By Pascual Gaviria, EL ESPECTADOR, September 22, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

During the last presidential campaign, Iván Duque and his party were repeating two formulas, infallible according to them, to beat the large and small mafias, and protect the defenseless youth that the conservatives are always snuggling up to with their talk, while they disregard them in real life. For the war against the hardened drug lords, they call down the fumigation as if it were a refreshing new idea, not caring that we have accumulated 40 years of overflights and poison, from paraquat to glyphosate. To prevent retail sales and provide protection for “their adolescents”, they will shut down the handling of the minimum dose.

The Duque administration has less than a year left, and they haven’t succeeded in fumigating a single hectare of coca plants. It has blown up the constitutional imperative of protecting the population—nearly 100,000 families—that live on those plants. The administration is trying to show that it fumigates the mafiosos, but in reality it’s trying to shower poison on families that on average have plantings that don’t exceed a hectare and a half of coca. They’re also bogged down by the out of proportion cost of a strategy that’s even being questioned by the United States. The pilots, the aircraft, the poison, and the gasoline cost too much for this simple pantomime.

The crops were reduced at the time when there was large-scale fumigation, but productivity increased, and the jump in coca production from province to province made the strategy wear out. A sampling of the 2016 data, according to the Integrated System of Monitoring Illegal Crops (SIMCI): In Antioquia fumigation doubled in 2014 and 2015, and the coca tripled. In Putumayo the average fumigation was maintained for four years (‘93, ‘94, ‘95, and ’96); the crops tripled in the same period. And finally, the government took fright because of a new uprising in the southern part of the country that was going to add to the fires that it had to deal with in the cities. It’s impossible to ignore the fact that a good part of Putumayo in the ‘80’s was populated by the coca bonanza. That story won’t be ended by glyphosate.

For its second objective, it issued a decree in October 2018 that authorized the Police to seize and destroy the minimum dose for possession or consumption in a public area. They were trying to erase the Constitutional Court’s 1994 decision, using the President’s signature. The principal characteristic of that decree was its absurdity. The Police picked out possible consumers according to their own prejudices, and if they found a joint, for the sake of argument, they could choose the corrective action according to their temper or their ingenuity. To avoid punishment, the parents of the transgressor would have to claim that they suffered drug addiction problems. Those that had more than 20 grams of marijuana were criminally charged and faced a minimum sentence of six years. They also ignored the Supreme Court’s decision about the supply dose. But the high courts reached two new decisions to restore order. First, the Constitutional Court overturned the prohibition of consumption of drugs or alcohol in public places, finding it to be disproportionate. Later, the Council of State ruled that the Police could only use immediate verbal process[1] when there are serious indications that the amount in the subject’s possession was intended for sale. That ended up with 166,000 summonses issued in order to frame and discriminate against thousands of young people because of they way they look, or the area where they were hanging out.

The Duque administration has not had a drug policy; it has just played politics with matters related to cultivation and consumption. And it hasn’t only done the wrong thing in the ways it was showing off, it has also violated constitutional rights—minimal dose—trying to fumigate—bad decisions and bad intentions.  

[1] Immediate verbal process is an oral procedure established in the Police Code.

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