Columbia’s former president called upon leaders in Latin America to condemn the U.S. War on Drugs because it threatens the stability of many countries in the hemisphere.
I believe that Canada should join that chorus as the country becomes increasingly a battleground between drug traffickers for both Canadian and transshipment “markets” to drug users. Estimates are that Canada’s crop of high-grade marijuana rivals forestry as an export to the U.S. worth US$6 billion a year. This was the case when I researched the issue six years ago, and wrote a three-part series, and the proliferation of “grow ops” and gangs of murderous traffickers has been a growing police issue.
Canada is negatively affected by America’s vast appetite for drugs, but several countries in Latin America have been devastated by it.
“Drug usage is unstoppable and the cartels have coyotes [people smugglers]planting on the streets hundreds of thousands of illegals selling drugs.,” said Cesar Gavaria, president of Colombia between 1990 and 1994. “The U.S. consumption has stayed level despite huge costs and the jailing of millions of people.”
Colombia was the first casualty in the drug wars. It’s economy collapsed, unemployment reached 20%, 200 municipalities in the rural areas were “destroyed” and four million residents fled, along with jobs.
American military help to Colombia for the past several years has stopped mass kidnappings, political and police assassinations and helped curb “paramilitaries.” But the growing of cocaine, opium and marijuana is unabated, said Gavaria.
His passionate plea mentioned the fact that drug usage is a health issue, not a police matter. He said the Americans must recant, and abandon, their drug Prohibition policies and adopt European-style health care to deal with the problem. Because they have not, Mexico now has the drug interdiction problem that has resulted in 10,000 drug-related murders in 2008. Mexico is engaged in a huge military battle with narcotics traffickers who have taken over the gigantic business from Colombia’s cartels. Drugs used to go from Colombia to the U.S. and now flow via the Caribbean and Mexico and Canada.
Mexico the next casualty
“Mexico is now fighting this battle and must do that, but cannot win,” he said, meaning that it may restore security but won’t stop the flow of drugs anymore than Colombia has been able to do.
Mexico’s second most powerful politician, President Felipe Calderone’s successor, is believed by many skeptics to have been assassinated by the cartels, along with the former head of drug interdiction, on the U.S Presidential Election Day as a result of a fiery crash of their private jet into downtown Mexico City during rush hour. In the past year, some 4,000 police chiefs, judges, mayors and politicians have been assassinated in Mexico, of the 10,000 drug-related murders, as the country is now gripped in an all-out war against the drug gangsters. This is the type of “war” that ruined Colombia’s economy, democracy and society which is, after years of trouble, slowly rebuilding.
Likewise, the U.S. is badly damaged by this unneeded “war”, said Gavaria.
“The U.S. has half a million people in jail for drug trafficking,” said the former president. “Another 100,000 people who are in jail are there for offenses related to drugs. This is more people in American prisons than are in all the prisons in Europe.”
The U.S. is spending US$40-billion a year on this plus its drug interdiction system and courts — all to “keep drug consumption where it has been for years,” he said.
Europe, like Canada, has, in practice but not in law, decriminalized drug possession and imposes fines or requests for treatment upon those found with small amounts drugs.
“The U.S. should have a debate about this,” said Gavaria. “The policy is a failure and the results are unbelievable.”
Europe has it right
He suggested a European approach such as treatment instead of jail, drugs for those unable to lick their habits and “help” because we are talking about ill people.
NGOs, churches, doctors, schools and others should be enjoined to help addicts get better and become productive members of society.
“Columbia, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, everywhere in Latin America is adversely affected and corrupted by the problem,” he said. “Latin America cannot deal with the Prohibition policies of the United States. No.”
Neither should Canada.
Fortunately, President Barack Obama understands that past efforts have simply not worked. In 2004 at Northwestern University, before he was nominated, he told an audience that the War on Drugs was an “utter failure.”
“We hope the U.S. understands that it has to change,” said Gavaria.
– Article from The National Post.