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Leftist President Gustavo Petro proposed new plans to decriminalize cocaine in Colombia, in an effort to end the war on drugs despite concerns from its main ally the United States, the Washington Post reported.
Colombia, the largest producer of cocaine in the world, has been on the frontline of the war on drugs and has kept a long-standing – and profitable – counter-narcotics relationship with the US.
But the radical shift comes a few months after Colombia’s truth commission released a final report criticizing the country’s decades-long war on drugs.
The commission – set up as part of Colombia’s 2016 peace accord between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) – discovered that drug trafficking had contributed to the conflict’s prolongation, despite more than $8 billion in US military aid to the South American country to fight the drugs trade. At least 260,000 Colombians were killed in the fighting, the vast majority of them civilians, CNN noted.
The new Colombian government prepared its drug policy days before taking office on Aug. 7. Felipe Tascon, Petro’s drug policy coordinator, said the then-incoming president spoke of convincing world leaders that illicit drugs aren’t the problem, but its prohibitions, Colombia Reports wrote.
The legislation would also put an end to the aerial spraying and manual eradication of coca farms, which critics say has been targeting poor rural farmers.
US government officials, however, said they would not support the decriminalization proposal, noting that cocaine was responsible for an estimated 25,000 overdose deaths in the US in 2021.
A former US’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official, meanwhile, fears this will limit the agency’s collaboration with the Colombians on drug trafficking investigations from Bogota, Colombia, home to the largest DEA overseas office – and the world’s largest cocaine producer.
“Everyone would be fighting from the outside in,” he said.