(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN volunteer translator)
Author : Juan Gabriel Vásquez
A year and a half ago, President Santos told Obama that the 40 years of the war on drugs were a failure and that perhaps it was time to look for alternatives.
Obama, for his part, admitted the need for a debate, and that inanity was received by several representatives of Latin America as a victory. It is not a victory, but that illusion is tangible proof of an unhealthy dependency relationship: that which exists between the countries that produce coca—principally Colombia, Bolivia, and Peru, that together account for 150,000 hectares of the illegal plants—and the principal consumer, the United States, with 27% of worldwide consumption. That being the case, it is evident that any real shift in drug policy has to have the United States as a partner; it is also evident that Latin American cannot avoid taking the initiative. Now Uruguay has decided to sell marijuana at a dollar a gram, and thus “take over the business of drug trafficking” and the President of Guatemala is exploring the possibility of selling poppies. Meanwhile, Michael Botticelli, Director of the Office of Drug Control Policy of the United States, came to Bogotá to say what we already knew: that Washington would not be changing.
The War on Drugs is an invention of the United States. The first to pronounce those words was Nixon, at a time when drugs were starting to be consumed in massive quantities but when the producing countries did not have cartels, or mafia, or violence, or corruption. Forty years later, that very prohibition has converted the business of drugs into the most lucrative industry in the world. It has given into the hands of the mafias an economic power sufficient to destabilize entire democracies and above all, it has spread death. Just in Mexico, and only in the last decade, 70,000 dead. In Colombia, from the time of Pablo Escobar until the current war (fueled principally by the drug business) the statistics are equally hair-raising.
Drugs are a double problem: on one hand, it is a public health problem that has always existed; on the other hand, it is a problem of public order tied to violence and the economic power of the mafias. Legalization is the only feasible way to eliminate the second problem and leave only the first problem, so that the money wasted on this artificial war can be invested in education, prevention and treatment. Obviously, this is opposed by all of the puritans on the continent. In Colombia, during the disastrous Uribe years, the slogan of a government campaign was a marvel of childishness and silliness: marijuana was “the plant that kills”. But that is not true: the plant is not what kills. What kills is the violence with which the mafias defend their illegal business. To think seriously about legalization, Santos created that Advisory Commission on Drug Policy that has already been received with hostility by Colombia’s puritans, embodied by Uribe’s heirs and the acolytes of Inspector General Ordóñez, a lefebvrist who published –from the Inspector General’s Office itself—pamphlets opposing legalization with a front page showing a painting by Durero entitled: “Scene from the Apocalypse: Babylon, the Prostitute”.
That is what is not serious. For good reason we have been slow to permit ourselves to debate this.
A follower of Marcel Lefebvre, an arch-conservative Roman Catholic bishop.