YAMMOUNEH, Lebanon: Interior Minister Marwan Charbel promised cannabis farmers Sunday to present their case before the Cabinet in order to defuse the tension over security forces’ recent crackdown on fields of the illicit crop in the Bekaa town of Yammouneh. Charbel said he would propose three ideas to the Cabinet Monday on how to tackle the issue, vowing that one of the ideas would be a plan to compensate the farmers for the eradication of their crops. “I urge you to give me some time to study all options and make a decision. We want to achieve both goals: compensating farmers and eradicating the crops. This way we make clear our position on the international arena while we compensate farmers for the profit they could have made from selling the cannabis,” he told farmers and residents of Yammouneh. “I stand by the state and the people, and I promise that this issue will be tackled seriously starting 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. I promise you not to abandon this issue,” he said. “I will speak to you honestly and I want you to trust me. It took me two hours to come to see you today, the only day I spend with my family. I have been watching all that you havebeen through in the past 30 years and I had prepared a plan back in 1978 on how to tackle the issue of growing cannabis … We want to solve this problem in a way that satisfies both the state and the farmers,” he added.Shortly after arriving in Yammouneh, where authorities began a crackdown on cannabis fields, burning hundreds of dunams, Charbel was able to convince protesters to unblock roads and end a sit-in they had begun a day earlier. However, residents of the area said they would re-block roads if the destruction of their crops resume before they receive compensation.
A member of the Chamas clan, Ali Nasri Chamas, urged Charbel to listen to the people’s demands, stressing that the residents of Yammouneh have no wish to clash with the security forces. “We beg you to listen to the sufferings of the people of Bekaa, an area on which the state has been turning its back for years. Since 1992, they have demolished cannabis fields without providing us with an alternative … We do not want to clash with the security forces, but at the same time we want to defend our crops until the government finds us an alternative to make a living,” he said. Since the Lebanese Army and the Internal Security Forces began the eradication of cannabis fields last week, there have been several incidents in which security forces have been targeted. Two policemen and two soldiers were wounded Friday in separate shootings in Yammouneh. As residents continued Sunday to block the road into Yammouneh in protest against the authorities’ decision to eradicate cannabis fields, the Jaafar clan said it would stand in the way of the crackdown. In a statement released Sunday, the Jaafar clan vowed to “confront with resolve the destruction of the plant, given that it is the only source of living in the area.” It added that all of the clans and families in the region would stand against what it described as an attempt to starve the people. Residents of Yammouneh Saturday blocked the three entrances to the village with burning tires, boulders and vehicles, preventing access to tractors used to uproot cannabis in the area. Around 35,000 dunams in the northern Bekaa are believed to be used for the cultivation of cannabis, which has long flourished in the fertile valley. The total area of cannabis fields eradicated in the Bekaa and elsewhere thus far in the ongoing operation has reached 6,615 dunams, the ISF said in a statement Thursday.
via : Daily Star
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