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An open letter in support of the cofán people and against the activities of alberto josé varela


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AN OPEN LETTER IN SUPPORT OF THE COFÁN PEOPLE AND AGAINST THE ACTIVITIES OF ALBERTO JOSÉ VARELA

We hereby manifest our support for the representatives of the Cofán people who signed a public denunciation1 against Mr. Alberto José Varela and his commercial activities involving Yajé.


In their denunciation, they point out that Mr. Varela does not have the permission or approval of the Yajé authorities of Colombia to transport or use the Yajé medicine; that they have not trained or instructed anyone from Mr. Varela’s organization, including Mr. Varela himself; and that he was not granted authorization to commercialize Yajé. By the same token, they note that Mr. Varela has made no economic investments for the benefit of the Cofán community, nor for the preservation of their culture and traditions.
The undersigned manifest our concern over the proliferation, in Colombia and many other countries, of a business model in which Yajé (also known as Ayahuasca) is used solely in the interest of making a profit; disrespecting the plant, its proper management, and the sacred character bestowed upon it by native peoples and mestizo populations of Southeastern Colombia.
The activities of Mr. Alberto José Varela are especially worrisome because he claims to have been “initiated” in 2001 by Taita Domingo Males Miticanoy, calling himself “the first Westerner authorized to use the ayahuasca of Taita Querubín in Europe,” 2 and referring to his organization, Ayahuasca International as “the first multinational corporation dedicated to Ayahuasca.” 3
Between his so-called “initiation” and his arrest in Spain in 2008, Mr. Alberto José Varela conducted Yajé ceremonies in Colombia, Spain, and other countries, claims to have trained therapists “according to the instructions of Taita Domingo,” and sold Yajé to participants after ceremonies so they could consume it in their own homes.4
In 2007, Mr. Varela founded the Putumayo Association for the Assistance of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, which he uses to organize trips from Spain to the Dept. of Putumayo, Colombia, and through which he collects money with the supposed aim of giving economic aid to indigenous peoples of southern Colombia and providing “needy communities with materials such as clothes, shoes, toys, and books.”5 The Putumayo Association also seeks to purchase land in the Colombian rainforest to allegedly collaborate with indigenous peoples in restoring it by “planting traditional crops and elaborating shamanic medicines which are the basis of their medical culture and their means of sustenance.” By 2008 the Putumayo Association had purchased five hectares of land in the Colombian Amazon.

Mr. Varela was arrested in Spain in December of 2008, after a police investigation initiated by complaints filed by family members of participants and neighbors over the disorderly conduct generated by the Yajé ceremonies he conducted. After fourteen months in prison, he was absolved in April 2011 of any crime against the public health because, as noted in the court’s sentence, it was not possible to quantify the DMT content of the Yajé confiscated by police. According to news reports, 40 kg of Yajé were found at his home.6


In 2013, Mr. Varela resumed the same kind of Yajé activities he had carried out prior to his imprisonment, now using aggressive marketing strategies and investing significant amounts of money in advertising and social media.
In order to legitimize his activities, he named various Taitas who were supposedly part of his organization, including Víctor Queta, Taita Querubín Queta, Taita Juan Jamioy, Taita Alfonso Males Jamioy, Taita Juan Males Jamioy, Taita Biron Piajuaje and Taita Humberto.
To expand his business, he provides “training” for facilitators after only one to a few weeks long course through what he calls the “European Ayahuasca School”; these people – some without the least experience or training – then organize and conduct Yajé ceremonies.
It so happens that the founder of this “school” claims that he does not consume Yajé any more, because, according to him, he no longer needs to; he also prohibits facilitators from taking the medicine while they are conducting ceremonies,7 which runs contrary to the principles followed not only by Yajé traditional medicine practitioners, but in all contexts of Ayahuasca use we know of.
Mr. Varela has created a business model around the Yajé ceremony involving a network of businesses, web pages, and Facebook profiles designed to protect him legally from further complaints. Yajé is prepared on lands bought by the Putumayo Association8 and then distributed to facilitators who are “contracted” by one of his companies, “Inner Mastery International.” Trips to the Colombian rainforest are sold through “Ayahuasca Travels,” and Yajé is sold directly over the Internet through the company “Ayahuasca Planet.” 9 All of these business activities are carried out by means of various intermediaries.10
Given all the aforementioned, we the undersigned declare as follows:


  • We express our support for the Cofán people and their authorities, and we denounce Mr. Alberto José Varela for improper and fraudulent use of the name and traditions of Colombian native peoples, especially the Cofán, to legitimize his business activities;




  • We denounce the use of aggressive marketing tactics and social networks to publicize and commercialize Yajé ceremonies, and condemn the direct sale of this medicine over the internet to anyone without any controls whatsoever;




  • We denounce the irresponsible use Mr. Varela makes of the Yajé medicine, employing people without the necessary experience and training to conduct Yajé ceremonies; moreover, we note that these facilitators do not consume the medicine during ceremonies, contrary to the manner in which Ayahuasca is used in diverse contexts around the world;




  • While some people might benefit from the use of the Yajé medicine in sessions organized by Ayahuasca International, we warn prospective clients that participating in sessions run by this organization could result in grave risks to mental and physical well-being;




  • In this context, we note that a growing number of witnesses who have participated in Yajé sessions organized by Ayahuasca International have reported reprehensible practices, contrary to the principles enumerated in various ethics codes and guides to best practice, such as those developed by Brazilian Ayahuasca religious groups,11 ICEERS,12 and PDA;13




  • We denounce the commercialization of Yajé as if it were an ordinary product or service, generating an artificial demand based on crass manipulation of what it means to consume the Yajé medicine, and taking advantage of the ignorance, credulity, good faith, and vulnerability of many people;

We the undersigned are not opposed to the expansion and spread of Yajé usage per se. Instead, we affirm that the diffusion of these practices should always be based on knowledge, respect, and ethics. The activities of Mr. Albert José Varela represent a danger not only to those who take part in his organization’s ceremonies, but also more generally to the expansion and consolidation of these practices beyond their region of origin.


August 2015

SIGNED BY:
ALHENA CAICEDO-FERNÁNDEZ

Profesora Asistente

Departamento de Antropología

Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia


CARLOS ALBERTO URIBE

Profesor de Antropología

Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
JOAQUIN CARRIZOSA PhD

School of Anthropology and Conservation

University of Kent, U.K.
JUAN ÁLVARO ECHEVERRI

Profesor titular

Universidad Nacional de Colombia, sede Amazonia, Colombia
MARGARITA CHAVES

Investigadora

Instituto Colombiano de Antropología e Historia, ICANH, Colombia
SALIMA CURE

Antropóloga

Coordinadora Museo Etnográfico del Banco de la República

Leticia, Colombia


JORGE RONDEROS VALDERRAMA

Presidente Corporación Prodiversitas Colombia

Profesor Titular Departamento de Antropología y Sociología

Director Grupo linea de investigación y revista Cultura y Droga

Universidad de Caldas, Manizales, Colombia
FRANCO EUGENIO JIMENEZ ACOSTA

Medico Cirujano especialista en Medicina Biológica

Biorigen - Arte de la Medicina Integrativa Personalizada

Yachay Investigaciones de Medicina Ancestral Americana, Colombia


MAITE YIE GARZON

Profesora Asistente

Departamento Antropología

Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, Bogotá, Colombia


JULIO ARIAS VANEGAS

PhD (c) Antropología

The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, U.S.A.
LEONARDO RODRIGUEZ (PhD)

Experto en Pueblos Indígenas - Colombia

Representante ante la ONU de Maloca Internacional (MAIN), Colombia
MICHAEL TAUSSIG

Professor

Columbia University

New York, U.S.A.


BIA LABATE

PhD Antropologia Unicamp

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil
CHARLES S. GROB, M.D.

Professor of Psychiatry and Pediatrics

UCLA School of Medicine

U.S.A.
JESSE HUDSON

Juris Doctor, Tulane University Law School, New Orleans

Masters of Science in International Development, Payson Program, Tulane University Law School, New Orleans

Bachelor of Arts, Anthropology, University of Colorado, Boulder, U.S.A.
BRIAN T. ANDERSON, MD, MSc

Resident Physician

Department of Psychiatry

University of California San Francisco, U.S.A.


GILLIAN WATT

Masters, Social and Political Sciences, Cambridge, UK

Masters, Department of Study of Religions, University College Cork, Ireland
JEAN E. JACKSON

Professor of Anthropology

Department of Anthropology

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, U.S.A.


CHRISTIAN FRENOPOULO

Professor substituto

Universidade Federal do Acre, Brasil
MICHAEL WINKELMAN, M.P.H., Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Retired

School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Arizona State University, U.S.A.


MARTIN TERRY, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Biology

Department of Biology, Geology, and Physical Sciences

Sul Ross State University

Alpine, Texas, U.S.A.
MARCELO S. MERCANTE

Programa de Pós Graduação em Saúde Coletiva

Unisinos, Brasil
STEPHEN HUGH-JONES, PhD
Emeritus Research Associate
Department of Social Anthropology
University of Cambridge, U.K.
PEDRO MUSALEM NAZAR, PhD (c) Antropologia

Máster Salud Pública

Instituto Brasil Plural, UFSC - Brasil
GLAUBER LOURES DE ASSIS

Doutorando em Sociologia

Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


JOSE ELIEZER MIKOSZ

Artista Interartes (Arte e Estados Não Ordinários de Consciência)

Professor Adjunto da UNESPAR/EMBAP

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


AFRÂNIO PATROCÍNIO DE ANDRADE

Doutor em Ciências da Religião e doutor em Direito.

Pós-doutor em Teologia pela Escola Superior de Teologia, bolsista da CAPES/PNPG, Brasil
DIEGO RODOLFO VIEGAS

Profesor Titular de las cátedras "Etnografía del Conocimiento" y "Antropología de la Conciencia"

Escuela de Antropología. Facultad de Humanidades y Artes

Universidad Nacional de Rosario, Argentina


MATIAS MENDEZ

Master(c) en Psicología Clínica de Adultos

Profesor de Psicología

Universidad Diego Portales, Santiago de Chile


DAN ROSENGREN

Associate Professor

School of Global Studies

University of Gothenburg, Sweden


HENRIQUE RESSEL

Mestre em Antropologia

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil
BRUNO RAMOS GOMES

Psicólogo, Mestre em Saúde Pública pela Faculdade de Saúde Pública-USP

Coordenador Centro de Convivência É de Lei - Redução de Danos, SP - Brasil
JOSÉ ARTURO COSTA ESCOBAR

Dr em Psicologia Cognitiva


Pós-doutorando no Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Vice-líder do Grupo de Estudos sobre Alcool e outras Drogas/UFPE
Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil
PATRICIA PAULA LIMA

Doutoranda em Etnomusicologia - INET-MD

Universidade de Aveiro - Portugal

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


ALBERTO GROISMAN, PhD

Professor do Departamento de Antropologia UFSC

Coordenador do Grupo de Ativismo Espistemológico-UFSC, Brasil
PEDRO FERNANDES LEITE DA LUZ

Antropólogo e Etnobotânico.

​Professor na UNIASSELVI, Brasil
ISIDRO MARÍN GUTIÉRREZ

Ph.D. en Antropología Social por la Universidad de Granada

Docente Investigador del Departamento de Comunicación

Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL), Ecuador


SANDRA LUCIA GOULART

Brasileira, Antropóloga, Doutora em Ciências Sociais pela Unicamp

Professora da Faculdade Cásper Líbero (São Paulo)

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


WALTER MOURE

Doctor en Psicología Clínica, Universidad de São Paulo, Brasil.

Investigador en Filosofia Intercultural de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Investigador en Psicología Clínica de la Universidad de São Paulo, Brasil


WAGNER LINS LIRA

Antropólogo, Mestre e doutorando em Antropologia pela Universidade Federal de Pernambuco - UFPE

Membro do Grupo de Estudos sobre Álcool e outras Drogas (GEAD-UFPE) e do Núcleo de Estudos das Religiosidades Populares (NERP-UFPE), Brasil
PATRICIA PAULA LIMA
Doutoranda em Etnomusicologia - INET-MD
Universidade de Aveiro - Portugal

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


ROBIN M WRIGHT, Ph.D.

Religion & Anthropology, Indigenous Studies, Latin American Studies


American Indian & Indigenous Studies Program Coordinator

University of Florida Gainesville, U.S.A.


JUAN GONZALEZ, PhD

Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science

Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos, México
Dr. PILAR M VALENZUELA
Associate Professor
Department of World Languages & Cultures
Chapman University (California), U.S.A.
SIDARTA RIBEIRO, Ph.D.

Professor de Neurociências

Instituto do Cérebro

Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Brasil


Profa. MARIA DE LOURDES DA SILVA

Faculdade de Educação

Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro, Brasil
SANDRO EDUARDO RODRIGUES

Doutor em Psicologia pela UFF

Professor da Universidade Ceuma-MA

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


ISABEL SANTANA DE ROSE

Pesquisadora em nível de pós doutorado (bolsista do CNPq)

Programa de Pós Graduação em Antropologia / Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Brasil
FELIPE SILVA ARAUJO

Antropólogo e Linguista

GERTS/UFS, Brasil
JONATHAN D. HILL

Professor of Anthropology, SIUC

Coordinator, Latin@ and Latin American Studies minor

President, Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America (SALSA)

Visiting Professor, Vytautas Magnus University, Lithuania
GABOR MATE, M.D.

Author and speaker

Canada
DANIELA PELUSO

Anthropologist (Amazonian specialist)

University of Kent, U.K.
EGLEE L. ZENT

Lab Ecologia Humana

IVIC

Venezuela


G. WILLIAM BARNARD

Professor of Religious Studies

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, U.S.A.
MAURO WILLIAM BARBOSA DE ALMEIDA (Ph.D. Cantab, 1993)

Professor – Colaborador

Universidade Estadual de Campinas (State University of Campinas), São Paulo, Brasil
ANJA LOIZAGA-VELDER

Investigadora Postdoctoral

Posgrado en Ciencias Medicas y de la Salud

Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México


BERND BRABEC DE MORI

Senior Scientist

Instituto de Etnomusicología

Universidad de Música y Artes Dramáticas Graz, Austria


KATHLEEN HARRISON, M.A.

Ethnobotanist

Botanical Dimensions

Occidental, California, U.S.A.


CLANCY CAVNAR, PsyD

Psychologist at Healthright360

Walden House Residential Drug Treatment

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


Dr. BRIAN RUSH

Professor

Depts. of Psychiatry‎ and Public Health Sciences

University of Toronto

Toronto, Canada
TANIA GONZALEZ RIVADENEIRA

Maestrante

Estudios Mesoamericanos

UNAM, México


KENNETH TUPPER

Adjunct Professor, School of Population and Public Health

University of British Columbia, Canada
Dr. HUGO LAVAZZA

Antropólogo.

Sección de Etnología y Etnografía - Instituto de Ciencias Antropológicas

Facultad de Filosofía y Letras - UBA

INMeT - Instituto Nacional de Medicina Tropical. Puerto Iguazú. Misiones, Argentina
JUAN SCURO

Doctorando en Antropología Social

Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil
ANNE MARIE LOSONCZY

Antropóloga

Directora de estudios, EPHE, Paris, Francia
ELI ODA SHEINER

McGill University

Research Assistant

Division of Social and Transcultural Psychiatry

Culture and Mental Health Research Unit, Canada
Prof. Dr. MARÍA SUSANA CIPOLLETTI (en retiro)
Departamento de Antropología de las Américas
Universidad de Bonn, Alemania
MARIA CLARA REBEL ARAÚJO

Doutora em psicologia social

Coordenadora do curso de Psicologia- Universidade Estácio de Sá, Campus Friburgo, Brasil
WALTER DIAS Jr.

Mestre em Antropologia - PUC-SP

Professor Adjunto I - UNIP/ SJC – SP - Brasil
CHRISTINE L. HOLMAN, PhD

Justice and Social Inquiry

School of Social Transformation

Arizona State University, U.S.A.


RALPH METZNER, Ph.D.
Psychologist, author,
Professor Emeritus, California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, U.S.A.
JONATAS C.DE CARVALHO

Mestre em História (UERJ)

Pesquisador em Extensão No País - CNPq

Projeto Espaço Darwin - Fazenda Campos Novos - Cabo Frio, Brasil


NEAL M. GOLDSMITH, Ph.D.

Psychotherapist and author, Psychedelic Healing

Licensed Mental Health Counselor

U.S.A.
ERIC MICHAEL KELLEY


Lecturer
Department of Anthropology
UMass Boston, U.S.A.

PABLO ORNELAS ROSA

Doutor em Ciências Sociais PUC/SP

Professor nos Programas de Mestrado em Sociologia Política e em Segurança Pública

Coordenador do Grupo em Pesquisa Poder, Subjetividade e Resistências 

Universidade Vila Velha – UVV, Brasil


ALEX K. GEARIN

University of Queensland

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

Australia


CLARA NOVAES

PhD Psicologia, Psiquiatria Transcultural, Sorbonne, Paris

Membro da Associaçao Internacional de Etnopsicanalise

Núcleo de Estudos Interdisciplinares sobre Psicoativos (NEIP), Brasil


STEVE McDONALD

Association Secretary

Psychedelic Research in Science & Medicine

Australia


CHARLOTTE WALSH, LLB (Hons), MPhil

Lecturer in Law, School of Law, University of Leicester, U.K.


GERALD THOMAS, PhD

Collaborating Scientist

Centre for Addictions Research of BC

University of Victoria, Canada


JEAN-PIERRE CHAUMEIL

Directeur de Recherche émérite au CNRS

Laboratoire d'Ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, France
JUSTIN PANNECK, PhD

Associate Professor

Colorado Technical University, U.S.A.
CELINA M. DE LEON

School of Public Health, MPH (cand)

U.C. Berkeley, CA, U.S.A.
DRAULIO BARROS DE ARAUJO

Professor at the Brain Institute (UFRN), Brasil


JOSHUA HOMAN

PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Kansas

Research Associate, Museo Regional, Universidad Nacional de San Martín, Peru
PHILIPPE LUCAS

Research Affiliate - Centre for Addictions Research of BC, Canada


IVAN SERGIO FELONIUK

Abogado, investigador y magister en Bioetica

Miembro del equipo organizador del Foro Social Mundial

Presidente de Prodiversitas, Brasil


SEBASTIEN BAUD (PhD)

Research Associate

Institut of Ethnology, University of Neuchâtel (UniNE), Switzerland

French Institute for Andean Studies (IFEA), Lima, Peru


ISMAEL APUD

Docente Asistente

Facultad de Psicología

Universidad de la República

Uruguay
DAVID NICKLES

Researcher & Moderator

DMT-Nexus

U.S.A.
EDUARDO GASTELUMENDI

Peru Psychoanalytic Society, President

Peru
HEINER DÖRFLER

Medical Doctor

Department of Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics

University of Zurich, Switzerland
MATTHEW CONRAD

PhD Candidate, Anthropology

La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia
JAN WEINHOLD

Ph.D., Heidelberg University

Germany
ANA ELDA MAQUEDA

Departamento de Farmacología Clínica

Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, España
EVGENIA FOTIOU

Assistant Professor

Department of Anthropology

Kent State University, Kent, OH, U.S.A.


SANTIAGO LÓPEZ-PAVILLARD

Antropólogo, candidato a doctor

Universidad Complutense de Madrid, España
MARCELO CAMURÇA

Antropólogo, docente e pesquisador no Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciência da Religião

Universidade Federal de Juiz de Fora- Minas Gerais, Brasil
ALEJANDRO CAMINO D.C.

Director


Museo de Plantas Sagradas, Mágicas y Medicinales

Cusco, Perú


MANUEL ALMENDRO, Ph.D.

Clinical Psychologist

Member of European Federation of Psychology Associations. EFPA

European Certificate in Psychology and Psychotherapy- EuroPsy

Director of Oxigeme, Center for a Psychology of Consciousness, España
DANNY NEMU

Psychedelic Press, U.K.




1 http://www.plantaforma.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/20150728_Pronunciamiento_Taita_Querubin_Queta.pdf

2 https://www.facebook.com/ayahuascatravels/posts/1422031514767753

3 http://ayahuascainternacional.es/nuestra-identidad/

4http://web.archive.org/web/20081222213634/http://www.paradisfrutarse.com/espacio_abierto/yaje_datosimportantes.html

5http://web.archive.org/web/20081222213634/http://www.paradisfrutarse.com/espacio_abierto/yaje_datosimportantes.html

6 http://www.abc.es/20090105/nacional-sucesos/desmantelada-chalet-rozas-asociacion-200901051159.html

7 https://www.facebook.com/ayahuascaoficial/posts/10153539110346473:0

8 https://m.facebook.com/ayahuascaoficial/posts/10153558227806473

9 https://goo.gl/YYQzoq

10 http://www.playgroundmag.net/articulos/reportajes/ayahuasca-espiritualidad-efectos_0_1397260261.html

11 http://www.bialabate.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/microsoft-word-code_of_ethics_canada_pdf.pdf

http://neip.info/novo/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/carta_p.pdf

12 http://iceers.org/Documents_ICEERS_site/Safety&Ethics/Ayahuasca-Guia_Buenas_Practicas_ICEERS2014.pdf

13 http://www.plantaforma.org/codigo-etico/




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