In a speech with a high environmental content and with many criticisms of “power”, President Gustavo Petro made this Tuesday his first speech before the plenary session of the United Nations (UN).
His intervention was so harsh that the Colombian ambassador to the OAS, Luis Ernesto Vargas, said that after this Petro had graduated “as the great world leader by singing the truths in the United Nations”
(You can read: Gustavo Petro at the UN: the harshest phrases he mentioned in his speech)
The president, in a vehement tone, sentenced before the Assembly the “failure” of the fight against drugs: “The war against drugs has failed. Mortal consumption has increased, from soft drugs to harder ones; there has been a genocide on my continent and in my country, millions of people have been sentenced to prisons,” he said.
And, as if that were not enough, he added that this strategy is so erratic that it is responsible for the destruction of the Amazon. A scenario, he assures, critical for humanity due to the, moreover, “hypocritical” fight against climate change.
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He even left a provocative question hanging on stage: “What is more poisonous for human beings? Cocaine or coal and oil? And she replied: “The opinion of power has ordered that cocaine is poison and must be prosecuted so that it only causes minimal deaths by overdose, and more because of the mixtures caused by its ruled secrecy.”
To reverse this situation, the President invited the unity of the region “to defeat the irrational that torments our body.” If not, Petro predicted that after 40 years the war on drugs has lasted another 40 years, and the United States will see 2,800,000 young people die of overdoses from fentanyl, which “is not produced in our Latin America.” .
Precisely on drugs, in dialogue with Noticentro CM&, the president said last night that the world must move towards regulation. “Towards regulation, that’s the exact word,” he emphasized.
He pointed out that not so much towards total legalization, since many of these substances are absolutely destructive, but towards a different way of facing the problem: not with guns, as if it were a war, but as what it is, a disease.
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“Finish the mafias, get them out of the way, what is done is by lowering their price, but regulating it by the State in terms of consumption, in terms of medical presence in cases of addiction, in an enormous amount of money to prevent, to reduce the demand to the point that it becomes zero”, explained the head of state.
Petro’s speech before the UN was a different and “emotional” one, as several analysts told EL TIEMPO. “It may have sounded very lyrical, but there is no doubt that it has been consistent with its narrative since it won the elections,” says Jairo Libreros, an expert in political communication at the Externado de Colombia University.
Petro’s speech at the UN: what effects can it have?
These speeches, explains Libreros, have two effects. One external, which can be lost because there are so many leaders talking, and another internal. “Here, his message did come through clearly and he talked about what interests him, which is a new policy against drugs and another energy policy,” said the expert, who added that what Petro said is coherent and confrontational. “His idea of anti-drug public policy is life-saving and respectful of nature in Latin America, but clashes with the international community that consumes illicit substances,” says Libreros.
In his speech, the President mentioned the destruction of forests for which drug traffickers have been responsible (to grow one hectare of coca, four hectares of forest are deforested) and the poisoning of rivers due to the use of chemicals and gasoline in laboratories. where coca is processed Therefore, he emphasized that the culprit of drug addiction is not the jungle, “it is the irrationality of its world power.”
However, with this thesis, Petro puts things in a scenario in which responsibility is evaded, as analyst Sandra Borda argues. “The diagnosis of Petro’s speech at the United Nations may be partially correct, although I always tend to distance myself from the insistence on defining a victimizing global north and a victimized global south. The issue is always more complex than that,” she said.
For Borda, Petro’s words are very functional from the internal point of view because they feed the bases and vindicate them, the rhetoric excites them, but he does not see them “as the starting point of a global process where real solutions to the drug problem are created.” and the environment”.
Regarding what the president said on the drug issue, the spokeswoman for the United States Department of State in Spanish, Kristina Rosales, said in an interview with Caracol Radio that drug trafficking and security issues are priorities in the bilateral relationship.
He added that President Petro “is free to make calls or annotations in his speech; Regardless of that, our relationship with Colombia will continue to deal with these issues (…), as well as development in rural areas, trade investments, the environment, the climate, as well as the work that is being done to comply with the peace accords,” Rosales said.
In the national political sphere, the very varied reactions were immediate. Thus, for example, former conservative president Andrés Pastrana said that the president had declared himself at the UN “as the great defender of cocaine. He dismisses its effects on public health and despises the dead that, like the Supreme Court massacred by its M-19 for Pablo Escobar, are left by the mafias with whom power makes a pact today.”
And the senator of the Democratic Center Paloma Valencia, for her part, pointed out that “the poetic tone of President Petro’s speech was used to insert many lies, inaccuracies and exaggerations. She hinted at his desire to bring class hatred into international relations. He showed how simple he was in thinking about the great global problems”.
(You can read: “Petro’s speech was extraordinary and frank”: Claudia López and more reactions)
Regardless of the tone and expressions used, there are those who appreciate that Petro has brought to this stage the problem that has plunged Colombia into violence. “I am pleased that Colombia raises its voice to draw the world’s attention to models that must be reconsidered and that today require joint efforts,” says Senator Humberto de la Calle, referring to Petro’s assertion of the failure of drugs.
“Listen to Gustavo Petro. He spoke to the world in a profound, global, beautiful intervention in the sense that what is beautiful is life. If I had not supported Petro, today I would enthusiastically join his leadership,” tweeted Roy Barreras, president of the Senate.
The drama of the jungles
Before the UN, Petro also called for saving the Amazon jungle in its entirety with the resources that can be allocated worldwide. He stated that if the countries do not have the capacity to finance the fund for the revitalization of the forests, they could reduce the foreign debt to free up budget space and, with them, carry out the task of saving humanity and life on the planet.
“Only exchange debt for life, for nature. I propose and summon you to Latin America to do so, to dialogue to end the war. Do not pressure us to align ourselves in the fields of war. It is the hour of peace,” he said.
(You can read: Coal and oil at the level of cocaine, controversial comparison of Petro)
On previous occasions, the president has already spoken of creating a large fund to save the jungles. His idea is to have contributions from different countries for a billion dollars a year for about 20 years.
Although the example used of the drama that overwhelms the Amazon jungle today is shocking, recent information shows that the problem is more complex.
Indeed, although the planting of illicit crops is one of the factors responsible for deforestation in Colombia, this is only the third factor related to the loss of forests in the country. According to IDEAM, in 2021 the main reason for deforestation was to grab land, the second to develop extensive livestock and in third place are crops for illicit use.
Just trade debt for life, by nature. I propose and summon you to Latin America for it
Among the nine major deforestation centers seen in Colombia last year, coca cultivation appears in the Catatumbo, Putumayo and Nariño areas, while in the great deforestation arc of the Amazon jungle in areas such as the Yarí Savannahs, Bajo Caguán, Guaviare, the south of Meta and Mapiripán, where 51 percent of deforestation in 2021 was concentrated, the associated reasons were land grabbing, the development of extensive cattle ranching and the creation of roads.