Thursday, September 13, 2018

Of the Bronx and Drug Prohibition

Winder, 28, lived as a crack addict in El Bronx for 4 years.
Winder starting smoking pot at age 8, got kicked out of his home by his evangelical father as a young teen, spent four years in prison, and then fled from his hometown of Huila to Bogotá, where he ended up living for four years in El Bronx, the notorious central Bogotá street full of crack addicts, thieves and prostitutes.

But altho Winder, now 28, who ultimately sought help in a government rehabilitation program, lost family and years of his life to drugs, he opposes drug prohibitionist policies.

"It's just a game to arrest the small guys," he argues. "The big fish always get away."
Reproduction of Bronx rooms
with gambling machines.

And in prison, he recalls, "there were more drugs than ever. Just more expensive."

I met Winder in the Museo Nacional, where he was recalling his time in El Bronx to museum guests who came to see a scale model of the street, whose real version was demolished about two years ago.

Recyclers' carts in El Bronx.
Colombia's new conservative President Ivan Duque hopes to reduce illegal drugs' damage by intensifying drug prohibitionism. However, as Linder's story seems to show, harsh punishment might not do much to reduce drug use, but does turn victims like him into criminals. Winder entered and left prison as a drug abuser. It was only afterward, when he 'hit bottom' that desperation motivated him to change his life. In the meantime, society spent a lot of money incarcerating him.

Winder also complained that few of the Bronx's residents recieved support and rehabilitation. A prohibitionist policy which treats drug abuse as a crime instead of a medical condition only makes it more difficult to provide assistance.

On my home from the museum, I passed some police searching a group of young men on a plaza near
´What's that in your pocket?' Cops search young
men on Plaza Santader in central Bogotá.
the Gold Museum. The stop and searches which convert so many youth into criminals don't seem to do much to control drugs, but are a tremendous tool for cops to squeeze bribes out of people.

Later on, I played basketball in a park in La Candelaria where troubled kids called nieros sit in the stands smoking and drinking dubious substances. Drug prohibitionism doesn't seem to have done much to cut off their supplies.

Another ex-Bronx resident, now in rehabilitation.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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