By María Jimena Duzán, EL PAIS,Colombia, October 10, 2022
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
The war on drugs has been a costly farce that has stigmatized us in the world and caused us to genuflect submissively before Washington more than ever.
Those of us who have seen the war on drugs with our own eyes know that it’s an immoral, unjust, and violent war. With hard hits and blows that were permanent, Colombians learned before anybody else that this war could not be won. That’s why President Biden’s announcement that he would pardon people convicted of possessing marijuana at the federal level, and that he will review its classification as a hard drug, is so relevant. In spite of how tepid that seems, it’s the first time that a North American President has changed the script and deviated from that failed policy.
For Colombia, the war on drugs has been a costly farce that has stigmatized us in the world and caused us to genuflect submissively more than ever before Washington. After decades of seizures, hundreds of extraditions, worn-out knee cushions, and concessions that should not have been made, we are left with the sin and without the sex.
In spite of the fact that we provided the killings and made a gift of ourselves to Washington, this war on drugs, with its double standard and its bad vibes, has turned us into undesirables and the bad guys in the movie. Now it’s a stigma to be Colombian. They demand a visa to enter almost every country, they search us at customs as if we were potential “mules”, and the United States, our partner in this war, has imposed a waiting list on Colombians that want to obtain or renew a visa. And, to be sure, while it’s getting more and more difficult for us Colombians to move around the planet, the financial centers of the world are facilitating the laundering of the fortunes derived from the drug trafficking. That’s what this failed war has accomplished: laundering fortunes and stigmatizing countries like Colombia.
Plan Colombia, that ambitious strategy against drug trafficking that lasted more than 15 years and cost more than nine billion dollars, also has nothing to show for it. The trafficking of cocaine to the United States was not reduced, and according to data from several agencies, today more cocaine is being processed in Colombia than 15 years ago. More hectares are planted in coca than there were in 2001 when Plan Colombia was initiated, and the fumigation they counted on so much, and that was being used so recklessly until the Constitutional Court stopped it in 2015, failed to reduce the supply and instead, coca plantings were expanded.
Today we know that Plan Colombia was first and foremost a business that enriched many North American contractors, starting with those that sold glyphosate.
Under Plan Colombia, the intelligence and interception equipment bought with North American money was also used for illegal interceptions of the opposition, as well as of journalists and the negotiators who signed the Peace Agreement in Havana. What’s now being discovered in México through the revelation of the emails of the National Defense Secretariat (Sedena) is an identical copy of what happened in my country.
This war didn’t only affect our institutions. It also had a devastating effect on the Colombian psyche, because it filled us with guilt and forced us to demonstrate that we were not a country devoted to the drug traffic. We were so servile and obliging that we came to believe that saying “no” to Washington would be a heresy.
Countries like México and Ecuador restricted the efforts of the DEA, but Colombia wasn’t up to that. Its agents now move around this country as if they were in the Old West. They have the luxury of protecting the narcos, alleging that they are their informants, and they carry out operations of entrapment, a concept that doesn’t exist in our penal code, with the purpose of influencing our internal politics.
During the Trump administration, the war on drugs served as an excuse to try to influence the decisions of the Constitutional Court, and they even went so far as threatening to take away the visas of several Justices.
The war on drugs has also been profoundly unjust to the victims left by the violence in Colombia, because they ended up extraditing the narcos that committed atrocious crimes in Colombia, with the perverse argument that first they would have to comply with the American justice system and only later help the victims.
At the end of 30 years, the balance is in the red. The United States still confronts an epidemic of opioids that has cost the lives of thousands of people. México is living with the same levels of violence that we had in Colombia when the Colombian cartels were the owners of the whole business, and the only triumph that this stupid war can show is that now the Colombian narcos are working for the Méxican cartels.
Changing drug policy is a moral imperative that the United States must assume. For Colombia, that’s an absolute need, because this senseless war is undermining the dignity of this country and causing serious turmoil in our suspicious democracy. President Gustavo Petro, who in his speech at the United Nations urged Biden to tell the world that the war on drugs has failed, knows that.
It’s time to put an end to that useless war, and please don’t invite us to the funeral.