Former Colombian President says Duterte is repeating his mistakes

Cesar Gaviria, former president of Colombia from 1990 to 1994, has sent a message to President Rodrigo Duterte about his war on illegal drugs through an opinion piece he wrote for New York Times. According to the former head of state, the war against drugs cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies solely.

Former Colombian President says Duterte is repeating his mistakes
Photo Credit: Facebook/Presidential Communications/
Gaviria, who was personally involved in taking down Pablo Escobar, the most notorious drug trafficker, said his government failed to eradicate drug production, trafficking as well as consumption in his country despite the use of force. Moreover, Gaviria’s heavy-handed approach to drugs created new problems as drugs and crime spread into neighboring countries.

According to Gaviria, solving the drug menace involves decreasing drug supply and demand through improving public health and safety, strengthening anti-corruption measures as well as investing in sustainable development.

“We also believe that the smartest pathway to tackling drugs is decriminalizing consumption and ensuring that governments regulate certain drugs, including for medical and recreational purposes,” Gaviria added.

Gaviria believes that in order to win the fight against drugs, the government must address not just crime but also other aspects like human rights, public health and economic development. When severe penalties and extrajudicial violence against users are applied, it becomes almost impossible for them to find treatment, Gaviria wrote.

“The polls suggest that Mr. Duterte’s war on drugs is equally popular. But he will find that it is unwinnable. I also discovered that the human costs were enormous. We could not win the war on drugs through killing petty criminals and addicts. We started making positive impacts only when we changed tack, designating drugs as a social problem and not a military one.”

Aside from serving as the President of Colombia, Gaviria was the Secretary General of the Organization of American States from 1994 to 2004. During his term as president, Gaviria led the fight against the Cali drug cartel as well as different guerrilla factions.

--Mini, The Summit Express

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