Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bill Clinton in Colombia: Time to Inhale!

Bill Clinton in Barranquilla, Colombia.
(Photo: El Heraldo)
Ex-U.S. President Bill Clinton visited Bogotá yesterday, dining with Pres. Santos, playing golf and making charitable appearances.

Clinton must certainly have also reflected on the results of his relationship to Colombia: the multi-billion dollar, mostly-military Plan Colombia, which he launched together with Colombian Pres. Andres Pastrana. The effort has been mostly successful here, stabilizing the country, reducing violence and sharply cutting the acreage under coca leaf cultivation. (Of course, there has been a big associated cost in human rights violations, including the falsos positivos scandal and the continuing tragedy of displaced people.)

From a global perspective, however, Plan Colombia's results look much more questionable. Billions of dollars and many lives later, coca leaf production here has declined in Colombia but increased in Peru and Bolivia. And, the decline in violence here has been offset by a surge in violence in Mexico and Central America.

As the president who admitted smoking pot - even tho he "didn't inhale" - Clinton would be in an interesting position to advocate drug decriminaliztion (a position which I'd be willing to be that he supports in private). In fact, U.S. Pres. Obama also tried pot in his youth (and even inhaled), and Pres. George W. Bush must certainly have experimented with pot and harder drugs during his wild days.

Guatemala Pres. Otto Pérez.
But of the three U.S. presidents, only Bush had a problem with an addictive substance - and that was a legal one - alcohol. (He eventually went on the wagon.)

From that, we might conclude either that alcohol should be prohibited like the others, or that all drugs should be decriminalized.

But few people doubt that alcohol prohibition was anything but a disaster. So, I'd opt for the decriminalization strategy.

Guatemalan Pres. Otto Pérez, whose nation has been wracked by drug-fueled violence, recently advocated drug decriminalization and plans to propose that policy at a meeting of Central American nations.

"With all the technology and resources and millions of dollars given by the United States the problem hasn't decreased," Pérez, an ex-military man, said recently. "People spoke of the success of Plan Colombia, but the big drug cartels just neutralized it."

Hopefully Clinton will pause to inhale deeply and think about this.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

1 comment:

ben cheetham said...

Hi Mike

Really enjoying your blog, lots of very interesting and current stuff, keep up the good work.

I recently made a film in bogota that i would love to share with you if you are interested.
if you send me an email ( and i can send you a link to it.