Gustavo Petro has insisted on one idea since the beginning of his presidency: the fight against drugs failed. He did so in his inauguration speech, arguing that this war has strengthened the mafias, weakened the States and left more than a million people murdered in Latin America. At the 77th UN General Assembly last year, his speech became famous for, once again, criticizing this struggle that has prevented us from living in peace and that has caused much damage to the Latin American continent.
And this year, at the summit of the European Union and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), he went one step further: he proposed, together with Mexico, to evaluate and propose new and effective strategies to address the drug phenomenon. A proposal that began to come to life when the Colombian Foreign Minister, Álvaro Leyva, and the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Alicia Bárcenas, confirmed that in September of this year, in the city of Cali, the Latin American Summit would take place and the Caribbean to discuss the proposal for a paradigm shift in the fight against drug trafficking.
The announcement of this meeting generated enormous expectations. And as! The story was that Colombia, one of the best students and allies of the United States in its fight against drug trafficking, sought to promote a new regional approach through innovative proposals. It sounded even defiant. However, the conference ended, and like the final document, it leaves a feeling that the paradigm shift is not such: old ideas in new clothes. Beyond the effort of the Foreign Ministry to organize a meeting of this style in such a short time, a calm analysis of its results shows frustration in, in my opinion, four key points.
First, the final document was full of platitudes, with few proposals for new approaches. President Petro, in Belgium, spoke of evaluating, and this could have been the perfect opportunity to promote and request regional assessments of the approaches applied so far, and show the reason for their failure. If they stated innovative proposals, it is a pity that they did not mention the need for new indicators, other than eradications and seizures, to measure the success of the policies. Without them, policies will continue to be directed towards the old objectives. In fact, there was one example of change to be applauded, and replicated in other areas: the intention to discuss more alternative measures to imprisonment for non-violent drug-related crimes.
Second, for there to be a real change of approach in the fight against drug trafficking, we have to, at least, talk about cocaine and its legalization, being pragmatic that it is a path that is just beginning, but we have to start it . Of course, it is important to destigmatize and revalue the traditional, medical and scientific uses of plants like coca and, even better, support the effort to declassify the coca leaf from list I, where the substances classified as most dangerous are found. But it cannot be that, 50 years after the war on drugs was declared, cocaine is not mentioned in these spaces that not only seek alternative solutions, but are led by Colombia.
Third, although the current Government of Colombia is making a significant narrative change regarding the people who grow coca – and the speech of the Minister of Justice, Néstor Osuna, during the conference – is worth highlighting, some points in the final document seem written by his opposition. Although the official hashtag of the summit was #CambiemosElEnfoque, you can read things like “international coordination and cooperation in the formulation and execution of initiatives to strengthen the fight against illicit drug trafficking (…)”. Hadn’t the war failed? And it is not only the language of the document: the speeches at the highest political level (López Obrador, Petro and Chancellor Leyva) are notably stigmatizing and continue to promote the idea that those who consume are sick, lonely, and have suffered from lack of love. . With this, they also shift the blame: apparently, for these leaders the paradigm shift is to point the finger at the countries that consume. Yes, it is true that these same countries have always pointed out to us as the cause of the problem, but I do not believe that this tit-for-tat will lead to any solution.
The analysis of current events and the best stories from Colombia, every week in your mailbox
Finally, and in light of all of the above, it is even more difficult than at the beginning to understand why Petro chose López Obrador as a partner to lead this supposed paradigmatic change. Did he never find out about the broken campaign promises on cannabis and poppy legalization? Didn’t you see that to “solve” the fentanyl crisis he proposed banning its medical use to reduce its circulation? Didn’t he know that he broke his promise to take the military off the streets and not use force to stop social problems, because now the Armed Forces are in charge of public security tasks? Let us also not overlook that those who accompanied López Obrador and his chancellor at this conference were General Luis Crescencio Sandoval (Secretary of Defense) and Admiral Rafael Ojeda (Secretary of the Navy).
If Petro’s intention was to gain international points by associating with a heavyweight of the new Latin American politics, get the photo and forget about the policies, the result was achieved at the cost of not advancing in the intended change of the traditional approach to the war against the drugs. If, being more benevolent, the objective was to turn López Obrador into an ally so that Mexico can push for said change, hopefully it will be achieved, but this is not what emerges from the result of the summit.
I am not asking for the impossible, such as that the final document had legalization as its center. It is also understood that it is difficult and slow to make changes to an approach that has been rooted in the world for more than 50 years. But I hope they make better use of the future meetings they announced, as well as the new Colombian drug policy, fresh out of the oven. Let them not leave us with the feeling of discursive contradiction, and speech above action.
Catalina Gil Pinzón is an independent consultant on drug, security and gender policy.
Subscribe here to the EL PAÍS newsletter about Colombia and receive all the key information on current events in the country.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits
#paradigm #shift #drugs #ideas #clothes