Colombian President: ‘The criminalization of drugs has brought us violence and destruction’

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Colombian President: 'The criminalization of drugs has brought us violence and destruction'

Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro lashed out at international drug policy on Thursday during the latest meeting of the UN Drug Commission. ‘We have sacrificed our own development for a war on drugs imposed on us by others.’

Through Joost van der Wegen

Failed

Gustavo indicated that international drug policy has failed. ‘Illegal drugs are available to everyone, while legal drugs are not available to everyone.’

He called the war on drugs a failure: ‘The increase in fentanyl consumption in the United States has resulted in 100,000 deaths per year. Latin America’s 1 million murders make it the most violent region caused by the criminalization of drugs. In addition, tens of million people have been imprisoned for drug trafficking, including farmers who grow coca. It has also led to the destruction of democracy through corruption, and as criminal organizations have taken over entire areas in Latin America.

In danger

The Colombian President stated that this puts our societies in danger. He said that the only way to reduce the risks of the use and abuse of illicit drugs is through a policy of harm reduction: ‘Colombia therefore calls on the Member States of the UN to put the right to health first in this discussion. “The drug mafia, created by drug prohibition and criminalization, brings its money to the northern countries, while the southern hemisphere countries are left with violence and destruction.”

“The drug mafia, created by drug prohibition and criminalization, brings its money to the northern countries, while the southern hemisphere countries are left with violence and destruction.”

Enemies

The President called on the UN Drug Commission to recognize that arms smuggling, money laundering and corruption are part of the machinery of the illicit drug trade: “Colombia has introduced all the wrong measures imposed on us from outside, to end the war on drugs to feed. We have saddled soldiers and police with an impossible mission, we have wasted money from our budget for this, and we have transformed our farmers, our indigenous and our African populations into enemies, with massive and systematic violations of human rights. Which has contributed to the destruction of our ecosystems, and in which we have sacrificed our own development for a war that others wanted.’

Loneliness

Petro continued: “What the world calls a drug problem mainly represents the loneliness of millions of people in developed societies who are addicted to substances, and the lack of opportunities for communities in the legal economy. There is no drug problem, but rather one of development and right to exist. The attitude of denial in the face of the international shipwreck of the drug system forces countries to respond within the space available in conventions.’

Petro explained in a video link to the UN that Colombia is doing this on two levels. First and foremost, she puts the rights of Colombians first in her drug policy: ‘Coca leaves are part of our history, and they are not the problem that the UN has in Vienna. We will therefore give oxygen to the small farmers who grow coca leaves, and we will suffocate those who profit from the smuggling of cocaine. This drug policy is part of our goal to achieve total peace, within and beyond our borders, peace with our local communities, and peace with nature, and above all the right to live. ‘

“We will therefore give oxygen to the small farmers who grow coca leaves, and we will suffocate those who profit from cocaine smuggling.”

Debate

Internationally, Colombia has already called for a reconsideration of international drug policy. “We will start this in our region of Latin America and the Caribbean, and we want to have that debate with the rest of the world.”

Petro then quoted a former President of the United States: ‘We will do this together with the United Nations if possible, and without the United Nations if necessary. We believe that we should do this together with the United Nations, but not with a UN that is deaf, dumb and blind.’

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