So my friend Anna, a fellow Seed-er, recently blogged about the relationship between the drug industry here and drug production in the North. Anna recently graduated from Trinity Western University with a degree in International Studies and has also been to Bible college, worked in Bolivia, and is generally a really cool person. She’s also very inciteful and a great blogger. Here’s some of the text from her blog– you can see the full version by going to http://thellamadiaries.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/drug-drugs-drugs/.
I was walking home from the park the other day reflecting with my friend Larisa about the conversations we both had before coming to Colombia with friends and family. A number of times, I was told to watch out for drug traffickers, or, jokingly told that I could come back to Canada rich if I participated in drug production.
The stereotype of Colombia as a country of drug traffickers and armed actors is widely held. However, after being here for the past two and a half months and repeatedly hearing about the laws of supply and demand that comprise the global drug trade, I feel like it is just as easy, and just as valid, to assume that those in North America making those comments are the ones who fit the stereotype of a typical consumer of Colombia drugs.
Of course, just as not every Colombia is involved in the drug trade, so not every North American is a consumer of drugs. However, for every person in Colombia, and Mexico, and Central America, who plays a role in the illicit drug industry, there is a person in the global north who plays a corresponding role as a consumer of that product. The law of the market demands it. After all, 90% of the cocaine produced in Colombia is consumed in the United States. In fact, two-thirds of the illicit drugs produced in the world are consumed in the United States! How does, or should, this impact drug policy in North America and here in Colombia?
Drug violence and related deaths are growing, not only in Colombia and in Mexico, but all throughout Central America. The war on drugs, including an undiminished demand in the north, continues to have a very negative impact on the most vulnerable members of Colombian society. (As well, you never know where the money will actually go, as this story about Plan Colombia broken by the Washington Post this week reveals).
Watch this Witness for Peace video to learn more about the impact of Plan Colombia here in Colombia:
I really like this video because it begins by stating that the devastating impacts of drugs can be felt by both Colombians and North Americans. In the “War on Drugs”, there are no winners and new policies must be adopted on either side. The video also highlights the fact that for many Colombian campesinos, coca growing is not a choice, but often the only option available to feed families and ensure survival.
However, the impact of a violent war on drugs is not only felt in Colombia. According to a June report by the Global Commission on Drugs, anti-drug policy has fuelled organised crime, cost taxpayers millions of dollars and caused thousands of deaths. Drug use around the world has actually increased: opiates by 35% worldwide from 1998 to 2008, cocaine by 27%, and cannabis by 8.5%.
What role does advocacy play? This past week has been political advocacy week, and we have had rich and exhausting discussions on the potential within our group, the communities we will work with, and our communities at home, for advocacy. It was amazing to spend time with people from the MCC Washington Office and the Latin American Advocacy Office. Check out Adrienne’s amazing blog to learn more about advocacy that MCC is involved with throughout the region. We also looked at links that could be made with MCC Ottawa, particularly where mining justice is concerned. It’s exciting to see what we will possibly be doing throughout these two years, and more when we return home!
Peace on the journey. Will write next from Medellin (I get there in 3 days and I have a ROOMMATE!! )