Colombia, South Africa share knowledge to fight illegal drug trade
Supplied by Monash South Africa
Hosted by Monash South Africa, an intensive conference facilitated in partnership with the Government of Colombia and the Randburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry, saw in-depth discussions and information sharing regarding the illicit drug problem being faced by Colombia, South Africa and numerous other countries.
Professor Anna-Mart van Wyk, Executive Dean, Faculty of Social and Health Sciences, Monash South Africa opened discussions by elaborating on the importance of learning from the government of Colombia about the positive strides they have made in fighting and eradicating the use, abuse and misuse of illicit drugs.
She continued by emphasising that drug-related issues don’t affect Colombia in isolation, but rather affect every country around the world. It leads to the destruction of families as well as the destruction of wellbeing and that is notwithstanding the high-level impact it has on the economy, public health, development and other aspects of society.
Van Wyk added that she hoped that this conference would be a catalyst for close collaboration with other countries to address these concerns in a rigorous manner.
Colombia and South Africa have many things in common, as they are both developing countries, both countries are diverse in terms of their cultures and they have an acute problem regarding illicit drug use, drug trafficking and drug dealing.
Humans consume various forms of drugs on a daily basis, natural, legal and illegal, but the worldwide problem shows that 5% of adults are using illegal and damaging drugs. Of these, 83 million people use cannabis, 22 million people are experimenting with or actively taking ecstasy, 18 million people use heroine (considered the most dangerous drug) and 17 million people use cocaine.
These shocking statistics are further emphasised by the fact that Europe and the United Kingdom are struggling with a heroine pandemic and Europe is faced with 100 drug-related deaths per day.
There are currently 740 new synthetic psychoactive substances. Numerous countries across all regions are part of the chain of production, dealing, trafficking and consumption and it is therefore a shared responsibility. The further cocaine travels from the source of production, the higher the price is per kilogram. This indicates that crop farmers are earning below the poverty rate for the coca they are growing.
There has been a significant transformation with regards to drug trafficking in Colombia over the past 48 years. It was discussed during the event that the first roots of drug trafficking in Colombia were seen in 1970, with Pablo Escobar’s drug cartel supplying drugs during the period of 1980 to 1995 with the Peace Agreement being put in place in 2017.
“The period of 1980 to 1995 was a very dark and difficult time in Colombia, where Escobar’s cartel would offer people $2 million for the head of policeman. Many feared for their lives," explained Dr Martha Paredas, Deputy Director of Strategy and Analysis of the Directorate of Drugs and Related Activities, Ministry of Justice and Law of the Republic of Colombia.
“The Peace Agreement gives us hope that the drug trafficking will be brought to an end and that the problem will be controlled. The peace process is never an easy process in any parts of the world and there is a lot of work that needs to be done. This costs money and funding is always important, however, Colombia will also look at using part of their national budget to fund peace projects,” said Paredas.
The Colombian government wants to share this, one of their primary aims, to fight against drug dealing and drug trafficking, to South Africa.
“I don’t know of any drug dealers or drug lords who have not killed or any that have built something good that aids positively impacts society. They are only focused on their own selfish gain,” says Lieutenant Colonel José James Roa Castañeda, Head of Area of Eradication of Illicit Crops of the National Police of Colombia.
“Many forget that Colombia is a beautiful country, with so much to offer, whether it be the excellent sportsmen and women, music artists, world-famous coffee or Nobel Prize awardees. The country has so much to offer other than what it is known for. We have come a long way in the past 20 years. We have been able to successfully train and expand professionals in the field of tracking illicit drugs nationally, thanks to international governments, allowing us to bring drug trafficking under control. The police and all armed forces are working together as a supportive unit, and it needs to be this way in every country in order to eradicate drug trafficking. During 2017 the Colombian government confiscated 435 tons of illicit drugs, resulting in the elimination of 72% of productivity,” says Castañeda.
$35 million in profit can be made by a drug dealer on an annual basis and to stop this from happening Colombia is improving their strategies.
“The task of the National Police of Colombia is to detect crops and hope that we can improve all our efforts of eradication with the support of countries like South Africa," concluded Castañeda.