On December 13, the Spanish newspaper El País published a disturbing article titled “Universal Cocaine”, where they stated that, “never has so much been consumed, never has so much been produced; drug trafficking has mutated as an industry and has adapted to new times-” And in Colombia, we can attest to this. According to the same article, from 2005 to 2018, illicit crops doubled in our country, and additionally, the coca leaf has improved its yield and the purity of the cocaine seized went from 50% 10 years ago to 85% today.
We can make many observations on the subject of the fight against drug trafficking, and I would like to share with you some of the lessons learned after these years of work in different countries and with so many sectors and institutions.
- There is more or less consensus that the treatment for the producer, marketer, distributor, and seller should be criminal, and for the consumer it should be public health, because the one who consumes is not a criminal, but a sick person.
It is also clear that public policy intervention must be comprehensive (prevention, control, repression and rehabilitation), and that drug trafficking functions as a highly specialized system, so we require the capacity to combat each link in the chain: production (crops, chemicals and processing), distribution (storage, packaging, routes and transportation), marketing (manufacturing, supply and sale) and capital (money laundering).
- It is necessary to work to reduce supply and demand. As for the demand, the data is increasingly worrying, the latest report of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (IADACC, OAS 2019), establishes the beginning of drug consumption at increasingly younger ages.
The change in consumption trends and new challenges, for example, because the perception of risk for drug use is decreasing and thus their use tends to increase inhalants among younger people is an area of particular concern and the proliferation of new synthetic drugs and controlled prescription drugs diverted for illicit use (from 2009 to 2017, 111 countries and territories worldwide reported a total of 803 new psychoactive substances to the early warning system of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).
- Understanding drug trafficking as a system with specialized subsystems, it is important to collect and analyze information. This forces us to move from the investigation of facts, to the analysis for the understanding of the phenomenon, as it is tried to be done from the Center of Prospective Intelligence (CIPRO), of the National Police (investigation group categorized before Colciencias) and from the Observatories of crimes, which should be inter-institutional, crossing databases and auditing them.
In Medellín, for example, the Information System for Security and Coexistence was created in 2008 to support the design and execution of local public policy decisions in the areas of security and governance. It is composed of a highly qualified interdisciplinary team in areas as diverse as systems engineering, geographic information systems management, criminology, political science, economics, sociology, and law, among others.
- The policy against drug trafficking, like all security and defense policy, should be of the state and not of the government; because it is very difficult to achieve sustainability and measure results when every four years approaches, objectives, programs, plans, projects and strategies are being changed. For example, children and young people who should have special attention to prevent consumption and linkage to criminal structures; many times they initiate processes that are interrupted with changes of government, and do not last long enough to be able to measure their effectiveness (as has happened with such promising programs as Parceros, Jóvenes R’ or Códigos Azules)
- Security and justice are an inseparable binomial, since all crime, whether it is drug trafficking, terrorism, corruption or any other, is part of the cost-benefit analysis, and a country with levels of impunity above 90%, as is the case in Colombia, is a breeding ground for crime. A judicial system is required that is prompt, effective, efficient, transparent, accessible and capable of adapting to the rapid changes in criminal phenomena.
These are some first points. In the next columns, I will specifically deal with issues of micro-trafficking, glyphosate fumigation or asset laundering, with a call for public debate for the construction of a policy that will allow us to control this scourge that is the fuel for all criminal structures in the country.
Fortunately, on December 16, 2020, the Senate of the Republic installed the Accidental Commission for the Follow-up of the Advancement of Public Policies and Actions in the Fight against Drug Trafficking and Associated Illicit Activities.
Paola Holguín is a Colombian senator, and journalist from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, graduate of the Master’s Degree in Political Studies with emphasis on economics and development from the same university, and graduate of the Master’s Degree in Security and National Defense from the Escuela Superior de Guerra. @PaolaHolguin.