Friday, October 20, 2017

Trump and Tumaco

A bus burns in Tumaco, where police have clashed with
campesinos resisting coca leaf erradication. (Photo: El Pais)
It's not difficult to draw a line from Donald Trump's more aggressive anti-drug policies to the recent violence in Tumaco, on Colombia's Pacific coast.

Colombia's coca leaf and cocaine production have boomed in recent years, to the dismay of anti-drug officials both here and in Washington. But the boom has not brought the violence of the 1980s drug boom. Some say that's because the cartel wars have shifted to Central America and Mexico; others, that it's because the narcos moved their headquarters from the cities to rural areas, where violence is less noticed. Or, is it due to some tacit understanding between authorities and drug producers to live and let live?

But any such truce was shattered in Tumaco Oct. 5, when six campesinos were killed in clashes with police, under confusing circumstances.

It's not clear who started the confrontations. But tensions were escalated by increased pressure from Washington to erradicate coca fields, the crop which puts food on the table for innumerable rural families but also supplies narcotraffickers.

Cocaine produces untold environmental and human damage here and overseas. But decades of drug fighting, billions of dollars and innumerable deaths haven't eliminated it, and aren't likely to.

The Trump administration's mounting pressure on Colombia to reign in drug production won't eliminate cocaine, but will mean more confrontations like Tumaco's. Non-governmental organizations point to ten more municipalities in the region with the same combustible ingredients: booming drug acreage and violent outlaw organizations which profit from and defend the drug trade.

Meanwhile, the crisis is intensified by the U.S.'s refusal to deal with the FARC, even tho they have demobilized, turned in their weapons and transformed themselves from guerrillas to a political party - yet remain on the U.S.'s list of terrorist organizations.

One of the key selling points of the FARC-government peace agreement was that the FARC would help fight narcotrafficking. But that's difficult as long as Washington refuses to talk to them.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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