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Why Colombia Should Legalize Coca And Leave Cocaine To Others

Coca leaf is part of the traditional fare of Andean people. So it is 'absurd' and wasteful for Colombia to ban its cultivation to hinder cocaine production.

Counter-narcotics Police Raid in Colombia
Counter-narcotics Police Raid in Colombia
Santiago Villa


BOGOTÁ — While the world decides on whether or not to legalize cocaine — which would be a necessary condition (though not the only one) for Colombia's transition toward peace — we might start with a more modest and less risky step in our own country: Legalizing coca leaf.

If coca leaf were legalized in Colombia, those costly, inane and absurd efforts to reduce its harvest could be redirected toward attacking cocaine production.

Fighting drug trafficking is an idiotic and useless activity that drains our resources and senselessly sacrifices the lives of our policemen and soldiers. It is also true that cocaine is not going to be accepted any time soon. There is a lack of political resolve on this right now, because those who suffer the worst consequences of the ban are a bunch of producing, and developing, countries.

When First World countries decide to allow the regulated and open consumption of cocaine (as it's happening with marijuana), they will find ways of producing their own cocaine, as Germany did in the 19th century, importing coca leaves from South America and processing them into cocaine in laboratories.

We shall be left out of the business and observe — like an abandoned lover trying to get a peek through the door — how all our efforts and sacrifices to protect the health of users in the First World were in vain. Not only will they continue taking drugs, but it is the First World, not us, which will make a fortune from it. But let us return to our point here, which is legalizing coca farming.

Instead of criminalizing farmers who do not cultivate a harmful product but a plant that has given nutrition to indigenous people in South America for centuries, all effort should be focused on seeking out laboratories, routes, bank accounts and money laundering businesses.

Fighting drug trafficking is an idiotic and useless activity

Remember, the coca leaf is not cocaine but one of its components, alongside acetone, sulfuric acid, gasoline and other items. Nobody would think of outlawing sulfuric acid to fight cocaine production, so why do it with coca leaves?

If this happens, it is because it is easier to find and fumigate plantations than control other substances. The institutions fighting drug trafficking need to gauge the success of their efforts in numbers, and seemingly it is less dangerous and costly to reduce the numbers of cultivations than those of labs.

But if coca were legalized, its production could take place in fields, thus limiting deforestation. Forests are now used to hide the crops. And it might even be easier to monitor sales and find the labs, which the prohibition mentality sees as the "real problem."

Perhaps prices might even drop enough to make planting coca leaves no more attractive than other crops. That clearly would not happen in outlying areas, where coca is cultivated for the absence of road infrastructure. Obviously, there are complications. Selling your coca to drug dealers would not be legal, just as it is not legal to sell them other components. The restriction would still leave the door open to criminalizing producers and does not resolve the problem of how to protect farmers from the war on drugs.

It is a complex issue, beyond the scope of this column.

My proposal is based on the premise that it is not just impossible to end cocaine production and trafficking in Colombia, but even to minimize its scale. The only thing we can do is to choose which sections of the population we wish to set aside from a senseless war. Senseless because, sooner or later, it will end through legalization, which will leave us standing like the idiot victims of a story we could control — but we refuse to do so.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

How Vulnerable Are The Russians In Crimea?

Ukraine has stepped up attacks on the occupied Crimean peninsula, and Russia is doing all within its power to deny how vulnerable it has become.

Photograph of the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters with smoke rising above it after a Ukrainian missile strike.

September 22, 2023, Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia: Smoke rises over the Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters after a Ukrainian missile strike.

Kyrylo Danylchenko

This article was updated Sept. 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m.

Russian authorities are making a concerted effort to downplay and even deny the recent missile strikes in Russia-occupied Crimea.

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Media coverage in Russia of these events has been intentionally subdued, with top military spokesperson Igor Konashenkov offering no response to an attack on Russian Black Sea Fleet headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, or the alleged downing last week of Russian Su-24 aircraft by Ukrainian Air Defense.

The response from this and other strikes on the Crimean peninsula and surrounding waters of the Black Sea has alternated between complete silence and propagating falsehoods. One notable example of the latter was the claim that the Russian headquarters building of the Black Sea fleet that was hit Friday was empty and that the multiple explosions were mere routine training exercises.

Ukraine claimed on Monday that the attack killed Admiral Viktor Sokolov, the commander of Russia's Black Sea Fleet. "After the strike on the headquarters of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, 34 officers died, including the commander of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Another 105 occupiers were wounded. The headquarters building cannot be restored," the Ukrainian special forces said via Telegram.

But Sokolov was seen on state television on Tuesday, just one day after Ukraine claimed he'd been killed. The Russian Defense Ministry released footage of the admiral partaking in a video conference with top admirals and chiefs, including Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, though there was no verification of the date of the event.

Moscow has been similarly obtuse following other reports of missiles strikes this month on Crimea. Russian authorities have declared that all missiles have been intercepted by a submarine and a structure called "VDK Minsk", which itself was severely damaged following a Ukrainian airstrike on Sept. 13. The Russians likewise dismissed reports of a fire at the headquarters of the Black Sea Fleet, attributing it to a mundane explosion caused by swamp gas.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has refrained from commenting on the military situation in Crimea and elsewhere, continuing to repeat that everything is “proceeding as planned.”

Why is Crimea such a touchy topic? And why is it proving to be so hard to defend?

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