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Beyond the drug war | OP-ED

United States Announces Changes In Its Strategy With Colombia. More Effective Results Are Expected.

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Colombia has spent decades trying to resolve the strong impact of drug trafficking in all areas. The social, the political and the economic have been traversed by this multimillion dollar business, with great impact in the most remote regions of the country. Corruption, thousands of deaths and a serious environmental impact are part of the balance.

Of course, the United States is part of the problem and part of the solution. Of the problem, because a good part of the drug consumers  is in that country. And the solution, because it is unavoidable to have its support to achieve a comprehensive solution.

The Biden administration appears to have geared toward that kind of exit. The change in anti-drug policy towards Colombia, announced on October 25, aims not only to bring drug traffickers before the judges and fight money laundering, but also considers actions such as the development of rural areas and the protection of the environment.

In this last aspect, it breaks with the Colombian government’s decision to fumigate illicit crops with glyphosate, strongly questioned by sectors that understand the environmental damage and health of those who live in the areas where it is carried out.

In a statement, the White House noted that the strategy “establishes the framework to define broader measures of success for counternarcotics efforts in rural communities to include metrics on access to state services, institutional presence, income for producers. legal, as well as the eradication of coca”.

"The purpose is to improve the living conditions of farmers" 

A 2019 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime revealed that 66.5% of coca crops are concentrated in the 5% of territories historically affected by structural problems and by the war itself.

What is most striking about the United States announcement is that the first point of the Final Agreement between the Colombian State and the former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC-EP), signed five years ago, is taken into account, which indicates the aspects of a comprehensive rural reform. The purpose is to improve the living conditions of the peasants and have an effective presence of the State in areas that are in the hands of illegal armed groups, the majority associated with drug cartels.

During the current government of Iván Duque, who belongs to the same party of former president Álvaro Uribe, the implementation of that peace agreement has been halted and the rural situation is increasingly critical.

The decision of the Biden administration goes in clear contradiction of the convictions of the Colombian government, which has nine months left in office, which is not well off with the White House and which continues to believe in the infinite war against drug trafficking regardless of the basis social service that cartels use.

For several commentators on the Colombian situation, the turn in anti-drug policy opens a hopeful door to change the conditions that lead thousands of peasants to turn to crops for illicit use and who are the last in the government’s priority row.

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