EL TARRA, 28 August 2013 (IRIN) - The Colombian government believes people should just say no to growing coca: those that do not, risk aerial spraying of their illicit crop with powerful pesticides, or manual destruction by work teams hired by private firms and supported by the security forces.
Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala delivered a landmark declaration to the United Nations Secretary General calling on the organization to lead a debate on alternative approaches to the current war on drugs, though it is likely to fall on deaf ears. The statement, issued to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on October 1, contains 11 points outlining the three countries’ views on the current state of organized crime and counternarcotics policy in the Americas (see declaration in English here, and in Spanish here).
Colombia's Constitutional Court approved the government's proposal to decriminalize the possession of small amounts of cocaine and marijuana for personal use. Anyone caught with less than 20 grams of marijuana or one gram of cocaine for personal use may receive physical or psychological treatment depending on their state of consumption, but may not be prosecuted or detained, the court ruled.
Colombia's chief public prosecutor has called for a referendum on whether to legalise drug consumption, in response to plans to set up a network of public centres where users can consume illicit drugs under supervision. The so-called “controlled consumption centres” are part of a drive by Gustavo Petro, the mayor of the capital, Bogotá, to reduce drug-related crime in the city.
Colombia's Justice Minister, Ruth Stella Correa, has said a new drugs bill would decriminalise personal use of synthetic drugs, such as ecstasy. The proposal would replace current laws, which ban cocaine and marijuana, although people are not prosecuted for possessing small amounts. Colombia's legislation is being re-assessed in an attempt to tackle drug use, trafficking and related issues.
Marijuana has long been accused of being a gateway to deadlier vices. But could cannabis be a swinging door that might also lead people away from hard drugs? That’s what this capital city is trying to find out. In coming weeks, Bogotá is embarking on a controversial public health project where it will begin supplying marijuana to 300 addicts of bazuco — a cheap cocaine derivative that generates crack-like highs and is as addictive as heroin.
The government of Colombia pushed for the most far-reaching change to policy on drugs since US president Richard Nixon declared war on narcotics four decades ago. Hosting the sixth Summit of the Americas, for which 33 leaders of the hemisphere's 35 nations – including President Barack Obama – have assembled in Cartagena, President Juan Manuel Santos proposed the establishment of a taskforce of experts, economists and academics to analyse the realities of global drug addiction, trafficking and profiteering, with a view to a complete overhaul of strategy.
US prosecutors and other senior officials who spearheaded the war against drug cartels have quit their jobs to defend Colombian cocaine traffickers, saying their clients are not bad people and that United States drug policy is wrong. The US system punishes traffickers not according to their importance but the quantity of drugs, meaning a truck driver nabbed with a big consignment could face a longer stretch than a capo caught with a lesser amount.
The "war on drugs" has not been won, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos told the United Nations, exhorting the world body to add teeth to the Special Session on Drugs in 2016, proposed by Mexico and accepted by the world body. The Organization of American States was commissioned to study new approaches to combating illegal drugs. The studies were delivered in May proposing that the United Nations give them serious consideration in time for the special session on drugs.
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has said he supports the legalisation of marijuana for medical use. He said the measure - which is due to be voted on by Colombian lawmakers - would be a "compassionate response" to pain experienced by people with terminal illnesses. "We look favourably on the initiative on the medical and therapeutic use of marijuana," Santos told a drugs forum in the Colombian capital, Bogota. "It's a way to stop criminals from acting as intermediaries between the patient and a substance that is going to ease their suffering."
While cocaine production ravages countries in Central America, consumers in the US and Europe are helping developed economies grow rich from the profits, a study claims. The vast profits made from drug production and trafficking are overwhelmingly reaped in rich "consuming" countries – principally across Europe and in the US – rather than war-torn "producing" nations such as Colombia and Mexico. And its authors claim that financial regulators in the west are reluctant to go after western banks in pursuit of the massive amount of drug money being laundered through their systems.
Colombia’s Liberal Party will support a new bill to legalize medical marijuana in the country. The move was announced by Senator Juan Manuel Galan, who explained that the bill would open the door for the use of currently illicit marijuana for medicinal uses. The Liberal Party’s support comes a few months after an official statement from the General Secretary of the Mayor of Bogota that asked Colombia’s national government to initiate a debate surrounding the regulation and recreational use of marijuana.
The government of Colombia rejected a major tool in the American-backed antidrug campaign — ordering a halt to the aerial spraying of the country’s vast illegal plantings of coca, the crop used to make cocaine, citing concerns that the spray causes cancer. The decision ends a program that has continued for more than two decades, raising questions about the viability of long-accepted strategies in the war on drugs in the region.
Juan Manuel Santos, the Colombian president, has called for the global legalisation of marijuana to help combat the trafficking of harder drugs and related violence. "The world needs to discuss new approaches ... we are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years," he said. Asked if making marijuana legal could offer a way forward, Mr Santos said it could and that he would support it "provided everyone does it at the same time".
Between 1998 and 2008, approximately one million acres of Colombian land was used for the cultivation of coca leaves, the main ingredient used to produce cocaine... This has led to a loss of land, forced displacement, kidnappings, massacres, and countless disappearances, which in turn have left thousands of children, including many girls, without homes or parents. The cocaine market has also produced the “mule,” a term to describe individuals at the lowest level of the drug trading hierarchy.
For more than two decades crop dusters have buzzed the skies of Colombia showering bright green fields of coca with chemical defoliant as part of a US-funded effort to stem the country’s production of cocaine. Farmers across the country have long complained that indiscriminate spraying also destroys legal crops, and that the chemical used – glyphosate – has caused everything from skin rashes and respiratory problems to diarrhoea and miscarriages.
A new UN study showing a steep rise in the cultivation of the leaf used to make cocaine offers fresh support to Colombia’s recent decision to end the aerial spraying of drug crops with herbicides. Justice minister, Yesid Reyes, said the report showed that the aerial aspersion strategy was ineffective. After spraying 1.5m hectares in the past 12 years, the total reduction of coca crops was just 12,000 hectares, Reyes said. Paraphrasing Albert Einstein, he added: “Insanity is to continue doing the same thing and expect different results.”