Colombian President Gustavo Petro: ‘The war on drugs was a failure’

The war against drugs has killed more than a million people in Latin America without denting the power of drug trafficking mafias, Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro tells FRANCE 24 and RFI in a wide-ranging interview that also touches on the war in Ukraine, the climate emergency and the tentative peace process with the ELN rebel guerrilla in Colombia.

“The party currently in power in Washington is very much aware of the fact that the war on drugs was a failure,” said Petro, 62, who was elected president in June. “The figures speak for themselves: one million people have died in Latin America because of it, millions of people – in particular people of colour – are either drug users or are in American prisons.”

Colombia’s left-wing president said drug-trafficking mafias “are much more powerful” than in the days of notorious cartel leader Pablo Escobar. “They are armies that control entire regions within Latin America, they have states on their knees,” he added.

Touching on the war in Ukraine, Petro said “the best thing we can do is to take a step back and to champion peace,” calling on fellow Latin American leaders to unite in pushing for dialogue. Asked whether he agreed with Brazil’s Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva that Kyiv and Moscow shared the blame for the war, he added: “It’s almost as if there were good and bad invasions, but here we can see there are powers that be with their own interests, determining whether an invasion is good or bad, championing some and denigrating others.”


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