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Senator son of slain Colombian cartel fighter proposes drug legalization

Senator son of slain Colombian cartel fighter proposes drug legalization

A Colombian senator and son of a presidential candidate assassinated by deceased drug kingpin Pablo Escobar has called for a congressional debate on the taboo subject of drug legalization.
"The current repressive approach against drug trafficking hasn't worked despite the huge amounts of blood we Colombians have shed," Sen. Juan Manuel Galan, of the opposition Liberal Party, told The Associated Press on Thursday. "It's time to look at different options, together with other drug-production nations, as a way to break the back of the drug traffickers."
Any serious discussion of drug legalization has long been off-limits in Colombia, in part because the United States leans heavily on the Andean nation _ the world's largest supplier of cocaine _ to eliminate drug trafficking at its source. Colombia has received more than US$4 billion in mostly military U.S. aid since 2000 _ more than any country outside the Middle East.
Although politicians have backed legalization before, Galan's proposal for a congressional debate on the issue carries additional weight because of the high esteem in which Colombians hold his father, Luis Carlos Galan, who was shot and killed while campaigning in 1990 for the presidency.
The respected, charismatic candidate was all but assured victory when his assassination in Bogota was ordered by Escobar, head of the defunct Medellin cartel, as part of a campaign of terror to prevent his extradition to the United States, a move he feared that Galan would support if elected.
Escobar was killed in a shootout with police in 1993, but not before cartel assassins attacked scores of judges, an attorney general, Cabinet ministers, journalists and police. Hundreds of other innocent people died during bombings in Bogota and the western city of Medellin, but no attack shocked the nation more than the killing of Galan, now a martyr-like figure in the conflict.
Asked what his father would think about his openness to legalization, Juan Manuel Galan said: "I think after two decades, seeing the violent impact of drug trafficking, he would not be closed to new ideas about how to deliver a final deathblow to the drug traffickers."
While the United States is likely to oppose the discussion, Galan said, "Colombia has the moral authority to lead this debate at the international level."
New evidence has called into question the effectiveness of the aerial spraying of illegal coca crops, a linchpin of the U.S.-led anti-narcotics strategy.
Despite chemically eradicating a record 144,000 hectares (355,000 acres) of coca last year, the latest U.S. government survey found 26 percent more land dedicated to the plant used to make cocaine in 2005 than in the prior year.
"Two decades into the drug war we continue having illegal mafias that spread violence across the country, we continue having guerrillas, we continue having paramilitaries," said Galan, who has yet to receive his party's backing for the proposed debate. "And despite it all there's no real solution in sight to the problem."


Updated : 2021-06-14 01:14 GMT+08:00