Colombians Urge Drug Legalization

Colombians Urge Drug Legalization
Posted by FoM on September 16, 2000 at 06:51:24 PT
By Tim Naumetz, The Ottawa Citizen
Source: Ottawa Citizen
In a brave departure from official government policy, politicians from Colombia on a new forum of countries from North and South America have tabled a radical proposal to debate the legalization of narcotic drugs at the forum's founding session next year in Canada. "We believe the time has come to broach this subject," Julio Angel Restrepo, a Colombian congressman, told a steering committee planning the forum. "No country in our hemisphere can be considered immune from this scourge," said Mr. Restrepo, explaining that despite Colombia's war against cocaine and heroin producers and traffickers -- recently bolstered by $1.3 billion U.S. in American aid -- the illegal trade has ravaged his country and threatens to spread to other nations not yet heavily involved, such as Venezuela and Brazil. 
Mr. Restrepo expressed sympathy for Montreal reporter Michel Auger, who was shot this week in an apparent attack by members of organized crime. Like the other politicians on the forum, Mr. Restrepo does not reflect official policies of his government. The forum has the same membership list of 34 countries as the Organization of American States, but includes opposition as well as government politicians. The legalization of drugs as a way to end the violence and organized crime involved in the industry is considered a taboo subject by the Colombian government. Mr. Restrepo said the rugged geography of Colombia and other South American countries makes it virtually impossible to eradicate drug cultivation, while the vast profits at stake in producing cocaine and heroin and shipping them to North America have kept Colombia in a state of guerrilla warfare for 20 years. Left-wing guerrillas, as well as right-wing paramilitary units are funded by so-called "taxes" they levy on drug growers, said Mr. Restrepo. "What is certain is that if a truce cannot be reached, the government will only be able to defeat the guerrillas and paramilitaries by depriving them of their main source of funds -- the proceeds of drug trafficking," he told the steering committee, with members from Canada, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica and Grenada. "These are the reasons ... that lead me to propose to my colleagues at the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas that the topic of legalization of drugs, until now treated as taboo ... be explored. Legalization could mean depriving drug traffickers of the powerful economic ingredient that makes this illicit activity so lucrative." Colombian Senator Antonio Guerra, while backing Mr. Restrepo's proposal to debate legalization, said attempts to enforce laws against drug production and trafficking must continue. Liberal Senator Celine Hervieux-Payette, who along with Liberal MP Bill Graham of Toronto is a Canadian representative on the steering committee, expressed support for the debate and noted the Canadian Senate will soon begin hearings into drug legalization. More than 100 lawmakers from the Americas are expected to attend the forum's founding session next March in Ottawa. Topics to be discussed include the growth of democracy, poverty, the drug trade and organized crime. Published: September 16, 2000Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)Copyright: 2000 The Ottawa CitizenContact: letters Address: 1101 Baxter Rd.,Ottawa, Ontario, K2C 3M4Fax: 613-596-8522Website: Article:Legalize Hard Drugs, Colombians Tell Organization
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Post Comment

Name: Optional Password: 
Comment: [Please refrain from using profanity in your message]
Link URL: 
Link Title: