Ex-Colombian President Cesar Gaviria to Duterte on War vs Drugs: “You are Repeating my Mistakes”

“You are repeating my mistakes.” – This is the message of former Colombian President César Gaviria to President Rodrigo Duterte on the latter’s intensified war vs illegal drugs. According to him, using force is not solution to stop drug pushers and users in the Philippines, and that he (Duterte) should look at it as social problem of the country.

“Illegal drugs are a matter of national security, but the war against them cannot be won by armed forces and law enforcement agencies alone. Throwing more soldiers and police at the drug users is not just a waste of money but also can actually make the problem worse.” Gaviria wrote in his open letter, published at The New York Times, Tuesday, February 7.

“Not only did we fail to eradicate drug production, trafficking and consumption in Colombia, but we also pushed drugs and crime into neighboring countries. And we created new problems. Tens of thousands of people were slaughtered in our antidrug crusade. Many of our brightest politicians, judges, police officers and journalists were assassinated.” He added.

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“After the killing of a South Korean businessman, Mr. Duterte seemed as if he might be closer to realizing this. But bringing the army in to fight the drug war, as he now suggests, would also be disastrous. The fight against drugs has to be balanced so that it does not infringe on the rights and well-being of citizens.” The ex-Colombian president said further.

“We could not win the war on drugs through killing petty criminals and addicts. We started making positive impacts only when we changed tack, designating drugs as a social problem and not a military one.” Gaviria noted, who became the president of Colombia from 1990 to 1994, and was involved in taking down international drug trafficker Pablo Escobar.

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As of posting, President Duterte has not yet responded to Gaviria’s comment. But in his earlier speech, he emphasized that he never instructed the Philippine National Police (PNP) to kill drug suspects if they do not fight back, or the lives of the policemen are in danger. But recently, the president ordered the PNP to end its so-called Oplan Tokhang.