Juanes: Legalizing Drugs the Only Way Out for Colombia

Juan Esteban Aristizábal – better known as Juanes, the biggest male pop star in Colombia if not all of Latin America – calls for drug legalization in an interview with the Catalonian newspaper El Periodico today. A translation of and some brief comments follow…
--On several occasions you have commented that in Colombia, no one knows anymore who is with the guerrillas, the drug traffickers, or the paramilitary. What kind of future do you see for your country?

I want to be optimistic, as the majority of Colombians are. There has been a war going on for more than forty years and I think the only real solution to the problem is for them to legalize drugs. Because drugs are what generate the money to buy all the weapons and what gives so much support to the paramilitary guerrillas [sic]. It is a very complicated issue. There is also a problem going into the postwar period, given that there is a faction of the paramilitaries that want to reinsert themselves into society, and, in order to do that, they need work. The same thing happens with the soldiers.

In the last decade – especially since President Álvaro Uribe, also from Juanes’ hometown of Medellín, came into power – most of the once-lively debate on drug policy in Colombia has disappeared from public view. Uribe claims his war strategy will end the cocaine trade “by 2019,” and any who dare to speak the l-word are labeled as being pro-narco. (Uribe’s own family, of course, has done quite well thanks in no small part to their narco connections.)

I (and probably many Colombians) would take issue with singer’s inability to differentiate between the actors in Colombia’s civil conflict despite his recognition of its “complexity” (“paramilitary guerrilla” is an oxymoron). The problems that prohibition and the war on drugs bring to Colombia are also much deeper than the fact that drug trafficking provides money for guns, especially given that the conflict is older than the cocaine boom. But this is a good start and a welcome voice. It remains to be seen if Juanes will be so outspoken about this back in Colombia – using his high profile to bring the issue back to into the spotlight – or if he only speaks his mind to media from the other side of the ocean. On the other hand, maybe it’s the Colombian and U.S. media that aren’t asking the right questions.

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About Dan Feder

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I was a member of the Narco News team in various capacities, from webmaster to Editor-in-Chief, from 2002-2008. Since 2006 I have also been a member of the International Peace Observatory, which performs human rights accompaniment for Colombian campesino organizations in conflict zones. I am now living in Boston and working as a website developer for DigitalAid, Inc.