Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Narcotrafficking: A Political Act?

Pablo Escobar: Political actor?
Pablo Escobar would have loved it: Narcotrafficking, one of the world's greediest, most violent industries, may be designated a 'political crime' in Colombia - labeling it, in a sense, an altruistic act.

Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez has, predictably - and accurately - condemned the idea as a gift to criminals. "It's intended to legally protect the FARC's cocaine capos," he said, and would allow the guerrillas to legalize their drug wealth.

But Pres. Santos will push forward with it, as another maneuver to motivate the FARC to continue with the peace negotiations in Havana. The rub with the peace talks, of course, is that few guerrillas will be willing to sign a treaty if it means trading comfortable lives in Havana for a prison cell.

The United States government, which has publicly backed the negotiations, won't support this sort of
Escobar cuonts his loot in a Caracol TV miniseries.
impunity, since it considers narcotrafficking an international crime committed within U.S. borders. But Colombia has given monsters, such as paramilitary leaders who have confessed to thousands of murders, short prison sentences. So, why exclude drug trafficking guerrillas, who, after all, were supposedly financing a political agenda?

The impunity for drug traffickers is only the latest political gymnastics intended to keep the peace talks moving. Santos also seems to be forgiving the FARC in record time for the kidnapping of Gen. Alzate, and he barely blinked a few weeks ago at the guerrillas' murders of two NASA indigenous people. To keep the military in his camp, he wants to broaden the jurisdiction of military courts - even tho many human rights organizations warn that this could mean impunity for atrocities committed by soldiers.
A political act? Wreckage of the 1989 Avianca
bombing planned by Escobar.

Pablo Escobar himself tried to disguise his narcotrafficking empire up as a principled enterprise opposed to U.S. 'imperialism' and in favor of humble Colombians. And Escobar was briefly elected to Congress. In fact, Escobar's aims were to enrich himself at the cost of massacres and tearing apart Colombian government and society.

The political cover given to the FARC guerrillas is mostly a charade, but perhaps a necessary one if Colombians want them to turn in their arms and sign a peace treaty.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


camilo bermudez said...

Hi! ended up here by accident and couldn't help commenting. I'm glad to see your interest in Colombia, however, most of your assumptions are imprecise when not very naive.

First, the government is not trying to make narcotrafficking a political act, not even a political crime in a general sense, instead is trying to make it, in this particular case, an activity linked to political crimes since, unlike paramilitary groups or Pablo Escobar, it was clearly used by guerrillas mostly as a means to fund their political ends, you can not so simplistically assume that thousands of guerrilla members, most of which are involved in narcotraficking one way or another and most of whom are poor peasants, even children, are common drug lords just as Pablo Escobar. And no matter how hard the far right (including Alejandro Ordoñez) tries to boost its political agenda by deceiving the public into thinking that guerrillas, paramilitary death squads (trained and armed in the most part with the complicity of US agents) and common narcotrafickers like Escobar are the same thing, anyone who knows a little bit about the colombian conflict and history should know better than that.

Second, I don't think an example exists of peace talks where impunity wasn't necessary at a certain degree. On the other hand, it's a little shallow to state that Santos is "forgiving" the kidnapping of Gr. Alzate, Santos doesn't really have a choice since all of his political capital is invested in this talks (fortunately in my opinion) and the talks are being carried out without a ceasefire, as requested by the government itself from the very start in spite of FARC constantly requesting otherwise.

On the other hand, I think you're ignoring the most important part of the story when you state that "Escobar's aims were to enrich himself at the cost of massacres and tearing apart Colombian government and society", Escobar's only aim was to get rich, period, and he got rich as hell not simply for being evil or a very skilled entrepeneur but thanks to irrational and corrupt policies, and as evil as he may have been, he was no idiot, he had the hope that very soon the world would realize how stupid the prohibition and criminalization was and he would be considered just a pioneer entrepeneur, but as we know now, history would prove him wrong, the US government wasn't done yet exercising strategic territorial control and getting money out of their own deceived and increasingly impoverished citizens by using yet another war, the war on drugs. The whole madness unleashed as a consequence of the confrontation of the colombian state working hand in hand with Escobar's rival cartel, paramilitary groups and the US, against the monster created by international policies (i.e. US policies) and the corruption and greed of the local elites.

I don't know if you're a US citizen, if you are, please don't get me wrong, as anti-american as my comment may seem, I keep a very deep admiration and respect for the US people and everything you have achieved as a society, however not so much for your government institutions and I was particullarly keen in pointing out the US government responsability because I've always found it unfair how we had to pay rivers of blood just for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, for a problem that for the most part is more european and american than it is colombian, and finally, as you probably know, an inmense majority of us colombians are against FARC and the methods they've used, but I just don't think international politics should once again determine our destiny as a country for the worst. Regards.

Ally Brown said...

wow. fantastic reply Camilo!

Miguel said...

Hi Camilo,

Thanks for your comments, almost all of which I agree with, particularly about the failure and damage of prohibitionism.

My point in the post was partly satirical - on its face, designating narcotrafficking a political offense is farcical, altho of course you're right that the guerrillas use it to finance their so-called political ends. (Their degeneration into another criminal band is another issue.)

Yes, impunity is inevitable. But Santos' soft handling of the Alzate kidnapping shows just how much political capital he has invested - which is a weak position to start negotiating from.

As for Escobar, he wanted to get rich, but he always loved power, sex, control, etc., and was vicious in his pursuit of vengeance. He was a sociopath, and I think he well qualifies as evil.

I completely agree about the huge, bloody price Colombia has paid for prohibition policies. Of course, the U.S. has paid a big price, too, even if most North Americans don't recognize it. But, some people, especially arms merchants, narcos and conservative politicians, do benefit from prohibitionist policies.

Too many vested interests.