In Colombia, most of the people incarcerated for drug-related crime are merely small-scale participants in the drug trafficking networks, reveals the study Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America published by the Transnational Institute (TNI) and the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA).
In June 1998, Juan Manuel Santos signed a letter delivered to Kofi Annan, then the Secretary General of the United Nations, calling for “a frank and honest evaluation of global drug control efforts"….as “we believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself." Now that Santos is President of Colombia, he has the power to implement – in his own country – the letter's proposals for meaningful debate and an evidence based-approach to drug policy.
During the 20th century, drug policies in Colombia were increasingly repressive, largely ineffective, and heavily influenced by the international legal framework that was put in place. In effect, in just a few years Colombia went from having a scattered set of regulations, with an emphasis on prevention and medical-administrative treatment, to having legislation abundant in definitions of criminal conduct and sanctions that included the full drug cycle, from production through marketing and trafficking to consumption.
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.
For 37 years Colombia has been spraying chemicals to combat illicit crops, particularly coca. These massive eradication programmes became part of the US-backed 'War on Drugs'. The fumigations are controversial for their proven inefficacy to reduce supply and demand for the use of herbicides such as glyphosate.
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).
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.
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.
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.
This page was originally published in August 2014, and last updated in June 2016.
Although the legislative trend in Colombia has tended towards the criminalization of possession and consumption of psychoactive substances, decriminalization prevailed when it comes to jurisprudence. In addition, while the government of former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010) insisted on prohibiting, persecuting and punishing drug consumption through legislative and judicial channels, the country’s health sector, influenced by more progressive trends for dealing with consumption, made important progress in the areas of risk and harm reduction.
Despite 2006 witnessing the most intensive use of fumigation in the country’s history, some 157,200 hectares of cultivation areas were detected, 13,200 hectares more than in 2005. Is the fumigation strategy failing?
It is unfortunate that 35 years after the first chemical spraying in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, we are still writing about aerial sprayings in Colombia, demanding the current government to definitely defer an ecocide and incompetent policy.
It is unfortunate that 35 years after the first chemical spraying in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, we are still writing about aerial sprayings in Colombia, demanding the current government – how many governments have not happened since! – to definitely defer an ecocide and incompetent policy. Throughout these years we have seen increasing national and international voices opposing the spraying of coca with the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate).
The EU's proposed free trade agreement with Colombia will worsen the already serious human rights violations in the country, as its drive to access to cheap raw materials for European corporations means forcing local people off their land.
Getting to the Briceño region in the heart of Antioquia requires an excellent vehicle, and a lot of time and luck. The week before our journey there in mid-July, heavy rains wiped out part of the road between Briceño and Pueblo Nuevo, stranding folks on one side or the other. We were lucky on the day of our journey – no rain. But it took a six-hour drive to get from Medellín to Briceño, and another three hours of sometimes harrowing curves to Pueblo Nuevo. The dirt-road drive itself was a stark reminder of the challenges Colombia faces as it seeks to eliminate 50,000 hectares of coca this year through the crop substitution program, Programa Nacional Integral de Sustitución de Cultivos de Uso Ilícito (National Comprehensive Program for the Substitution of Illicit Crops), known by the acronym PNIS.