, from operational questions to the negotiations, was exclusively under campesino leadership." This account coincides with the situation that I have described in Putumayo.

The leaders of the Civic Movement began the negotiations with a presentation on the history of regional colonization in order to understand why coca is the most important local crop. They began by describing the Amazonian colonization as a result of Colombiaís internal conflict during the period of political violence, as well as the continual expulsion of campesinos from the Andean region, the lack of land being among the principal causes. They also pointed out the lack of adequate policies for the Amazon region, and most importantly, its virtual abandonment by the State. They explained their understanding of a regional identity within the Colombian nation state, a regional identity molded by the conflict and the consequent arrival of the displaced population, all of which defined the region as marginal in relation to the center of the country. Consequently, they demanded State and government recognition of the social and economic problems of the region that result from these historical and structural factors. The same document continued: "For these reasons, the [social] problematic deserves a different approach from the State and the government than that taken towards the drug traffickers and the insurgency" (First draft of the initial proposal of the Civic Movement for a negotiated agreement, courtesy of Teófilo Vásquez, 1996). This position challenged the identity that had been assigned to them, an oppressive stereotype that made them invisible and precluded the idea that they should be consulted on their own situation. A campesino expressed this idea:

And if we actually continue growing coca, then how can they tell us that we have to submit to national and international public opinion, to say that itís we campesinos who grow coca, when itís part of the problems that you yourselves have recognized? Weíre shown as drug traffickers or narco-guerrillas all around the world, when we have a right to some honor as campesinos. Weíre demanding that it be recognized that weíre forced to break the law, thatís exactly what it is, and thatís just as much of a right too. Do we have to put up with seeing ourselves portrayed to the public as criminals because we plant coca to support our families? Isnít that against the constitution too? (Oscar Reyes, spokesperson for the communities speaking at the negotiations. Orito, 1996)

So the campesinos ask the State and the government to recognize them as social actors:

The campesino who submits to voluntary eradication and substitution should be a social actor and a valid interlocutor in the search for (these) solutions there, and not a completely distant subject; because we consider that as part of the problem we are also part of the search for solutions. (A campesino leader speaking at the negotiations, August 1996. Emphasis added)

The government representatives, for their part, put the legal problem ahead of the social and economic problems of the region:

In a country like Colombia there are certain laws that we must obey, letís be clear on that. A number of us have reiterated that, and have done so on several occasions. When the Minister of the Interior was asked about the scope of the commissions, he was very clear. The Colombian policy towards the drug problem, towards trafficking in narcotics, would not be negotiated. One of the elements of that policy, specifically Law 30, tells us that the person who grows coca is committing a crime. Thatís what impedes us from considering gradualism. There are things here we can discuss and that surely, for example, the idea that the small grower is a valid interlocutor in the search for comprehensive solutions, but in what way? Dr. Díaz told you a moment ago that that was completely acceptable, not as a social actor but as a valid interlocutor, because the recognition of a social actor canít be based on the fact that that social actor is committing a crime. (PLANTE representative speaking at negotiating session. Emphasis added)

To be denied any role but that of valid interlocutor to implement programs is seen by the campesinos as depriving them of their agency, of their full and active participation in the definition of those programs, and of their recognition as a social group. It is a continuation of the State policy of setting policies and designing programs for the eradication of coca without consulting them, a way of doing things that has meant the failure of the production projects in the Amazon region.

In addition, the government representatives repeated the impossibility of negotiating issues like the gradual substitution of other crops for coca or the social recognition of illegal crops. They also blurred the position of the Civic Movement:

The movement insists that they are not interested in a comprehensive agrarian policy, in electrification, in roads, in health, in education, in housing, in human rights, in telecommunications, or in territorial organization. Instead the movement begins with the premise that Colombian legislation on the control of narcotics must be changed. This commission regrets that position and understands that what this movement and its organizers are asking for is a legislative reform process that is the responsibility of the National Congress. (Vice Minister of Agriculture speaking at the negotiations in Orito, 1996)

The leaders of the movement responded to make it clear that they were not demanding the negotiation of the law but rather a formal recognition of a social problem that cannot be solved with the fumigation of the coca crops (El Tiempo, August 7, 1996: 10A).

What stands out in the position of the government representative is his wish to turn the discussion towards an agreement on basic needs and infrastructure. He rules out further discussion of the fundamental structural problem of the Amazonian economy, and beyond that, of the agricultural sector in the country. The Civic Movement leaders were prioritizing structural solutions over the negotiation of the series of needed services that the government representatives wanted the negotiations to concentrate on. To the campesinos, the problem wasnít just whether or not to eradicate coca, as the government commission asserted. The problem that they wanted considered was the history of violence and repression that they have been subject to, and their lack of alternatives. That is, they demanded the recognition by the State of their historical marginalization and exclusion. Faced with the unwillingness of the government to consider this, the Civic Movement leaders suspended the talks for one day.

The ambivalence of the State representatives towards the cocalero movement and the signing of the first agreement

The cocalero movement demonstrated the internal divisions of the State representatives. In the first place, the ambivalence of the local and regional authorities towards the national representatives was made clear. They could choose to act as public servants, identify with the State, and therefore support the central government, or they could identify with the social, economic, and political problematic of the region, and therefore support the cocaleros and/or the leaders of the Civic Movement.

The local officials identified themselves as Putumayans and sided with the campesinos. Some of them also acted as advisors to the Civic Movement leaders at the negotiations. The mayors, for their part, did not feel a commitment to the central government representatives, since in their opinion the process of decentralization brought them problems rather than solutions. From the beginning of the movement they had supported the demand of the campesinos to negotiate with central government officials, since it was they who had the authority to make decisions concerning national funds and subsidies. The governor vacillated, siding now with one side, now with the other, depending on the situation.

But there was an even sharper division among the representatives of the central government. On the one hand were the Attorney General, the director of PLANTE, and the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. This sector of the government considered coca-growing campesinos to be drug traffickers. Therefore the Attorney General exerted pressure on the Minister of the Interior to insure that his representatives at the negotiations not sign any agreement that would undermine the policy of fumigation and total eradication of coca, which he equated with signing negotiated agreements with criminals. This pressure was in part a response to the governmentís position at that moment, as it was being evaluated for its ties to drug trafficking. It had been decertified by the United Sates in January 1996, and was facing a second decertification in 1997, which in fact did come to pass.

The other sector of the government was primarily represented by the Solidarity Network (Red de Solidaridad), and by other officials at the table who had a history of work in the region. They wanted to be able to reach an agreement despite the threat that they could be investigated for negotiating with drug traffickers. They wanted to avoid further loss of prestige by the government, but they also sought to forge closer ties with the campesinos in order to neutralize the support the guerrillas were providing them. For these reasons, this sector supported the idea of the Civic Movement to sign an initial agreement for an Emergency Plan for Comprehensive Development, to be called "For a Putumayo without Coca and Sustained in an Solidary Economy." They had insisted that the phrase "without Coca" be added to avoid conflict with the other sector of the government:

So really around this idea of a Putumayo without coca, everyone had his own interpretation. For us it was a more basic thing. More than to achieve a political alliance among the campesinos, our strategy was to achieve an alliance between the campesinos of Putumayo and the authorities, at least the national ones or the ones we were representing. And we had a strong interest in allying ourselves with them, of demonstrating that with an alliance basically between the campesinos and the government, it was possible to construct a different Putumayo (...) To the guerrillas this alliance is a disaster, but thatís our goal, to win over the campesinos. The guerrillasí goal is to maintain their military control over the area, their influence. (Interview with the representative of the president at the negotiations, 1999)

The government negotiators felt that the Civic Movement leaders were under pressure from the FARC:

They were speaking in the name of a civic movement and yes, the Civic Movement exists, but we all know that behind the Civic Movement there is a lot of pressure by the armed actors in that region. What we were seeing from our side's point of view , the State's, was that their positions were very closed, not very spontaneous. It was they, not we, who were representing the State, who were very cautious about what to write, what to sign, what commitments to make. We were really representing a tremendous political will to try to resolve the problem. (Interview with an official of the Solidarity Network, 1999)

Nevertheless, it wasnít clear that the Civic Movement negotiators were completely dependent on the FARC to make decisions for them. Another official indicates that the FARC wanted to put off the signing of the agreement, but despite their position, and that of the Attorney General, it was signed:

And a version was drawn up that was broad and vague enough to avoid any danger of legal action by Attorney General Valdivieso, who was monitoring absolutely every move and every decision. We couldnít even finish a draft proposal in Orito before there was a public reaction to the Attorney General and the government having made or not made concessions in the negotiations. Everyone was watching and spying on everyone: the FARC, the government. (Interview with the advisor to the Minister of the Interior, Popayán, 1999)The first agreement that was signed stated that the campesino representatives should produce this Emergency Plan for the Comprehensive Development of a Putumayo without Coca, thus securing a decision-making role for the campesinos. It was also agreed that voluntary eradication and substitution would require a joint effort on the part of the campesinos, the colonos, indigenous people, the government, and cooperating international parties. In this way the small coca producer achieved practical recognition as "a valid interlocutor in the definition and implementation of comprehensive solutions" (Agreement of 1996). In other words, their voice regarding policies and projects in the region was recognized.

General Bedoya immediately declared that the agreement had been signed behind the armyís back, said that there should not have been negotiations with people at the margins of the law and reiterated that the overriding need was to continue fumigating (El Espectador, August 28, 1996: 3A). Fumigation is another form of violence, as the campesinos made explicit on the signs that they carried in the marches: "Fumigation equals unemployment, violence, displacement, poverty, etc; Samper has declared war on us; No more abuses; No to fumigation, yes to peace; Support the strike!"

For his part, the Minister of the Interior declared that "the fumigation of illegal crops was not negotiated in the agreements signed on Sunday in Orito with the coca growers of Putumayo," adding that "[t]he government takes its responsibility very seriously. We intend to eradicate illegal crops in the country, a non-negotiable step towards our fundamental goal, which is to be a nation without coca" (El Tiempo, August 13, 1996: 3A).

A campesino representative at the negotiations, however, indicated that "in order to avoid fumigation or any other method of forcible eradication of illegal crops, we agreed with the government on a voluntary plan of crop substitution" (El Tiempo, August 13, 1996: 3A). The campesinos considered the Emergency Plan for Comprehensive Development to be a plan for the gradual substitution of legal crops for coca and the establishment of an alternative economy.

These two understandings of the initial agreement are completely opposite. While the government said that eradication had not been negotiated, the campesinos said that they had achieved agreement on a plan for voluntary eradication as opposed to forced eradication by means of fumigation, and that this was an implicit recognition of the small campesino producers. Each side had its own interpretation and each side claimed a victory.


Seeking Social Emancipation through the Construction of Citizenship and the Exercise of Participatory Democracy

Santos (1998) has described how the hegemonic global forces of exclusion that he calls social fascism are resisted. They are confronted by the initiatives of grassroots organizations, of local and popular movements that endeavor to counteract extreme forms of social exclusion and open new spaces for democratic participation. Such is the case of the campesino cocaleros, a stigmatized population, subjected to Law 30 of 1986, the Narcotics Statute, which criminalizes them. Their geographical space, Amazonia, has historically been constructed as a home to "savages" or criminals, a space of exclusion and marginalization. The cocalero campesino social movement demanded inclusion through negotiations (concertación) with government agencies, as described by Foweraker with reference to those Latin American social movements that had principally sought "local and immediate solutions to concrete problems" and "concentrate these demands in the state as provider of public services and guarantor of the conditions of collective consumption" (1995:32). The demand for negotiations and signed agreements in Putumayo represents the demand for social, civic, and political citizenship rights, and for the recognition of local social and/or political movements. In the last analysis, it is a demand for inclusion in the nation state, in the participatory democracy that it promotes, but to which Putumayans have not had access, and it is an assertion of new democratic forms and new manifestations of citizenship.

Considering that "[a]utonomy, far from being incompatible with hegemony is a form of hegemonic construction" (Laclau and Mouffe, 1985:140), I argue that the cocalero movement sought an articulation with the hegemonic State discourse concerning democracy and citizen participation as a form of empowerment. It displays new processes of signification, that although molded by hegemonic discourses, seek to contest them, redefine them, link up with them, or abandon them. This autonomy should be understood as both interconnected with and in opposition to the hegemonic State and other dominant groups in the region, such as the FARC. We must also keep in mind that the cocalero movement emerged as such in response to the Stateís stigmatization of campesinos for their growing of coca. The movementís power thus derives from the systematic abuses of the State, i.e. the indiscriminate fumigation of coca crops, a repressive policy promoted by the United States without regard for the basic needs of the regionís inhabitants, and without regard for their repeated demands for an alternative solution. As coca growers they are the first link in the chain of global drug trafficking, but they are the weakest link, and locally coca is simply a crop like other crops. While economically advantageous, it does not substantially change the living conditions of its growers. Molano (1994) has pointed out that coca-growing has not only brought military repression, but has also strengthened the position of the campesino colonos, to the extent that the government has considered it necessary to negotiate with them directly and to take their interests seriously, as we have seen in the analysis of the Putumayo negotiations.

In Putumayo, the sense of extreme exclusion is a defining trait, so the struggle to construct citizenship is a struggle for "the right to have rights." Arendt (1949: 30), who coined this phrase, noted that the existence of rights had been transformed from an a priori condition to a demand. She also emphasized the right of every human being to belong to some political community, because it is within such communities that rights materialize. Citizens themselves must defend their rights, but particularly the right not to be denied the rights that accrue to community members, and above all the right to citizenship. In a context of exclusion, the definition of a "new citizenship" becomes both a cultural and political act. With regard to exclusion, social movements, and citizenship, Foweraker (1995: 113-114) concludes:

The question of exclusion is critical to an appreciation of the relationship between social movements and democracy in contemporary Latin America. (...) Indeed, in the present context of partial democracy, the best working definition of a social movement is a popular organization which can make plausible claims to exercise a perceptible impact on the extension and exercise of the rights of citizenship.

This questions the assignment of places of exclusion in society, a predetermined social order, and demonstrates the fundamental character of citizenship as a politics of culture (Dagnino, 1998). The political appropriation of constitutional rights and, above all, of the principles of citizen participation, was the only discernible legal strategy of advancing the cocalero movement for social emancipation in a conflictive and marginalized area. Thus, the Civic Movement for the Comprehensive Development of Putumayo called upon the national government to collaborate in the solution of Putumayoís problems, stating that

In this situation we speak as Putumayan citizens first, without any kind of political preference, without sectarianism. We are simply exercising our citizenship rights, on a moral basis and in solidarity. We understand that it is the general population that is most negatively affected. We ask the national government to lend us a helping hand to surmount the complex set of problems that we experience. If that does not happen, this will soon become a breeding ground for illegal and disruptive acts, which may bring profoundly negative and undesirable consequences. (Main presentation of the Civic Movement at the regional forum "Peace and Human Rights," Puerto Asís, May 7, 1997. Emphasis added).

To identify oneself first as a citizen of Putumayo is of course an identification with oneís birthplace or current place of residence, but above all it is the re-establishment of oneís contract or relationship with the State. As Tilly (1996) says, the relationship with the State defines citizenship. This relationship may be weak or strong, depending on the transactions that take place between the State and the people under its jurisdiction.

In identifying first as citizens and secondly as Putumayans, citizenship was being constructed, defined by membership and a sense of affiliation where none had existed before, or at least none that had ever been made explicit or recognized as such. The campesinos were implicitly claiming to belong in the region, contradicting their characterization as rootless migrants in search of easy money. This demand for "membership" was an exercise of "the politics of citizenship." But above all, they sought to be recognized by the State as an distinct group, with a voice to represent them, and the right to define together with the State the policies that would benefit them as residents of Putumayo. To this end they proposed citizen participation according to the guidelines laid out in the Constitution. Through this citizen participation, they sought to contest the illegality of their situation. As Putumayan citizens they wished to act within the law, and even more, to bring the law to life. This implied a form of empowerment for them because they sought recognition and participation as a differentiated social group with roots in this region, and above all with a voice to defend their rights as small growers of coca.

They were struggling for the right to participate in defining policies and a specific plan for Amazonia in order to secure their inclusion in the nation state. As Hall and Held point out (1989: 181), the State must intervene to assure an appropriate conception of citizenship. The leadership of the Civic Movement sought to secure this intervention, so much so that they warned the State that if a hand was not extended to them, "illegal and disruptive acts" would be committed. During the negotiations, they insisted that the government should guarantee economically feasible alternatives to coca. Even though they spoke of the need for popular participation in decision-making and in project- and program-design, they also insisted, both in the negotiations and in the implementation of the agreements, that the government was ultimately responsible for the success of any projects that would be effectuated. The government was also held responsible for the strike. One banner read, "The government is forcing us to strike." The campesinos believed that the Colombian State was responsible for the spreading cultivation of illegal crops, and the least it could do was give them time to consolidate an alternative economy, which is why they insisted on negotiating a gradual eradication of coca. They also brought to the table a long-standing complaint that weighed heavily on the popular memoryóthe government has never been able to provide needed services to the population. Given the popular conception of the State as an institution that should care and provide for the population, people have tended to maintain a passive attitude, waiting to receive services. Two banners thus read, "We are a peaceful people waiting for solutions," and "Our need for public services makes us strike."

Jelin (1996) has described how the relation between subordinate social sectors and the State in Latin America has generally been expressed in terms of clientelism or paternalism, rather than in terms of citizenship, rights, and obligations. Within this paradigm, the oppressed wait passively for the State to provide services, and their subordination comes to be seen as the natural order of things. Nevertheless, Jelin also recognizes that resistance and opposition to domination have increased among the oppressed, accompanied by a consciousness of their social rights and an increasing struggle for them. This is the situation today in the coca-growing areas of Putumayo. Self-affirmation as Putumayan citizens also means compelling the State to commit itself to addressing popular demands. They believe that for crop substitution to be viable and succeed it is not enough for the grower to express his interest; a commitment on the part of the government is also called for, and the political will should originate with the State. Even with the tendency to wait for the State to solve problems, the stimulation of citizen participation represents the first step from a passive to an active and participatory attitude that demands not only social rights, like education, healthcare, roads, credit, and coca substitution projects, but also political and civil rights. This demand for commitments by the State accords with the assertion of Uprimny and Villegas (2001) that the 1991 Constitution provides for "active State intervention in the search for social justice," despite other provisions for privatization and neoliberal policies.

While the discourse of active citizen participation in the construction of projects and programs is prevalent among both public officials and campesinos in the region, so is the opposing discourse of State abandonment and its resulting impetus for the population to make demands upon the State, wait passively for its response, and blame State inaction for their situation. This tension between active collaboration and the making of demands, then waiting for basic needs to be satisfied, is at the heart of relations between local officials and the community. These contradictory discourses mediate Putumayans' perceptions and expectations of the State, as well as the strategies they have used in order to achieve recognition.

In addition, citizenship rights include protection from the arbitrary exercise of State power. This would preclude the kind of delegitimation of the cocalero movement and previous civic movements in Putumayo, as well as the persecution of movement leaders, all of which the Armed Forces have been responsible for. In this region, the rights to life and to peace have become rights which must be struggled for. The agreements established a Human Rights Commission in anticipation of the threats to which movement participants might be subjected, and the Presidential Office of Human Rights was requested to establish an open phone line for strike leaders and participants (1996 Agreement). In the midst of the armed conflict, in a zone dominated by the army, the paramilitaries, and the guerrillas, the construction of citizenship becomes a form of resistance.

Tilly (1996) has argued that citizenship and public identity should be seen as social relations that are continuously open to interpretation and negotiation. In this sense it is important to understand the significance of the phrase "Putumayan citizen" in the current context of the war against drugs and/or the counterinsurgency. Recognition as citizens means visibility as a differentiated group; it means an identity not defined as collaborators of the guerrillas or the drug traffickers; and it means beginning the construction and strengthening of a positive identity with the support of the State. In other areas of armed conflict, like Urabá (Romero, 2001) and San José de Apartadó (Uribe, 2001), the construction of citizenship also represents their inhabitants' search for autonomy, for emancipation from subordination to the dominant forces of the guerrillas and the paramilitaries.

The local construction of the State

If we examine the Stateís practices in Putumayo, we may gain some insight into its paradoxical construction in the popular imagination and the political culture there. On the one hand, the State is menacing; it is feared. On the other hand, it is a paternalist State that should be providing for the peopleís needs, but is not fulfilling its parental responsibilities. It is simultaneously a State that one fears and that one desires. In the political culture of the region, a bipartite understanding of the State makes it comprehensible, but only to the extent that it can be both good and bad at the same time.

This view of the State in the region also reflects the political practices of public officials, as was seen in the negotiations. As has been pointed out, various dimensions and faces are entailed as a result of the powers, discourses, and practices that cohabit within the concept of a single entity, the State. In synthesis, the contradictions, ambivalences, ambiguities, and paradoxes observable in both the practice of public officials and the popular representation of the State, all contribute to the formation of the State in Putumayo, as well as to the form of subjection and/or resistance to it. In the words of Sayer, "The polysemic, ambiguous, contradictory quality of these putative state forms, even as they oppress, they also empower. It is not a question of either/or but both/and" (1994: 389).

As I have been arguing, it was precisely the contradictory practices of the State that gave birth to the cocalero movement. Gupta describes the process in theoretical terms: "Seizing on the fissures and ruptures, the contradictions in the policies, programs, institutions and discourses of Ďthe stateí allows people to create possibilities for political action and activism" (1995: 394). Through their demand for citizen participation, a constitutionally guaranteed civil right, the cocalero movement leaders acquired the power to contest the government's fumigation policy, which itself ran counter to this principle, and gained recognition as "legitimate and necessary interlocutors in the development and implementation of comprehensive solutions". The movement was able to appropriate the provisions of the Constitution, demonstrating the ability of social movements to strengthen their positions by making use of existing legal mechanisms.

The discourse of State absence that permeates all social strata in the region is internalized as a disaffection, becoming a constituent of the subjectsí identity and particularly of their subjection. In a context of the exclusion and distorted recognition of the inhabitants of Amazonia by the State (as migrants without roots, looking for easy money), a mirror image is established within which an "identification" takes place, as described by Lacan (1977). The inhabitants of Amazonia come to assume the very exclusion, abandonment, and invisibility imposed upon them, which then transforms them as subjects. Politicized collective identities emerge and give birth to social movements in response to the State that intervenes in the zone not to exercise its paternal responsibilities and compensate those who have suffered by its absence, but to represent them as criminals and to castigate them with violence, thus reiterating their condition of marginality. The campesinos and colonos cannot establish their citizenship rights if the State does not let them, if it does not recognize them as "social actors" or if it continues to assign them to a marginal status as "fifth class" or "bad" citizens. This feeling of abandonment is also shared by local State representatives such as mayors, and those officials who blur the line between the State and civil society when they cease to identify themselves as agents of the former and become active members of the latter. The absentee State is blamed for the situation. But at the same time its presence is desired and demanded, this demand being the motor of the cocalero movement.

The two governing powers that exercise juridical functions in the zoneóthe local State and the FARCódo not necessarily supplant each other. This situation also applies to other regions. Uribe (2001) describes how in San José de Apartadó, campesinos juxtapose the institutional presence of the State to the political-military power of the guerrillas. The tension that exists between the State and the guerrillas, on the one hand, and between the people of Putumayo and each of their two "governments," on the other, makes the definition of boundaries between the State and civil society even more complex. Foucault (1994/1976) emphasizes the generalization of discipline and power to the extent that social subjects appear to be condemned to subjection and that political or ideological opposition to the disciplinarian structures is nonexistent. But the cocalero movement challenged and contested campesino subjection by both the State and the guerrillas. Throughout this ethnography of the 1996 cocalero movement I have sought to emphasize the agency of its subjects. As Abrams (1988) has told us, the power of the state is not only external and objective but also internal and subjective, working through the subjugated people themselves.

The inhabitants of Putumayo still face the challenge of determining how to achieve the construction of a new State in the region, a State characterized by participation rather than paternalism, in which active citizenship is implicit. They continue to face the challenge of inclusion in a nation state in the difficult context of armed conflict.

In Search of Political Representation

By the end of the civic strike, the leaders of the Civic Movement had gained a lot of influence with the inhabitants of the region, and the possibility that they could form a political movement with the potential to gain representation at the national level became a threat to the traditional political parties:

The truth is that afterwards the elections were coming. The campesinos and all the common people were practically begging Luis Emiro, who had been at the forefront of the marches and the negotiations, to run for the House [of Representatives]. There was a consensus in the department, not just in the rural parts but in the cities and everywhere, that it was a given that if Emiro ran for the House, he would win resoundingly. The surprise was that Emiro didnít run, specifically because the FARC wouldnít let him. That is a great contradiction. (1999 interview with the administrator of the Mocoa Hospital at the time of the marches)

The FARC did not support the consolidation of the Civic Movement as a social and political movement. In addition, it did not promote the elaboration of the Comprehensive Development Plan, contradicting its policy of supporting the inhabitants of the region in local governance. The FARC also labeled the campesino leaders "sellouts" because they were receiving salaries from the Solidarity Network for their work in elaborating the Plan. The ambivalence of the FARC came through again; although it encouraged and assisted in the organization of the mobilization, it did not permit the Civic Movement to slip out of its control.

For its part, the State also failed to commit itself to the implementation of a broadly based crop substitution program, the fundamental objective of the Comprehensive Development Plan:

The government didnít have the political will to negotiate a new development model, and later the guerrillas also failed to show the will. The Plan was very ambitious, it was very good, it had gone to the root of things. A lot of time was invested, more than a week, day and sometimes night, analyzing things deeply. There were some very good approaches but there wasnít the will to follow through, and then there was a lack of clarity, confusion on the part of the guerrillas in their attitude toward the process. (Interview with a local official, advisor to the Base Group, 1998)

Furthermore, the paramilitaries entered the region after the marches. They were determined to fight the FARC, which had demonstrated its ample presence and power in the south of the country. This determination was expressed in the conclusions of the third national summit of the paramilitaries, the Movement of Self-Defense Units of Colombia (Movimiento de Autodefensas de Colombia), held in November 1996. They expressed the urgent need to reconquer zones that the guerrillas had wrested from them, among them Putumayo: "The department of Putumayo is another priority. It is urgent to divert men and resources to this mission. The subversives have been able to establish a parallel government there, which is truly perilous for the nation." (Semana, No. 824, February 16, 1998: 30)

The leaders of the Civic Movement were threatened and didnít participate in the elections because they felt that their lives were in danger. They returned to clandestine work or to what could be called the political culture of marginality. Before the elections of 1997, the Civic Movement addressed itself to the campesinos of Putumayo to explain the withdrawal of its candidates from the process. One of the Civic Movement leaders spoke at a public meeting in the Puerto Asís Park and recounted the history of political violence, the "dirty war" unleashed against the leaders of alternative political parties like the Liberal Revolutionary Movement ( Movimiento Revolucionario Liberal), the Communist Party (Partido Comunista), and the Patriotic Union (Union Patriótica). He assailed the social inequality and the abandonment of the region:

Donít we carry a cedula de ciudadanía [national identity card] like they do? [referring to the ruling class] The difference is that they are thieves and we are humble. Thatís the big difference, but weíre Colombians. We are Colombians, and weíre the ones who work. Or is it that you have to leave the country to understand that the department of Putumayo is producing such wealth and doesnít have a single meter of paved road. Donít our taxes count? Our taxes should be used to invest here in town. So, since the leaders who are there in power running things are exactly the same ones who have plundered the people, who have robbed the people, weíre proposing the necessity of postponing the elections so that we can sit down together, not just the guerrillas, but also the campesinos and the workers, to talk about resolving the problems that we have today, and you will see that if these problems are solved, nobody will see the need to fight, because if nobody is trampling on their rights... (Address by Civic Movement leader in the Central Park of Puerto Asís, September 27, 1997)

The reference to citizenship in this discourse reveals that it is power relations that are at stake. The citizenship being demanded is a political identity as described by Mouffe: "Citizenship (...) not as a legal status but as a form of identification, a type of political identity: something to be constructed, not empirically given" (1992: 231), and above all, a status constructed in a diverse and conflictive environment. Van Gunsteren has indicated that citizenship should be seen as "an area of contestation and struggle" and that "[t]he ambiguities of citizenship are particularly indicative of conflicts over who will have what kind of say over the definition of common problems and how they will be tackled" (1978: 10). The campesinos and workers demand to be taken into account as differentiated sectors of the population who are not represented by the guerrillas in the discussion of national problems. By demanding the right to political participation, they are asserting their citizenship (Foweraker, 1995).

The dilemma for the Putumayans continued to be how to sustain their representation as a distinct social and/or political group and even more, how to secure commitments from the State, how to get the State to provide a democratic space, all in a region dominated by several armed actors and where the government had not demonstrated the political will to support campesino initiatives and thus take on the problem of Amazonia and coca cultivation in a structural fashion.

To the cocaleros, their month-long "sacrifice" meant that they realized their organizational capacity and that together they could "put the State in a bind," in the words of a government representative at the negotiations (Interview with the delegate of the Presidency at the negotiations, 1999). The 1996 cocalero movement conferred recognition and power on the campesinos and gave them an opportunity to contest the identity that had been assigned to them as guerrillas and/or drug traffickers. Given this opportunity, they spoke openly of coca cultivation as a subsistence crop like other subsistence crops, and they made the small campesino producers in the marginal areas visible as a social group.

The mayor of Piamonte in the Baja Bota of Cauca, a member of the Inga indigenous group, referred to the cocalero movement as a marker of identity for the colonos of the region when he said, "Before the marches, the colonos didnít have an identity but now they do, even though they donít have a long history in the territory like ours [referring to the indigenous communities]." (Conversation with the mayor of Piamonte, March 1, 1999)

The cocalero mobilization lives on in the memory of the inhabitants of Putumayo and of the Baja Bota of Cauca as a historical referent, culturally appropriated as a political symbol, both of their identity as colonos and campesinos of Amazonia, and of the power they can wield when they organize to demand their rights as citizens within the framework of participatory democracy highlighted in the Constitution of 1991. Their mobilization became an emancipatory struggle against abandonment, stigmatization, and marginalization.



Abrams, Philip. "Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State" The Journal of Historical Sociology 1(1): 58-89.

Agreement Between the negotiating commission of the national government and the negotiating commission of the Civic Strike of the Department of Putumayo, "For a Putumayo without coca and sustained in an economy of solidarity" Emergency Plan for Comprehensive Development. Orito, August 19, 1996.

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Decrees and Press Articles


Decree 0717: April 18, 1996. Presidencia de la República. Bogotá.

Decree 0871: May 13, 1996. Presidencia de la República.

Resolution 0001 of 1996. Consejo Nacional de Estupefacientes. May 13. Bogotá

El Espectador. "Bedoya Acusa al Gobierno". August 7, 1998:5A.

El Espectador. "Mi hora cero. Guerra en el Sur". Column by Jimena Duzán. Aug 28, 1996: 3A)

El Tiempo."Se gesta otro paro en el Putumayo". January 4, 1996: 1A.

El Tiempo "Paro indefinido en 12 pueblos del Putumayo" July 28, 1996:15A.

El Tiempo "La fumigación no tiene limitaciones". August 13, 1996:3A.

La Nación. "Palabras del Presidente Ernesto Samper Pizano en la Presentación del Balance del Plan Córdoba y los resultados de la Operación Conquista"July 10, 1996:17.

La Nación "Afirma el general Mario Galán: hay intereses de la narcoguerrilla". August 2, 1996:9.

La Nación "Reinician Fumigación". July 27,1996:11