EL ESPECTADOR, March 29, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

What is the strategy to respond to the wave of terrorism that has unfolded in recent weeks? The answer can’t be unrelated to a reconfiguration of the war on drugs. After the car bomb attack in Corinto, Cauca Province, President Iván Duque sent a message to the Dagoberto Ramos Mobile Front and, at the same time to all of the criminal gangs: “We are going to destroy you completely, Jaime Martínez, and all of those cells of dissidents, and that second Narcotalia, because this country will not be humiliated by terrorism any longer.”

Even though the military response that was announced is necessary, the history of this country demonstrates that it’s not enough.

The news in the last few days has been upsetting. Confrontations between FARC dissidents and the ELN in Argelia, Cauca, have resulted in people being displaced or having to be confined to their homes. The same thing happened a few days before in Timbiquí, which is also in Cauca Province. There the Community Council of Parte Baja del Río Saija complained that there were more than 1,000 families either displaced or confined to their homes because of the confrontations. In Nariño, more than 800 families in El Charco had to abandon their homes. The reason was the same. Finally, the national government declared a public calamity in Arauca and installed a Unified Command Post (PMU in Spanish) in order to attend to the needs of the nearly 5,000 Venezuelan immigrants that had been displaced by the confrontations at the frontier.

Even though these events are dispersed in different parts of Colombia, all of them have several similar connecting strands. Illegal armed groups that have strong ties with drug trafficking have taken part in all of them. All are in areas that historically have not had sufficient government presence. In all of them, the government’s answer has been to reinforce the military presence, and promise that that’s how the massacres will be stopped. In the case of Arauca, the Defense Minister, Diego Molano, included the Venezuelan dictatorship as among those responsible, when he said that “in Miraflores they are giving combat instructions selectively to one of the groups.”

We share the rejection expressed by the government of all forms of violence. It’s heartbreaking and cruel that we have gone back to seeing car bombs, displacements and confinements because of the armed groups. “These cowardly acts against the community are unforgivable. Those gangsters better give up or we will fight them fiercely,” said President Duque. That is, without any doubt, the attitude that ought to be adopted by the Colombian government. However, behind that military answer, there is a great phantom: What are we going to do about the drug trafficking?

This administration’s answer to the drug trafficking, just like several of its predecessors, is to “get tough” and use glyphosate. That’s how you get temporary results, but the problem persists, because the war on drugs has been a failed strategy, expensive and tragic. While the world is advancing regulatory proposals and the legalization of some drugs, in Colombia we keep on insisting on glyphosate, believing that that will be the solution, not just to drug trafficking, but also to all of the evils suffered in the remote and abandoned countryside, where the inhabitants are left to their fate.

The campesinos that grow coca, who feel betrayed after the Peace Agreement, insist that their communities need investment and viable alternatives. Much more in these times of the pandemic. But there does not appear to be anyone willing to listen. If there is not a great national agreement that can change the perception of drugs and the best way to combat them, we are going to continue being enclosed in a tragic circle. We have already seen the consequences, and we will keep on seeing them.

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