Colombia: The Cost Of 50 Years Of Failed Drug Policies

Colombia, not the United States, has been the chief victim of drug trafficking and failed anti-narcotics policies. It has a right, if not a duty, to seek other ways of curbing a chain of actions that have corrupted its society.

Workers and teachers unions protesting against former president Ivan duque in Bogota, Colombia in November 2020
Workers and teachers unions protesting against former president Ivan duque in Bogota, Colombia in November 2020
Juan Manuel Ospina


BOGOTÁ — Historically, Colombia has not been indifferent to the reality of that disastrous enterprise called the war on drugs. It was a hypocritical and, as we can see now, utterly useless endeavor launched by U.S. President Richard Nixon. More than 50 years later, it's a universal example of political stupidity and clumsiness. The only thing Colombia has observed is that drugs have advanced unchecked and diversified in terms of products and customers. The marijuana dear to hippies is often hailed today as a miracle remedy. Magic mushrooms, already used in traditional cultures, gave way to a "line" of coke and heroin for executive types and partygoers, and more recently to chemical products made in the main consumer markets, which are the industrialized countries.

It has been a half century of growth, both in consumption and in the violence striking the weakest links in the production chain: coca cultivators and small-time vendors. Meanwhile, the multi-billion dollar business run by global criminal organizations continues, benefiting a few sectors in this world from deregulation in movements of money, goods and even people.

Instead of ending the business, it fertilizes and stimulates it with higher profit margins

Simple economic logic shows that the profitability of this business is directly proportional to the intensity of repressive actions undertaken in this so-called war. Clearly, instead of ending the business, it fertilizes and stimulates it with higher profit margins. An absurd scenario has been conjured up: of a phoney war waged in producing countries, and financed directly by the governments and indirectly by users in consumer countries, especially the United States. The narrative concocted to justify this is based on a warped and false understanding of wicked Hispanics preying on innocent Americans. While President Donald Trump took this narrative to its ridiculous extreme, it is an underlying theme of U.S. and even global policies.

Brazilian police stand guard over 20 tonnes of confiscated drugs that were set to be incinerated — Photo: Ernesto Carriuso/NurPhoto/ZUMA

Undoubtedly, the violence and corruption that have harmed the fabric of Colombian society and distorted its economy into a merciless, predatory form of capitalism may be sourced mainly in drugs. Narcotics have become a significant though not the only obstacle to Colombians living together in a democracy, in a country battered by decades of violence and its inevitable companion, corruption. The worst of it is that we're no longer just world champions in production as drug use increases inside the country, threatening public health and fueling a spike in urban crime.

Despite being one of its chief victims, a change in drug policy does not depend on Colombia. But we have a duty to denounce the "war on drugs' and back international initiatives to change current policies. Colombia not only has the right but an ethical obligation to do this. Authorities should view the rise in internal consumption, especially among young people, as a threat to public health and promote campaigns to educate youth on what drug taking means for society, and crime, violence and corruption in Colombia. It is about the type of country we want to leave behind, for nobody else will do it for us.

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In Argentina, A Visit To World's Highest Solar Energy Park

With loans and solar panels from China, the massive solar park has been opened a year and is already powering the surrounding areas. Now the Chinese supplier is pushing for an expansion.

960,000 solar panels have been installed at the Cauchari park

Silvia Naishtat

CAUCHARI — Driving across the border with Chile into the northwest Argentine department of Susques, you may spot what looks like a black mass in the distance. Arriving at a 4,000-meter altitude in the municipality of Cauchari, what comes into view instead is an assembly of 960,000 solar panels. It is the world's highest photovoltaic (PV) park, which is also the second biggest solar energy facility in Latin America, after Mexico's Aguascalientes plant.

Spread over 800 hectares in an arid landscape, the Cauchari park has been operating for a year, and has so far turned sunshine into 315 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the local provincial capital of Jujuy through the national grid.

It has also generated some $50 million for the province, which Governor Gerardo Morales has allocated to building 239 schools.

Abundant sunshine, low temperatures

The physicist Martín Albornoz says Cauchari, which means "link to the sun," is exposed to the best solar radiation anywhere. The area has 260 days of sunshine, with no smog and relatively low temperatures, which helps keep the panels in optimal conditions.

Its construction began with a loan of more than $331 million from China's Eximbank, which allowed the purchase of panels made in Shanghai. They arrived in Buenos Aires in 2,500 containers and were later trucked a considerable distance to the site in Cauchari . This was a titanic project that required 1,200 builders and 10-ton cranes, but will save some 780,000 tons of CO2 emissions a year.

It is now run by 60 technicians. Its panels, with a 25-year guarantee, follow the sun's path and are cleaned twice a year. The plant is expected to have a service life of 40 years. Its choice of location was based on power lines traced in the 1990s to export power to Chile, now fed by the park.

Chinese engineers working in an office at the Cauchari park


Chinese want to expand

The plant belongs to the public-sector firm Jemse (Jujuy Energía y Minería), created in 2011 by the province's then governor Eduardo Fellner. Jemse's president, Felipe Albornoz, says that once Chinese credits are repaid in 20 years, Cauchari will earn the province $600 million.

The Argentine Energy ministry must now decide on the park's proposed expansion. The Chinese would pay in $200 million, which will help install 400,000 additional panels and generate enough power for the entire province of Jujuy.

The park's CEO, Guillermo Hoerth, observes that state policies are key to turning Jujuy into a green province. "We must change the production model. The world is rapidly cutting fossil fuel emissions. This is a great opportunity," Hoerth says.

The province's energy chief, Mario Pizarro, says in turn that Susques and three other provincial districts are already self-sufficient with clean energy, and three other districts would soon follow.

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