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Bulletin Issue2 July?September 2001


If the call for legalisation of drugs made on 4th July by the former British Ambassador to Colombia Sir Keith Morris had been made when he was still in his post, it would have started a political storm with many voices from the establishment calling for his resignation.

If the call for legalisation of drugs made on 4th July by the former British Ambassador to Colombia Sir Keith Morris had been made when he was still in his post, it would have started a political storm with many voices from the establishment calling for his resignation.

If the call for legalisation of drugs made on 4th July by the former British Ambassador to Colombia Sir Keith Morris had been made when he was still in his post, it would have started a political storm with many voices from the establishment calling for his resignation.


Like politicians, diplomats are used to speaking with one voice when they are in office, but with another when they are out of office. The former envoy’s call has been overshadowed by the current debate about legalisation of cannabis that is being fuelled by the campaign for the Tory Leadership with Michael Portillo speaking in favour of legalisation. Other former ministers like Peter Lilley (Conservative Social Security and the Home Office); Lord Baker (Conservative) and Lord Jenkins (Labour) have also spoken in favour of decriminalisation.

Admitting to have been in touch with cannabis in the past has become fashionable.
When the shadow Home Office Secretary Anne Widdecombe tried to get hard on drugs during the Conservative Party conference, seven of her own opposition front benchers declared to having smoked cannabis! Some months earlier, when she was in charge of the government drugs policy supporting Plan Colombia, Mo Mowlan admitted to having been in contact with it when she was young.

The problem with the legalisation of hard drugs, cocaine, heroine, etc is that judging by the pace taken by the debate about cannabis, it is going to take at least 20 to 30 years before the politicians start to admitting to having consumed them. But right now their illegality is being used as an excuse by the USA and UK to intervene in Colombia’s internal conflict. Yet in reality, and with only a few exceptions, Colombia is the weakest link in the big empire of drugs business that benefits international drug barons, international financial centres like Wall Street, the City of London, Milan etc, where the profits are laundered. Not to mention the North American and European chemical industries that supply the substances that are an important ingredient of cocaine, nor other sectors like the media empires that are the result of drugs money investments. Such is the power of the blood money coming from drugs that even the US government has organised operations of distribution like the one that originated the Iran-Contras scandal during the l980s. More recently, the same president that started the aggression against Colombia in the name of drugs, Bill Clinton, took advantage of the last day and privilege of his presidency to concede pardon to the convicted drugs trafficker Carlos Vignali with whom his family has close links.

The importance of what the former British envoy to Bogotá says comes from the fact that he knows very well what is going on in Colombia. He was there for 4 years ( l990-94) when the Cusiana oil field started given huge profits to BP. He hosted the visits of those in charge of drugs policies in the UK, Home Secretaries Kenneth Clark and Michael Howard, and the then Prime Minister John Major. So for all these reasons Morris has enough experience to confirm that the drugs war is "unwinnable and counter-productive".


If criminalisation creates huge profits, legalisation creates fortunes too, as demonstrated with the US experience of the end of alcohol prohibition in l933, when the likes of Joe Kennedy Sr (Kennedy dynasty) saw the opportunity to became rich and respectable. Later would come tobacco, betting and gaming in l96l and now the turn may be for cannabis whose world leading producer is the United States (California) as a result of the war that they carried out against Colombia in the l970s and 80s with intervention, fumigations and thousands of deaths.

The growth of the drugs business in Colombia has gone ahead with the participation and support of the upper classes, military authorities and politicians. Former President Turbay Ayala opened the gates for the development of the traffic. President Belisario Betancourt was seen many times at Pablo Escobar infamous ranch, Napoles. He later declared the first war against drugs. In truth this was nothing else than a simple declaration. The traffickers became even stronger in the governments of Barco, Gaviria and Samper. Samper’s election campaign was financed by the Cali Cartel in l998.

The current war against drugs in Colombia is the fifth in the last 20 years. From Bush the father to Bush the son the United States has been spending billions of dollars killing Colombians, destroying the environment, selling arms, corrupting politicians, damaging the economy and leading a propaganda war. In the meantime their people use more drugs, the drug business has become stronger and more profitable and those really responsible for the drugs trade can even promote the war in order to increase their profits.


What the drugs problem needs to be resolved is a genuine determination to resolve it. The best scenario would be that where the people won’t need to take drugs because they can live happily, but this cannot be achieved in a capitalist system that makes the people sick and gives them drugs as a way to perpetuate their domination. "… drug misuse is related to social deprivation, legalisation doesn’t increase addiction, poverty does…" wrote Danny Kushlick, the director of Transform, in a letter to the Guardian on 5th July.

Before, cannabis used to be smoked by our grandparents who knew the therapeutic benefits when combined with alcohol. They used it to rub swollen joints, alleviating the pain caused by arthritis. There is much evidence of the benefits that it may produce. But the powerful pharmaceutical industry dismisses these benefits, addressing mainly the damages that are caused to smokers. The industry ignores other alternatives like that proposed by the director of Action on Smoking and Health Clive Bates who suggests that cannabis might be sold as a tablet, vapour spray, tea or patch rather than in rolling forms. Alcohol and cigarettes cause more deaths each year than drugs. The same Labour government, that during the recent general election campaign lured the support of young voters sending text messages to their mobiles with the promise of extending the hours for consumption and selling of alcohol, has backed down from its liberal principles of some years ago. Labour says that it is ready to listen to arguments for legalising cannabis, but as the Home Secretary David Blunkett emphasised, " the Government would stick to its anti-drugs policy."

The problem is that wherever there is a demand for drugs there is going to be supply. Even if all the coca plantations in Colombia are destroyed the traffickers are going to switch production to somewhere else, maybe increasing their profits. Remember that first came LSD, then cannabis, then heroin, cocaine and now Ecstasy is taking over. The US are not going to bomb themselves because they are producing these drugs. They are not going to fumigate The Netherlands from which the first batches came. If there were a legalisation the money made should be invested in social and medical rehabilitation of drug-addicts, in campaigns against the use of drugs, showing for example all the damage that drugs cause, in the creation of job opportunities. Let’s not ignore the experience of Colombia where the education system has been financed by the state with the income resulting from the sale of alcohol.

The peasant coca growers should be helped to turn to other products for which they can receive a fair price. The minority of Colombians involved in trafficking should also contribute by ceasing their wrongdoing and turn themselves to something more rewarding for their lives, country and society. And the big powers should end all forms of intervention in other countries.

If politicians and leaders carry on with their policies of wild capitalism, war, criminalisation and prohibition, etc and they think that they are paramount to the human interest, then many people, innocents, consumers, traffickers are still going to die, the environment is going to be destroyed and maybe many years ahead when they try to resolve this matter it will be too late not only for the millions of people sacrificed in the interest of business and by political stupidity, but perhaps for the entire society. Coca is for our elder brothers, the indigenous people of Latin America, a sacred plant that was given by their gods to live in harmony with the environment. The evil drug called cocaine is only the result of the greed of some human beings that destroy other human beings by maintaining the conditions that make them dependant on drugs.

Maybe we all, not just vegetarians, should chew coca leaves free of the chemicals that made them into cocaine or the glysophate that make them so profitable for traffickers.

Alberto García

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