Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos called on the U.S. and Europe on Saturday to break the taboo and start a global debate on the legalization of drugs, reiterating his country would not oppose drug decriminalization.
Santos and Nicaraguan writer and former vice-President Sergio Ramirez discussed the possibility of legalizing drugs and the impact on Latin America, during a debate at the literature and arts Hay Festival in the coastal city of Cartagena.
“I know that this can’t be the opinion of a state or the president of the republic, but I am a normal citizen, so I can [say it]. The solution is decriminalizing drugs. It must be decriminalized,” Ramirez was quoted by Colombia’s presidential website.
“I am not against this,” Santos responded. “And I am saying this as president of the republic. This decision would be acceptable for Colombia if taken by the entire world.”
“Colombia maybe the country that has suffered most fighting drug trafficking. It has cost us our best leaders, our best journalists, our best judges and our best policemen,” Santos added.
Without explicitly mentioning the U.S., Santos called on “the main consumer of the world, and Europe too” to sit down and debate the possibility of drug decriminalization.
The Colombian President has promoted a discussion on a possible revision of the war on drugs on several occasions, but has always reiterated that Colombia does not want to take the initiative to avoid being stigmatized. According to Santos, the debate should be started by drug consuming nations rather than the drug producing nations.
Colombia has been the world’s number one producer of cocaine since the 1980s. The drug trade is blamed for fueling the country’s armed conflict with leftist guerrillas and extreme violence carried out by right-wing paramilitary groups and drug cartels. Since the rise of popularity in the use of cocaine, tens of thousands of Colombians have died in violence related to drug trafficking. According to NGOs, the violence has displaced more than 5 million, more than 10% of the population, since then.