Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Wednesday declared his support for Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s call for a discussion on drug legalization.
“We are entering an era of the narco-trafficking business where one must have these type of reflections,” he said.
“President Calderon is right to call for this to be discussed, without meaning that one is in agreement or not with the position of legalization.”
The Colombian president announced that he will seek to form a united stance with Mexico and Peru on the legalization issue if the U.S. state of California votes to legalize marijuana consumption in a referendum scheduled for November.
Santos said that along with Mexico and Peru, “we are affected by this scourge of drug trafficking, we must sit down to work out how we are going to react and what is going to happen after this referendum.”
“All strategies that are combined are more effective,” he added.
Santos however criticized the legalization proposal, saying that if California were to legalize marijuana consumption, “how would we explain to an indigenous person on a Colombian mountain that producing marijuana is illegal and take him to jail, or destroy the marijuana, when in the U.S. it is legal to consume it?”
The Colombian leader said that some in the U.S. argue that marijuana should be legalized because it is a “soft’ drug, unlike other “hard” drugs such as cocaine. “Where do you draw the line?” he asked.
“Unilaterally we cannot legalize drugs because they are a problem not only for national security but also has international implications,” the president explained.
In 1998 Santos, in his capacity as head of the Good Government Foundation, co-signed an open letter addressed to Kofi Annan, then-U.N. secretary general, 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.”
At the beginning of August Calderon said that he is against drug legalization but that the issue should be debated.
Santos suggested that Colombia and Mexico work together to analyze how to help Central American countries combat drug trafficking.
“It is a problem that world hasn’t realized how the tentacles of drug trafficking are getting stronger little by little in countries where they underestimate the power of drug traffickers,” Santos said.
Countries such as Guatemala and several of the Caribbean islands “have a serious and growing drug trafficking problem” because traffickers are “able to go go about their business without hassle,” the president argued.
Colombian singer-songwriter Juanes supports Calderon’s call for a debate on drug legalization, stating that “It is great that this debate is starting to come to life, really the only option is to depenalize [marijuana].”
Juanes comments follow previous declarations that he is in favor of the depenalization of “natural drugs,” because he thinks it would help stamp out violence between drug gangs in Mexico.