The Presidents of Colombia and Mexico, Gustavo Petro and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, respectively, have raised their voices at a drug summit in the Colombian city of Cali to urge Latin America to reconsider its approach to the war on drugs. Both leaders argued that the current strategy, which they described as “failed,” has not succeeded in eradicating drug trafficking despite substantial financial support from the United States.
In their statements, the left-leaning Presidents of Colombia and Mexico maintained that their countries are the “biggest victims” of this unsuccessful fight. According to them, repression has enriched criminal organizations, exacerbated violence, and has not effectively addressed drug consumption in major world powers or the poverty that fuels the growth of drug trafficking networks.
The Limitations of the Current Strategy
The current strategy in the fight against drugs has focused on repression and direct combat against cartels and drug trafficking. However, this strategy has proven to be insufficient in addressing the complex dimensions of the problem. Presidents Petro and Lopez Obrador argue that this repression has not been effective as it has not addressed the root causes of drug trafficking.
One of the most evident outcomes of this strategy is that Colombia continues to be the world’s largest producer of cocaine. Despite decades of efforts and resources invested in the fight against drug trafficking, illicit drug production remains a constant reality in the country. This production not only fuels violence in Colombia but also has a significant impact on the security and stability of the region.
In Mexico, the strategy of direct confrontation with drug cartels has led to a spiral of violence that has claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The strategy implemented during the presidency of Felipe Calderón involved the military in the fight against drug trafficking, exacerbating violence and failing to significantly curb the flow of drugs to the United States, the world’s largest consumer of cocaine.
The Need for a Comprehensive Approach
The calls from Petro and Lopez Obrador point to the need for a comprehensive approach in the fight against drugs. This approach would not only focus on repression and direct combat against cartels but would also address the root causes of drug trafficking, such as poverty and the lack of opportunities in affected regions.
Both Presidents argue that the current repression strategy has only strengthened criminal organizations by driving up drug prices and has generated an endless cycle of violence. Furthermore, it has not significantly reduced drug demand in major consumer markets such as the United States.
The Future of the Fight against Drugs
Colombia and Mexico’s call to change the approach in the fight against drugs is a reminder that this battle cannot be won with repression alone. A broader and more comprehensive approach is needed that addresses both the supply and demand for illicit drugs, as well as the underlying conditions that perpetuate drug trafficking.
The debate on how to effectively address the drug problem will continue on the regional and international agenda in the coming years. In the meantime, Colombia and Mexico are taking a courageous step toward seeking more effective and sustainable solutions to this global challenge.