Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos made an “urgent call” to the international community on Tuesday to end repressive drug policies “if we want to protect peace in Colombia.”
Speaking at a summit of the United Nations, Santos warned that “drug trafficking continues to be the main threat to peace,” partly because of ineffective strategies to curb drug trafficking.
The Colombian head of state called on the international community to “change the focus.”
Santos’ changed focus
“Putting consumers and farmers in prison doesn’t work,” Santos said, who urged for policies that can reduce the consumption of illicit drugs.
“If we want to protect peace in Colombia … we MUST change the global strategy to overcome the drug problem,” the Colombian president stressed.
As I said two years ago at the Special Session of the General Assembly, the war on drugs that the world declared more than 40 years ago has not been won. The strategy based exclusively on prohibition and repression has only led to more deaths, more prisoners, more criminal organizations that become more dangerous.
Today, drug trafficking remains the main threat to peace. Transnational cartels assassinate social leaders committed to crop substitution. The struggle to take control of the business — which will continue to be business as long as demand continues to exist — is causing more deaths and violence in Colombia and the region, as we experienced a week ago in Ecuador.
If we want to change the trail of death and destruction left by drug trafficking, if we want to protect peace in Colombia, in the region and in the world, we MUST change the global strategy to overcome the drug problem.
I want to reiterate — once again — my urgent call to the world to open our eyes. Let us recognize that if we continue to do the same, we will continue to have the same results: more prisoners, more deaths, stronger mafias.
Putting consumers or farmers in jail doesn’t work. Let’s change the focus. Let us work together under the principle of co-responsibility to reduce demand and to punish transnational criminal organizations that profit from business and sow pain and death in its wake.
‘War on drugs as harmful as all wars combined’
Santos has been urging the international community, and the United States in particular, for an end to the so-called war on drugs ever since he took office in 2010.
In a speech before the UN General Assembly last year he said that “the remedy has been worse than the disease.”
The year before he said “the manner in which this war against drugs is being waged is equally or perhaps even more harmful than all the wars the world is fighting today, combined.”
Drug trafficking has fueled armed conflict in Colombia, the world’s number one cocaine producer, since the early 1980s.
Despite decades of efforts to curb the cultivation of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine, cultivation of the illicit crop reached record levels in 2016, according to the DEA.