Editorial, EL ESPECTADOR, September 12, 2023


(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

Along with all that the Gustavo Petro administration has said about its new antidrug policy, one phrase by Justice Minister Néstor Osuna, seems to us to be the most important. In his explanation of everything the administration is proposing to be done, the plan that would include an investment of some 21 billón pesos (roughly USD $5,360,000,000 at current exchange rates) in the next ten years promises that “the government would go whole hog”. So simple, and nevertheless, so powerful, in a Colombia that has been kidnapped by a war on drugs imposed from the United States, and where the only solution has been military, something incredibly inefficient. Naturally, doubts remain, and, as has been habitual in this administration, we aren’t seeing the theory being accompanied by practice, but we praise some common sense in a sterile debate at the world level.

Last weekend in Cáli, Colombia hosted 17 Latin American countries to discuss antidrug strategy. Then, on Saturday, the administration presented its policy on a national scale. Both events showed the difficulty of the subject. Even though there was willingness on the part of the representatives that attended the summit, their final statement was lukewarm and talked about continuing to search for a unified strategy. Meanwhile, politics in this country collided with the limitations imposed by the prohibitionist international paradigm. Colombia can’t make progress all alone, but the world continues to exhibit reluctance about ideas for change.

To complete the panorama, the Integrated System for Monitoring of Illegal Crops (Simci in Spanish) said that in 2022, we broke a record and arrived at 230,000 hectares planted in coca leaves. That’s an increase of 12.7% over 2021, and of 43% over what we had in 2020. In response, Minister Osuna, who is on a trip to the United States to explain and discuss antidrug policy, stated that, “the idea that we are flooded with coca is not true,” and he explained that the increase is concentrated in Putumayo, while the rest of the country has remained stable. However, the problem is evident. Colombia still does not know what to do with all those coca plantings. With the aggravating factor that, if in the coming year, Joe Biden loses the election in the United States, there could be a President that’s hostile to the changes that Colombia has requested.

So, what do we bet on? What we have requested for years: less repression, and that the government goes in, with the Armed Forces, but also with opportunities. The government promises not to punish small planters, offers them the option of alternative crops, no use of glyphosate, and pushing for a strategy that gets us away from pig-headed prohibitionism. With that, once again in the words of Minister Osuna, we could hope to “accompany 50,000 families in the changeover to legal economies and reduce cocaine production by 40%”.

We share the diagnosis and the necessity for a change in antidrug policy. For years, we have been begging the entire government to show up in the countryside, and to abandon violence as a strategy. Nevertheless, after a year of this administration, the results have been disappointing. With the document published now, are we really going to start seeing the  the change come in for a landing?

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