After half a century, the war on drugs is still won by drugs. From that premise, former Minister Rafael Pardo Rueda, head of the post-conflict during the Government of Juan Manuel Santos, who on Wednesday launched The endless war (Aguilar), his most recent book on the fight against drugs that Colombia has faced for decades.
Any balance shows that the cost to the country has been enormous and the benefit practically nil, agreed the three experts who presented and discussed the book: the rector of the University of Los Andes and former Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria, the former presidential adviser of communications Camilo Granada and the academic Daniel Mejía, former secretary of security of Bogotá. In the first row of the busy event in the library of the Modern Gymnasium of Bogotá was Pardo himself, who overcame a delicate illness in the final stretch of the previous Government, and former president Santos (2010-2018). Among the audience he was accompanied by several of his former Cabinet companions.
“Since the early 1970s, when marijuana began to be cultivated and exported from the Caribbean coast, until now, already in the 21st century, Colombian life has been marked in many ways by illegal narcotics trafficking,” says Pardo from the earliest pages of The endless war. The cartels appear, disappear and reappear, the bosses are captured and replaced, and aside from the enormous efforts of the authorities, coca continues to flow to the United States. “No country has had more successes and more failures than Colombia,” he says. “Drugs, their consumption, their traffic and their production affect all areas of our society,” he laments in his detailed diagnosis, which raises, based on his experience, a new vision to address the drug problem.
Colombia remains by far the world‘s leading producer of cocaine – with 169,000 hectares of illicit crops at the end of 2018 – and the United States as the first consumer. The book comes at a time when President Iván Duque, a critic of the peace agreement that has set the axis of his foreign policy in Washington, proposes the return of the controversial fumigation with glyphosate, a potentially carcinogenic herbicide. The president has taken a turn in the anti-narcotics strategy with respect to his predecessor. While Santos advocated changing the focus on the global fight against drug trafficking, to address it as a matter of human rights and public health, Duque has opted for a tougher line by favoring forced eradication to the detriment of voluntary substitution agreed with communities of farmers
Economist by profession, Pardo (Bogotá, 1953) has been in times of war and in times of peace a notable protagonist of Colombian politics during his long public life. As a counselor for peace, he entered into negotiations with various guerrilla groups, including the M-19, and during the Government of César Gaviria (1990-1994) he was the first civilian appointed Minister of Defense in the country. From that portfolio, he created the “search block” in charge of dismantling the Medellin cartel in times of the frontal war against the large drug trafficking groups.
He was also a senator, director of the Liberal Party, presidential candidate in the 2010 elections, labor minister and mayor in charge of Bogotá. He assumed as a presidential advisor for the post-conflict since a year before Santos sealed, at the end of 2016, the historic peace agreement with the former FARC, now unarmed and converted into a political party with representation in Congress. He has also authored several books, among which The history of wars, and this year will launch another title on the peace process with the M-19.