Colombia to seek decriminalization of drugs despite US objections

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Colombia’s incoming government wants to decriminalize illicit drugs despite the government of the United States, which insists on a disastrous prohibition policy.

The effort to end the prohibition of illicit drugs in Latin America is one of President-elect Gustavo Petro’s multiple proposals that seek a radically new drug policy in the region.

The new government, which will take office on Sunday, has been preparing its drug policy proposals in response to record cocaine production and a resurgence of violence by illegal armed groups and organized crime.


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A 700 kilogram cocaine shipment seized in Santa Marta’s port earlier this month. (Image: National Police)

The counternarcotics policy of Petro’s predecessor, President Ivan Duque, has been an utter disaster no matter how you measure its results.

Colombia’s estimated cocaine exports reached their highest level in 2020, according to the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The government’s failure to provide substitute crops for farmers who voluntarily eradicated their coca crops is causing a food crisis in the southern Guaviare province after causing one in the northern Antioquia province.

Illegal armed groups involved in the drug trade have expanded their territorial control in the countryside after the demobilization of the now-defunct guerrilla group FARC in 2017.

Violence in the country’s most important port cities last year reached levels they had not seen in years, according to government statistics and local authorities.

Last but not least, corruption at the highest levels of government is impeding the implementation of any policy that would effectively fight organized crime.


Colombia’s former armed forces chief accused of drug trafficking


Felipe Tascon (Screenshot: YouTube)

In an attempt to turn the tide, Petro wants to end the forced eradication of coca by the security forces and seek the development of Colombia’s legal economy in the countryside instead.

Furthermore, Colombia’s incoming president will also “speak up louder internationally” to convince world leaders that the problem isn’t illicit drugs, but “the problems that drug prohibition has caused,” Petro’s drug policy coordinator Felipe Tascon told newspaper El Espectador.

Following a series of electoral victories of progressive governments in Latin America, “there never have been this many [favorable] conditions to move towards the regulation of drugs,” said Tascon.

Bolivia, Peru, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, if Lula wins, as progressive countries affected by narcotics, can propose it as a block.

Colombian lawmakers

US Senator Ted Cruz (Screenshot: Twitter)

Petro’s drug policy chief diplomatically ignored US President Joe Biden, who explicitly opposes “decriminalization” of drugs in Colombia, his deputy national security adviser Jonathan Finer said after a meeting with Colombia’s President-elect in July.

The United States and the Biden administration is not supportive of decriminalization.

US Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer

US Senator Ted Cruz of the conservative Republican Party said Thursday that he would secure that Petro “won’t get more counternarcotics funds” if Colombia’s government decides to “regulate” cocaine and other illicit drugs.

I am not interested in giving anti-American leftists American taxpayer dollars as aid. I believe our foreign policy should use carrots and sticks to encourage other countries to behave in a way that benefits American interests and strengthens our friendships, and a way that deters countries from seeking to harm and undermine the United States of America.

US Senator Ted Cruz

If Cruz’s party gets its way, this would free up funds to bolster a domestic drug policy in the US where 107,000 people died of drug overdoses last year, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.


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Francisco de Roux

The regulation of drugs proposed by Petro has received increasingly powerful support in Colombia while the US’ failing prohibitionist policy appears to be falling out of grace in the international community.

In an address to the United Nations’ Security Council, the president of the truth commission that investigated Colombia’s armed conflict for almost four years called on the international community to “end the war on drug trafficking” and “reject the nation that “drug trafficking is a national security issue.”

According to Truth Commission president Francisco de Roux, the so-called “War on Drugs” declared by late US President Richard Nixon has “increased the profits” of drug trafficking.

De Roux asked consumer countries like the US to allow “the major mafiosi” to reveal their “political, economic and military alliances, and the banks” that launder drug money.

The Truth Commission president also urged for international “regulation of illicit drugs and asked the UN ambassadors “to understand the connection between drug trafficking and corruption” in government and the private sector.


Colombia’s Truth Commission calls on UN to regulate drug trade

Colombia News | Colombia Reports

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