On the drug war’s fortieth anniversary, the news from the front is rather grim. In Mexico, the clashes between the army and the formidable drug cartels have caused nearly 35,000 deaths in the past four years. In Afghanistan, opium continues to be a significant source of revenue for the Taliban. In Colombia, a country which is usually cited as an antinarcotics success story, the FARC guerrillas, while certainly weakened, continue to operate and cause havoc, financing themselves largely through the cocaine trade.
Given the problem’s transnational nature, most critics of the drug war have been trying to bring about a “global debate.” In practice, this means that Third World leaders feel entitled to demand an overhaul of Washington’s drug laws, the US being the world’s largest consumer.
Former Colombian President César Gaviria, for instance, recently stated in an interview that Colombia has the “moral authority” to “examine the United States’ antidrug policy.”
As was to be expected from a man who ran the mostly useless Organization of American States for ten years, Gaviria says he hopes that complaining to the UN along with other Latin American ex-presidents, Kofi Annan, and a few intellectuals will eventually end US drug prohibition.
A similar approach has been adopted by current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos. During a recent speech at Brown University in which he lectured Americans about what he calls their “syndrome” of geopolitical hyperopia, Santos demanded that the US adopt “new strategies, new visions, and new approaches” to take on the cartels, which have continuously found “the path of least resistance” in order to export illegal substances.
“As the biggest consumer in the world,” Santos sermonized, “the US must be present” in the global debate on the drug problem.
“We (Colombians) have done our part,” he added. “With our moral authority and our expertise, which comes through our sacrifice and our achievements, we are ready to participate in this debate….But, I repeat, we cannot do it alone.”