One of the most prominent fighters in the war on drugs is calling for the world to get tougher.
President of Colombia Juan Manuel Santos wants world leaders to take a much stronger, more coordinated approach in dealing with trafficking narcotics and the use of hard drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In an exclusive one-to-one interview with Metro, Mr. Santos says legalizing softer drugs such as cannabis could be a way forward, if done globally.
“The world needs to discuss new approaches,” Santos says. “We are basically still thinking within the same framework as we have done for the last 40 years.”
Colombia’s war on drug cartels has made huge progress over the past 20 years. The killing of notorious drug baron Pablo Escobar in 1993 and then the arrest and conviction in 2006 of the Rodriguez Orejuela brothers, founders of the Cali Cartel, did much to dismantle the powerful cartels and spark the decline of drug-related violence that had plagued the country. Santos hopes that the world too can build on this success story.
Colombian leader: Legalize marijuana
Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos on his country’s efforts in the war on drugs. Santos opens up on drug legalization as a means to stop violence. Says legalize soft drugs, but only if entire world agrees.
Do you think legalizing softer drugs could be a way forward?
Yes, that could be an answer, provided everyone does it at the same time.
Is that something you would support?
If the entire world does it, yes.
But somebody has to take the first steps?
Yes, and it won’t be me.
Because for Colombia, this is a matter of national security. Drug trafficking is what finances the violence and the irregular groups in our country. I would be crucified if I took the first step. We need to insist on more multinational actions on drug trafficking and innovate the ways we are dealing with it.
How is this different in other countries?
In other countries [Europe and the U.S.] this is mainly a health and crime issue. We need to look at all components, one of them being targeting the assets in this business. But we need to do so on a global level.
What do you think we’re doing wrong?
We must discuss a new approach, looking at all the components: The profit and the crime that follows drug trafficking, the fight against money laundering, trade with arms and so on. These are all effects of drugs.
What about Latin America?
We have something that the U.S. and Europe don’t have: A young population and a lot of optimism. When you ask the population of a country, ‘Will your children have a better life than you?’ and a majority answers ‘No,’ then the enthusiasm of that country is limited. The latest poll in Colombia from Thursday [last week] shows that 79 percent of our population believes that we are on a great path.