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Colombia rebels call for decriminalization of drug crops

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(GlobalPost/GlobalPost)

Colombia's leftist FARC guerrillas on Wednesday called for the decriminalization of the cultivation of marijuana, coca leaf and poppies in the country.

The rebel group, which allegedly finances its operations in part through drug trafficking, said some cultivation of these crops should be legalized for "therapeutic or medicinal uses, industrial uses or for cultural reasons."

In a statement read out in Havana, where the FARC is engaged in peace talks with the Colombian government, the group called for ending drug eradication programs in order to "improve living and working conditions in rural areas."

To that end, it proposed "halting the policy of criminalization and persecution, suspending aerial spraying and other forms of eradication that are having negative socioenvironmental and economic impacts."

The statement was read out by Ivan Marquez, the FARC's lead negotiator in the talks with Bogota.

The proposal was part of an eight-point position paper on land use, which the rebels say is at the center of their almost half-century-old insurgency, the longest in Latin America.

The peace talks, which began in November, are the fourth attempt to settle the conflict through negotiations and the first in a decade.

With an estimated 8,000 fighters, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is the country's largest and oldest rebel group.

Besides drug trafficking, the group has funded its insurgency through extortion and kidnapping.

It renounced kidnapping for ransom in February 2012, but is currently holding two policemen as "prisoners of war."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130206/colombia-rebels-call-decriminalization-drug-crops