Leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro called Tuesday for Colombia to move away from the “ineffective” drug policies formed with the United States.
Petro, a former mayor of Bogota and an ex-guerrilla of the M-19 rebel group, believes Colombia should abandon the reactive-based programs it has with the United States.
According to the candidate, the South American nation must pave its own path to successfully combat drug trafficking and move away from the “subordination to the drug war and the assistance it receives,” Petro told journalists.
Despite crop substitution programs, eradication projects and US aid to the tune of $10 billion, Colombia still remains the world’s largest exporter of cocaine.
The presidential candidate sees economic development as the way forward, as opposed to the current hard-line policing both nations have adopted on drugs.
“Drugs are so demonized that it’s politically correct to say ‘let’s ban them and start a war,’ but we never consider the consequences,” said Petro.
“The militaristic approach to drugs has been ineffective,” said the leftist candidate, who claimed that US President Donald “Trump is building his regressive strategy on top of these failures.”.
According to Petro, Colombia will be able to reduce the cultivation of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine, “with social policies in the regions where drugs are cultivated.”
“We have to help people escape from the mafia,” said the candidate, who has proposed far-reaching land reforms.
A Petro-presidency would see the launch of a ‘land substitution’ program that would allow coca farmers to turn in their substandard plots of land in exchange for others in more fertile areas with access to the legal economy.
The controversial pledge would see taxes raised on unproductive, yet fertile land that wealthy landowners hold on to. This would encourage the land to be sold to the state, which in turn would be passed on to poor farmers.
The gentle push has seen Petro labeled a “communist” amid fears the leftist politician would turn Colombian into another poverty-stricken Venezuela where late President Hugo Chavez expropriated lands from private businesses.
Colombia’s excessively unequal land distribution has been intrinsically linked with the country’s ongoing armed conflict as millions of peasants are unable to sustain themselves using legal crops.
More than 100,000 peasant families have little alternative to growing coca, the main ingredient in cocaine, in communities across the country that have long been abandoned by the state.
The lack of state presence has allowed armed criminal factions to stream into these villages and forced farmers to grow the illicit crop.