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Santos assures that “we must leave behind the heavy hand and the repression” in the fight against drugs

Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos (2010-2018) defended this Thursday the need to change the perspective of the fight against drugs, since the current one “has failed” so “the states must understand that, to be more effective, we must leave behind something that is very politically attractive: the strong hand and the repression. “

Santos is this week presenting the annual report of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, an international body that since 2009 studies and proposes other ways to focus the fight against drug trafficking and of which it has been a part since last year.

The former Colombian head of state has given an interview to the newspaper ‘El Espectador’ where he has proposed some alternatives and has reviewed the mistakes that have been made in recent decades in relation to the fight against illegal substances, therefore, without going any further By far, he pointed out that, despite the fact that the fight against drugs dates back 45 years, the situation today is worse than before.

Santos has raised the possibility of regulating the drug market, since he assures that already from the time of the dry law in the United States during the 1920s, “what the ban has done is strengthen and generate resources for the mafias.”

“Figures from the last ten years show us that the number of drug users in the world has risen from 208 million to 275 million and the value of the drug trafficking business has risen to 625,000 million dollars. In this report we focus on the need for more effective policies to fight against the mafias, because organized crime has a transnational and cross-sectoral nature, “he said.

Some of these measures, according to his words, is to stop the businesses that the mafias use to launder the benefits that the drug market brings them, as well as to persecute not only the head of the criminal organization, but also all the structure behind it, “politicians, police and judges” included, who collaborate and protect “through corruption”.

“It is not enough to take Chapo Guzmán. You have to take his entire structure. The drug trafficking business is one of the many that the international mafias control. The countries do not understand this and do not act against the business in its entirety, but against drugs. That is why we have been fighting drugs for 45 years and we are worse than before, “he said.

“The Commission says that states must understand that, to be more effective, you have to leave behind something that is very politically attractive: the strong hand and the repression. It brings much applause, but it aggravates the problem, makes it more violent and damaging, for all the collateral effects, “said Santos, who exemplifies this situation in the large number of prisoners in jails around the world today for non-violent crimes related to drug trafficking.

The former Colombian president has also assured that there are “very powerful interests that prefer things to continue as they are, because it produces more money.” That is why, he explained, that in Colombia many union leaders and peasants are being assassinated by drug traffickers when they defend taking advantage of the voluntary substitution of illicit crops.

“The criminals realized that this was going to destroy their raw materials, so they began to kill the peasant leaders. There are very powerful interests that oppose a change in the status quo,” he explained.

“If the mafias are removed from the control over the traffic, regulating and legalizing it, the money is taken away from them. As long as the prohibition continues, the silver will be generated and instead of reaching the State it will feed that vicious circle organized crime, “he added.

However, it has also recognized that legalizing this sector brings with it “the challenge” of monitoring in what other activity organized crime will launch its networks. That is why it advocates “a cross-sector approach”, in which “how the big mafias operate in relation to the trafficking of other illegal products” is studied.

Santos has argued that in this new perspective of the fight against drug trafficking, the office that the United Nations has for this should be merged with the World Health Organization (WHO), because “at bottom it is a matter of public health.”

“It is very populist to play the macho, that’s why I say that it is easier to make war than peace. I was elected with the largest vote in the history of Colombia for that reason: because I was a war hero. When I went to make the Peace, look what I found “, he added.


Questioned about his management at the head of Casa Nariño, Santos has acknowledged that he failed to try “to advance much more in the United Nations General Assembly”, where, he said, he should “have done more pressure and diplomacy”.

“In Colombia, we are moving towards the decriminalization of marijuana use, but we could have made much more progress. If we had, marijuana could replace what we are losing today in oil and coal. But I think we also lacked sophistication of intelligence against mafias “, he explains.

Regarding the use of the Army to combat drug trafficking, Santos explained that “the Commission has always assumed a position of defense of Human Rights” and believes that the military should not assume the responsibilities that correspond to the Police “because the soldiers they are not trained “to control public order.

Santos has given the example of the Philippines, where he explained that the fact of militarizing the fight against drugs causes “an enormous violation of rights, a” genocide against consumers and small traffickers. “” They grab them there and kill them. That will not solve anything, it only generates pain and violence, “he asserted.

To combat ‘narcoterrorism’, an expression that he has said is being “oversized”, he defends the use of other tools that, in his opinion, are more effective “than sending military personnel to the peoples”, such as “intelligence and collaboration between countries. “

When questioned about the similarities between the Commission’s report and what was agreed in 2016 in his government’s peace agreements with the extinct FARC guerrilla, Santos has insisted that this is the way because, as the UN well knows, he has said, “in coca crops the only thing that works is to give the peasants an alternative, because most of them want to get out of there”

“When I was Minister of Defense, I was the one who sprayed the most hectares of coca in history and production only went up. We have seized all the bosses who have been and are and there are the mafias operating,” he said.

Although Santos has praised these initiatives and proposals that had some repercussion during the administration of former President Barack Obama, as for the current tenant of the White House, he has been much more dejected.

“(Donald) Trump’s anti-drug policy has been an absolute and total failure. How is it possible that the world’s largest drug user requires southern countries to fight drug trafficking more effectively, when that country withdraws from the treaty to control arms trafficking. This inconsistency makes the fight against drugs a joke, “he explained.

“On the one hand, it sells weapons to drug traffickers and, on the other, it requires states to be effective in defeating them. Do me a favor. This is an issue that concerns us a lot, because Colombia is proof of the failure of the fight against drugs. The cost we have assumed, the blood we have poured has cost us more than any other country and we continue as the first producer and exporter of cocaine, “he said.

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