Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the UN General Assembly

Amid heated discord between the United States and Colombia regarding surging drug production in the South American country, Colombian officials are making it clear that they are not buckling under US pressure to harden the country's new, less draconian anti-narcotic strategies.

In his September 19 address to the United Nations' General Assembly, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos reiterated his view that hard-line anti-drug strategies had failed, and that more progressive policies would yield better outcomes.

"I have said on many occasions that the war on drugs has not been won and neither is it being won, that we need new approaches, new strategies," Santos told the UN.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Cocaine Production

The president also mentioned the need to "have an open mind ... to be more intelligent, more innovative" regarding drug policy, likely referring to Colombia's voluntary crop substitution programs, which US officials have critiqued in the past.

Last year saw record cocaine production in Colombia, which has caused the US government to repeatedly voice its concerns about the South American country's anti-narcotic strategies.

The United States has been ramping up the criticism of its long-time ally to an astonishing degree recently. On September 13, US President Donald Trump announced that his administration had "seriously considered" downgrading Colombia to a list of states failing to combat drug trafficking, alongside Venezuela and Bolivia.

Colombian Defense Minister Luis Carlos Villegas responded to the warning by stating that Colombia is well on its way to achieving its ambitious drug crop eradication goal. He also said that the United States should be pulling more weight in terms of law enforcement. According to Villegas, in 2016 Colombia seized 44 times the amount of cocaine intercepted by US authorities.

InSight Crime Analysis

Santos' comments, which echo those he has made in the past, must be viewed in light of Colombia's ongoing clash over drug policy with the United States, perhaps its most important global partner.

While top US officials under Trump have recognized their country's responsibility as a key drug market, the rhetoric about how to tackle this problem has been inconsistent, and has so far translated to domestic policies that focus more heavily on traditional anti-drug strategies rather than more progressive approaches.

SEE ALSO:  Coverage of Drug Policy

This preference for a heavier hand in counternarcotics efforts has also been seen at the international level, causing tension not only with Colombia, but also with Mexico, another key US partner.

Meanwhile, the Colombian government has stood firm in defending its new policies, including its controversial pivot away from old, ultimately ineffective strategies such as aerial crop fumigation. And for now, the Santos administration has shown no intention of abandoning its new priority -- voluntary crop eradication -- despite the United States affirming it will not support the program.

Nevertheless, Santos' administration is coming to an end. If other political factions come to power in next year's presidential elections, they may be more willing to accommodate US interests.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...