Colombia: Drugs & Security

On the problems of confusing drug policy and security policy
02 January 2005
Policy briefing

The consequence of associating the 'war on drugs' with the 'war on terrorism' is that the failure of the former could end with the failure of the latter. The predominant military approach to 'narcoterrorism' fails to recognise the complex factors underlying both the drug problem and the violence; it assumes that the drug problem can be solved by force and that the armed conflict can be resolved by intensifying the conflict - that is, more war on war; and it has facilitated the consolidation of conventional drug-trafficking structures.

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To Europe

  • Play a more visible role to distance EU position from the U.S. military approach.
  • Ensure embedding of Alternative Development projects in a national policy to prevent the risk that they will be sprayed or affected by military operations.
  • Evaluate the functioning of the Peace Laboratories before implementing expansion to other regions. Local officials and civil society in the areas must be properly consulted before decisions are made about EU-funded projects.
  • Do not shift funds that were allocated for displaced people to support programmes for demobilising and reinserting paramilitaries; any support to that process should be conditioned on the rights to truth, justice and reparations.
  • Seek a more active role in facilitating channels of communication between the government and the insurgents; the solution to Colombia's armed conflict will be found through dialogue only.

To the Uribe administration

  • Adopt a legal framework consistent with international commitments and the right of victims to truth, justice and reparations for the process of disarmament, demobilisation and reinsertion of the illegal armed groups.
  • Recognise that illicit crops also reflect deeper social and economic problems that require a solution other than force. In that context, strengthen programmes that focus on gradual, consensus-based manual eradication and alternative livelihoods.
  • Stop the chemical War on Drugs given the harmful effects of aerial spraying.
  • Strengthen local institutions with an effective state presence that is not limited to the military sphere.

To the United States

  • Instead of pouring gasoline -bullets and glyphosate- on a country already in flames, refocus attention on the underlying causes of coca and opium production: the endemic poverty, marginalisation and social exclusion.
  • A sustained, long-term commitment aimed at correcting those problems would have better results.

Pages: 8

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