Sunday, November 20, 2011

Santos Finally Says It

Santos: Radical thinker,
cautious actor. 
Lots of Washington D.C. officials must be grinding their teeth right now. One of their most successful wars, in one of their favorite countries - which they just rewarded with a Free Trade Agreement - might be futile, says one of Washington's best allies.

Colombian Pres. Santos told London's Guardian newspaper that the world needs a new drug strategy to "take away the violent profit that comes with drug trafficking... If that means legalising, and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it. I'm not against it."

Santos has previously suggested that he's open to decriminalizing drugs, but never before come out so clearly. But he won't lead the charge, either, because he'd be "crucified."

It'll be interesting to see the response from Washington and other capitals, which have sent billions of dollars to South America to combat illegal drugs. The recent approval of a U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, after years of delay, was seen to a great degree as a reward for Colombia's stalwart efforts against the illegal drug trade.

Ironically, however, that same free trade agreement also shows how arbitrary drug laws are. Among the products whose trade is supposed to be freed by the agreement is tobacco, which sickens and kills far more people than marijuana and cocaine do (I couldn't find anything about alcoholic products).

Santos said he'd be open to considering legalizing both marijuana and cocaine, altho he drew the line at "hard drugs like morphine and heroin because they are suicidal drugs."

Santos joins Colombian ex-presidents Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Samper in calling for a reconsideration of the War on Drugs, altho both of them expressed their positions only after leaving office. Ex-leaders of Brazil, Mexico and even the United Nations have also called for rethinking the War on Drugs. And El Tiempo, Colombia's largest newspaper - historically owned by the Santos family - also supports drug decriminalization.

But Santos' predecessor Alvaro Uribe staunchly defends drug prohibition. Santos' latest statements will likely be a final blow to his relations with Uribe, who reportedly had already stopped answering Santos' phone calls.

Will Santos' new position trigger a rush of world leaders coming out against prohibitionism? Probably not. But it's another pebble on the balance which someday, hopefully, will tip toward a drug policy designed to reduce drugs' harm.

I'm looking forward to seeing well-informed stoners wave this El Tiempo headline in front of drug-hunting cops.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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