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August 25, 2001

Narco News 2001

Colombia Congress

Debates Legalizing

"Prohibition is Narco's Greatest Ally"

- Senator Vivian Morales

Reports from Comunidad magazines, El Colombiano, El Nacional, AP (Spanish) and EFE agencies...

...translated by The Narco News Bulletin

From Comunidad magazines
Thursday, August 23, 2001

The debate over drug legalization opens in Colombia

By Associated Press (in Spanish)

Congress has opened the debate over the legalization of drugs, but the government of president Andres Pastrana warned that this initiative can not be undertaken unilaterally by Colombia.

Interior Minister Armando Estrada Villa said that the legislation to legalize the production, distribution and consumption of drugs, under a monopoly by the Colombia government, is not viable at this moment.

"Legalization would pit us alone against the world," Estrada said in the Senate last night, recalling that Colombia has signed international agreements to combat drug trafficking.

Senator Vivian Morales, sponsor of the bill, said that her objective is to "create political deeds to open a debate about legalization because the prohibitionist alternative is not the solution for Colombia."

The legalization bill is accompanied by another bill to suspend the aerial fumigation of coca and poppy crops in order to avoid environmental damages and exonerate peasant and indigenous farmers that have subsistence level farms.

From El Colombiano
Medellín, August 23, 2001

Distant positions over legalization of narcotics

By Octavio Gómez V. Medellín

Two sides, without common ground, were drawn between Congress and the government on the theme of narcotics: One side proposes legalizing their production, distribution and consumption and the other, headed by the government, defends its combat through repressive means.

The new debate, coming out of the polemic over the aerial fumigation of illicit crops, began on Thursday when, in Cartagena, in the Andean Assembly, the candidate of the Social and Political Front, Luis Eduardo Garzon, proposed that "the best way to end this problem and the war it has brought us is to legalize drugs."

In the same sense, but with a specific goal, the Independent Senator Viviane Morales announced in front of the entire Senate on Tuesday the presentation of a bill to permit legalization and that also would place the government in charge of the production, distribution and sale of narcotics.

The moment she ended her presentation, the Interior Minister Armando Estrada Villa took the podium to characterize the proposal as "inconvenient and harmful," because the government must comply with its international deals against the traffic and consumption of drugs "and this would leave us alone against the world." Estrada Villa recalled the agreements signed in the United Nations and the Organization of American States that fixed the policies of prohibition of the consumption of drugs and combat against narco-trafficking.

In the same tenor, Senator Claudia Blum said that legalization can only come out of a "grand international agreement." She said that the prestige of the Congress obliges it to bury initiatives like that of her colleague Morales "that have political-electoral goals."

The surprise, however, was delivered on Friday by the president of the National Conservative Board, Carlos Holguin Sardi, who said the country should construct a "national agreement" to legalize drugs and that the initiative should be coordinated with other Andean nations and the European Union, although he recognized that "it is a very large task."

"The world believes that repression is the better way to fight against this plague," he said, advising that the real policy would be to convert it into a problem of public health.

From El Nacional
Caracas, Venezuela, August 22, 2001

International Diplomacy

Legislation on the production, distribution and consumption

Senator Vivian Morales, who proposed the law, argued that "prohibition is the great ally of the narco-traffickers"

From AP and EFE agencies

A bill to legalize the production, distribution and consumption of drugs was presented by Senator Vivian Morales, in moments during which there is a wide debate that questions the programs of erradication of illicit crops through aerial fumigation. "It's about legalization under a monopoly by the government," said Morales, a Liberal Party member, before presenting her bill to the secretary of the Senate.

Another bill to suspend the fumigation of coca and poppy crops and exonerate small-scale cultivators from criminal penalties will also be presented this week by Senators Juan Manuel Ospina and Rafael Orduz. "This is a much wider project because it goes beyond the eradication of crops through fumigation," said Morales. "I don't know if this bill has support in Congress, but it is right because prohibition is the great ally of the narco-traffickers," she added.

Ospina, of the Conservative Party that controls the government, said that his bill doesn't seek legalization, but rather to solve the problem of the fumigations with glyphosate that affect the environment, health and food crops of the farmers. "Our bill only seeks to suspend the fumigations because they are crazy and have not solved the problem of the growing of the crops," he added. Ospina said that it is also important to "decriminalize" the small coca growers.

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Opening Statement

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Which Plan? Which Colombia?