The Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the guerrilla group FARC in 2016, but violence and drug production have not decreased. Photo: Presidencia El Salvador, Flickr.


Sweden extends development cooperation with Colombia - no focus on the drug problem

Colombia has extensive problems with violence and organized crime, largely linked to international drug trafficking. The outside world is a direct contributor to these problems and in Sweden it is currently being debated whether bans are an effective drug policy. The Swedish government has extended its development cooperation with Colombia, but the serious threat posed by the illegal drug market is not mentioned in the strategy.

At the same time, large demonstrations are taking place in Colombia in protest against economic policy and corruption - at least there 27 people lost their lives and over 2 have been injured in the past month - the country is still struggling with its drug problem. As one of the few countries where the coca plant grows freely, Colombia has long been the world's largest cocaine producer and the outside world's demand for cocaine contributes to crime, violence and corruption in the country. The peace agreement in Colombia in 000 was historic as it contained an entire chapter only on how the drug problem would be solved, as it was considered as crucial as the ceasefire and social reforms to bring about peace.

The peace agreement was quickly criticized as the strategy against the drug problem was to eradicate the coca plants, a method that has previously failed. According to UN agencies against crime and drugs, UNODC, coca cultivation has not decreased since 2016 and the country's cocaine production, according to the latest information, has an estimated value of $ 1,9 billion per year.

Former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has long advocated the legalization of the drug market as the only way to curb the violence and corruption posed by the illegal drug trade. The peace agreement clearly stated that the possibilities for solving the drug problem in Colombia have major limitations as it is a transnational problem.

Colombia is one of the few countries in the world where the coca bush grows naturally. The country's cocaine production has an estimated value of $ 1,9 billion per year.
Photo: Mónica Orjuela, Agencia Prensa Rural, Flickr
The drug debate is also relevant in Sweden

As primarily a consumer country, the serious health consequences are often perceived to be the main drug problem in Sweden. Whether banning or decriminalization (not legalization) is the most effective policy to reduce the death toll among consumers was debated in SvD recently. Minister of Justice Morgan Johansson (S) expressed in SVT on 9 May a clear no to investigating the Swedish ban.

However, the problems that weigh on production countries such as Colombia can also be seen in Sweden. One investigation report from the police published on May 10 shows, in addition to huge amounts of drugs being brought into the country, that Serious criminals have connections to officials, lawyers, police and politicians. Many acts of violence have also been linked to drug trafficking.

It is clear that the problems of abuse, violence and corruption are global, but the more difficult it is to find a solution. The drug ban creates an illegal market. Legalization would entail a risk of increased consumption and more health damage, which is a new one investigation report from the Narcotics Policy Center points out, while it can not guarantee that organized crime is weakened.

Sweden extends cooperation with Colombia

On 6 May, the Swedish government adopted a strategy for regional cooperation with Latin America and extended existing development cooperation with some Latin American countries, including Colombia. Cooperation with Colombia takes place in areas such as human rights, the rule of law, gender equality, the environment and the climate. It is also mentioned that support for the implementation of the peace agreement is central, primarily within Sweden's areas of cooperation.

Increasing the presence in Colombia and Latin America is positive. Improved social conditions increase the wealth of the inhabitants and reduce the opportunities for criminal groups to recruit new members. But the drug problem is not mentioned in Sweden's strategy for Colombia, despite the fact that it is a central problem in the country and an important part of the peace agreement. 

The widespread violence, corruption and the great economic power of drug cartels will not disappear as long as the cocaine trade continues to bring in huge revenues. This problem also stands in the way of resolving the other parts of the peace agreement and the areas in which Sweden's co - operation strategy focuses. 

Drugs and social problems in Colombia

- Colombia is the world's largest cocaine producer. Only in a few countries in South America and in Indonesia do coca plants grow freely in the large quantities needed to produce the drug.

- The left-wing guerrilla group FARC grew out of dissatisfaction with the great inequality in the country. Over time, cocaine trafficking came to play a major role in the FARC's economy. The Colombian government signed a peace agreement with the FARC in 2016, which ended a 50-year-long civil war.

- Largely due to the civil war, the country has been characterized by violence, kidnappings and internally displaced persons. Colombia is still one of the countries in the world with the most internally displaced people. In recent years, however, people have had to flee due to organized crime that is not linked to the FARC guerrillas.

- The illegal drug economy is the largest part of the activities of organized crime. It continues to be a major problem in Colombia despite the FARC's decline.

- Interest in achieving the peace agreement has decreased in part due to the change of government in 2018. The current president Ivan Duque went to the polls with a promise to tear up parts of the peace agreement.

- Colombia still has large social differences and injustices. There are currently major protests against current President Ivan Duque's planned tax reforms that would affect workers' incomes, which have already been hit hard by the pandemic.

- On 6 May this year, Sweden adopted a new strategy for development cooperation with Colombia for 2021-2025, as a continuation of the previous strategy for 2016-2020, as well as a new regional strategy for Latin America. Sweden is already one of the largest donors to the UN's HR office in Colombia, which opened in 1996.

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