United States charges of drug trafficking and collaboration with outlaw groups against (retired) Gen. Mauricio Santoyo - once a high police official and even chief of security for Pres. Alvaro Uribe - have rocked Colombia.
But perhaps they shouldn't be such a surprise.
After all, drug money has corrupted governments all over the world.
- In 2008, Mexico's drug czar Noe Ramirez was arrested on charges of taking bribes from drug cartels, the highest ranked of a long series of Mexican corruption cases.
- U.S. authorities have also charged high Venezuelan government officials with collaborating with drug cartels, accusations repeated by an ex-judge of Venezuela's Supreme Court. Similar accusations have been made against high Dominican Republic government officials. More generally, U.S. government reports charge that many governments in Central America and the Caribbean are rife with drug corruption.
- Of course, corruption isn't limited to the developing world. U.S. police and border agencies at many levels have been corrupted by an inundation of drug cash, which can make a low-level official's salary look like pocket change. However, in the U.S. corruption hasn't reached the levels of some Latin American nations, where government agencies cease functioning.
Corruption is a less-apparent impact of the War on Drugs. It debilitates societies, destroys government function, destroys citizens' confidence in government, turns law enforcers into criminals' allies.
If drugs were legalized, all this money which now corrodes society (not to mention murdering and terrorizing) could be used to pay taxes and employees, strengthening society's institutions.
Uruguayans are evidently thinking about this, which is why Uruguay's government has plans to market marijuana itself. I'm not sure why that sounds radical, since for many years U.S. states ran the whiskey business thru government-owned stores.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours