Thursday, September 14, 2017

A Drug War Disaster - or a Lesson?

Washington's unhappiness with the boom in Colombia's cocaine production, which has more than doubled over the last few years, has brought 'the most serious deterioration in bilateral relations in almost two decades,' says El Tiempo.

The situation has the Trump administration threatening to 'decertify' Colombia's drug-war efforts and Colombian authorities in response pointing out that Colombia has seized far more drugs than has the U.S., with far more resources.

But Colombia might also point to the U.S.'s inability to control illegal marijuana cultivation or the consumption of all kinds of drugs, either legal or illegal.

In fact, Colombia was long seen as Washington's model drug war ally: It fumigated crops, carried out forced erradication and accepted billions of dollars in U.S. aid, hosted U.S. soldiers and spy planes.

But, despite having all the ingredients to win, Colombia's anti-drug efforts have failed.

Colombian coca leaf production thru 2015: The upward trend has since continued.
This isn't the fault of Colombia, but of economics. Where there's demand for a product, there will be supply. If Colombia had somehow managed to erradicate its coca leaf crop, traffickers would simply have planted instead in Ecuador, Brazil, Venezuela, or even Asia or Africa.

Colombia is only fortunate - or smart - that the ongoing drug boom has not brought with it the violence it did decades ago.

The U.S., for its part, should recognize that its war on drugs has been a deadly, expensive mess, and that instead of throwing away more money and endangering relations with a close ally, it should decriminalize cocaine and switch to harm reduction policies.

But good luck finding that sort of sanity in the Trump administration.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours


Stuart Oswald said...

Or great success despite the immense efforts of cartels and the US's porous boarder.

Undeniable success as it brought FARC to the negotiating table. Wouldnt have happened otherwise.

Increase in production can be directly attributed to the war on drugs being retracted to facilitate and appease FARC at the negotiating table.

Please don't be like CNN or my governments in Europe spreading misinformation.

Miguel said...

Yes, you're correct that Plan Colombia helped force the FARC to negotiate. And helped stabilize Colombia. But it didn't win the drug war.

Perhaps making concessions to the FARC on drugs was the price paid for a negotiated peace.