A radically different approach to the current War on Drugs must be developed and integrated into the Peace Plan for Colombia otherwise the drug circuit and armed conflict will continue to undermine the prospect of realizing the goals of the Peace Process ultimately bringing to an end the war in Colombia.
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.
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.
Foreign minister Maria Angela Holguín’s statement of last Sunday 10 October is of great importance. According to this statement, Colombia should take the discussion about the drugs policy to a global level and to the UN’s Security Council. According to her criteria it doesn’t make sense that whilst certain developed countries decriminalize and legalize certain use, we continue to “imprison peasants who own half a hectare of coca leaf cultivation”.
The French news agency AFP recently reported the discovery of a new species of coca plant. According to the report, which was repeated by various media around the world, a coca plant was found in Colombia's Sierra Nevada that had a high cocaine content and a higher level of purity, and which was also resistant to the effects of aerial spraying. We would like to respond to the confusion and false impressions that this report could cause.
Read here the full text of the controversial statements on coca leaf included in this year's Annual Report of the INCB. Some highlights:
> "The Board calls upon the Governments of Bolivia and Peru to initiate action without delay with a view to eliminating uses of coca leaf, including coca leaf chewing" and "each party to the Convention should establish as a criminal offence, when committed intentionally, the possession and purchase of coca leaf for personalconsumption". > "The Board again calls on the Governments of Bolivia and Peru to consider amending their national legislation so as to abolish or prohibit activities that are contrary to the 1961 Convention, such as coca leaf chewing and the manufacture of mate de coca (coca tea)".
Colombia's Supreme Court ruled against harsh punishments for small-time drug offenders, in a move towards easing up Colombia's zero-tolerance drug laws, which have achieved little in the fight against organized crime.
Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala face the need to modify their approach to the fight against drug trafficking and are urging the world to do the same. But Mexico and Colombia’s willingness to make the necessary changes is unclear. The three countries are connected by a powerful circuit of trafficking of drugs – whose main market is the United States – weapons and money from illegal activities. But the extent of the problem and the way drug organisations operate in each one of these countries vary.
In September 2012, the mayor of Bogotá, Gustavo Petro, launched the first centre for drug addicts in the Bronx, a marginalised city-centre neighbourhood. Called the Medical Care Centre for Dependent Drug Users (Centro de Atención Médica a Drogodependientes - CAMAD), it is staffed by psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors and nurses. The people given care in these centres are in an at-risk situation and socially excluded due to their high levels of drug dependency.
At peace talks in Cuba, Colombian guerrilla group the FARC outlined a proposal to legalize drug consumption and cultivation, complementing reforms that are about to be tabled by the Colombian government. Chief negotiator Marquez called for "an end to policies of criminalization and persecution, [and] the suspension of aerial fumigation and other forms of eradication that are generating negative socio-environmental and economic impacts." (See also: Colombia's Farc proposes legal coca and marijuana crops)
The mayor of Bogota has recently proposed a pilot scheme with crack cocaine addicts to explore the substitution of crack made of cocaine base paste (or bazuco as it is called in Colombia) by marijuana. The substitution treatment plan will include 15 problematic users from the marginalized Bronx area who are already receiving health assistance of the CAMAD operating in that sector of the city. The treatment will last approximately eight months, after which the results will be evaluated.
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).