There’s a new installment in President Trump’s running series of alienating America’s allies. This time his attention was on Colombia, considered by some to be the United States’ strongest partner in Latin America.
The surprising comments (part of Trump’s even longer-running series of shocking and ill-advised statements) came earlier this week and were directed at Colombia’s cocaine exports. Trump was apparently upset with the increase in cocaine production coming from the country, and said he “strongly considered” decertifying Colombia as a partner in the war on drugs.
The U.S. conducts an annual review of its war on drugs, evaluating the commitment and successes of partner nations. Trump apparently felt Colombia wasn’t holding up their end of the bargain after “cocaine production capacity climbed to 700 tonnes annually, the highest figures for at least a decade,” according to Reuters.
Colombia responded by saying they have taken extensive and effective steps in the anti-drug effort, claiming to have confiscated over 1,600 tons of cocaine and dismantled key production operations.
“Without a doubt, Colombia is the country that has had the biggest success and has most combatted drugs,” the Colombian government said in a statement. “Nobody has to threaten us to confront this challenge.”
Although he didn’t change Colombia’s status for now, Trump’s comments not only threaten diplomatic relations, but millions of dollars in anti-trafficking funding shared by the two countries. The partnership has even extended beyond narcotics in recent years, with the U.S. also helping Colombia reach a peace agreement with the rebel group, FARC.
If irony is your thing, this same week Vice President Mike Pence held a joint press conference with Colombia’s leader, President Juan Manuel Santos, at the White House, during which Pence said, “I’m here to deliver a very simple message to you and to the people of this great nation: The United States stands with Colombia. Colombia has no better partner and friend than the United States of America.”
While mixed signals coming out of the White House are certainly nothing new, this latest is nevertheless disheartening. But during media commentary of this whole ordeal, many people seem to have overlooked one key point: the war on drugs isn’t working anyway.
Advocates against the militaristic campaign have been saying for decades the tactics simply aren’t having their intended effect. As mentioned earlier, cocaine production in Colombia is at its highest in a decade, and you can’t swing an empty pill bottle without hitting someone talking about the opioid crisis. Remember, the war on drugs was started by President Nixon. In 1971. We’re still using the same tactics we did back then, and we’re still seeing the same results.
However our country’s relationship with Colombia proceeds, it’s pretty clear that won’t be the only thing preventing progress. If we truly want to help people, we need to consider alternative methods and offer the supportive services and encouragement people need to enter treatment and embrace recovery.