What we are watching: Libya’s future, Russia vs. Great Britain in the Black Sea, USA blocking Iranian news sites
The producer: Colombia. In the 1980s, Colombia became the center of the global cocaine trade, fueling decades of conflict between FARC guerrillas, drug cartels, paramilitaries, and the Colombian government.
In 2000, Washington and Bogotá inked the multibillion dollar Planning Colombia, in which the US trained and equip Colombian soldiers to destroy militants and stop drug trafficking. In his honor, Plan Colombia helped force the FARC to negotiate a groundbreaking peace deal in 2016 – but there has been no apparent success against drugs. Coca cultivation is near all-time highs, far exceeding the levels observed even during Pablo Escobar’s heyday. And the Colombian authorities are still doing it Record cocaine busts.
The political problem is that the government Met has not fulfilled its commitments to help farmers replace coca cultivation with legal ones. This would mean providing security and economic opportunity in remote regions where the FARC has disbanded narcos filled the vacuum. Instead, the state has focused on US-backed eradication programs: destroying the coca crops either with environmentally hazardous spray from the air or, more recently, sending troops to destroy coca fields, plant by plant. The problem is, it doesn’t work. Congress noted in a 2020 report that extermination “gloomy results” produced – it creates tensions between farmers and the state without permanently restricting coca cultivation.
If the 2016 peace agreement is to have any meaning at all, this circle has yet to be squared. In Colombia, the war on drugs is still an obstacle to peace.
The middleman: Mexico. After the US central banks destroyed the Caribbean transit hubs that connected Andean producers and American consumers in the 1980s, the overland routes through Mexico began. According to an FBI estimate, some 93 percent the flow of drugs from South America to the US now goes through Mexico. These routes are controlled by the murderers and incredibly well armed Mexican cartels that now control large parts of northern Mexico. Despite some shared US-Mexico successes, such as the defeat of the infamous kingpin El Chapo in 2014, the cartels are as powerful as ever.
In addition, cooperation between the DEA and Mexican officials is broken under the government of Mexico’s prickly nationalist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.
All of this has contributed to Mexico’s soaring homicide rate, which is among the highest in the world. And that’s a big problem for López Obrador. He was elected in 2018 in part with a promise to fight violence – but so far his “hugs instead of bullets” approach has delivered more lead than love.
In summary, the US drug war failed to disrupt the enemy’s largest supply chain.
The consumer: the United States. “Just say no,” former US First Lady Nancy Reagan told us. This sizzling egg is yours Brain on drugs, we learned. And yet, decades later, the rate of illicit drug use – of all kinds – remains high and rising.
Meanwhile, a number of laws from the 1980s and 1990s – some penned by then Senator Joe Biden – severely criminalized drug possession, causing the prison population to explode. That has helped increase the incarceration rate in the US the highest in the world. Blacks and Latin Americans have suffered disproportionately: drug convictions are more common and punishments are harsher than whites, although drug use rates are similar across ethnic groups.
But politics is changing. More than 80 percent of Americans – both parties – say now The war on drugs has failed and two-thirds believe it should end. A large majority are in favor of decriminalizing drug-related offenses.
To date, more than half of the US states have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana for personal use, and Oregon has done the same for more difficult things. One of the most sensitive debates right now is how to ensure that the profits from legal drugs benefit the colored communities that have been devastated by the drug fight for decades.
And on Tuesday, the Biden administration – which is pushing Trump-era criminal justice reform even further – advocates a major bill that would finally remove the differences in conviction between powdered cocaine, a more elite drug, and crack, whose generally poorer (and blacker) users have suffered tougher sentences for decades.
Yet the US spends billions annually on drug-related law enforcement. There is a drug arrest every 23 seconds, activists say. And the number of overdose deaths has more than tripled in the past twenty years Raging opioid crisis not from distant cartels, but from American pharmaceutical companies, including those owned by the now fallen out of favor Sackler family.
The last line (so to speak): After 50 years, the war on drugs is reasonably not won. Is there a better way? Let us know here