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War on drugs debated at Day of Dialogue

By Caitlin Egan, Staff Writer

Dr. William Schaefer and Rafael Coicué were featured speakers at the Day of Dialogue discussion "Drug Wars: North and South" on October 28.

Schaefer, a professor at the University, spoke about the approach the United States has used to fight the drug trade and alternatives the United States could look into.

Coicué, a member of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, Columbia, spoke about his experience in Columbia and his ideas about how to get rid of drug-trafficking. He was translated by Mario Murillo, Chair of the Department of Radio, Television and Film.

According to Schaefer, the United States spends about "$50 billion a year on fighting drugs" and arrests about 1.8 million people a year for drugs. He said that this looks like the United States may be doing well, but we are not. "From 1968 to 2009, drugs are cheaper to buy, more available, and there is no noticeable decline in the usage of the American population," he said.

He said that our war on drugs is not working. It has only created more organized crime, such as mafias, and economic powerhouses within these mafias. Drug-trafficking has worldwide produced approximately $850 billion a year, which is about 40 to 50 percent of the organized crime revenue, according to Schaefer.

After agreeing thatColumbian drug cartels would not be able to operate or be successful, without support from the government, Coicué said that government officials will go after smaller drug-trafficking groups instead of the larger ones. Both pointed to corruption in the government and police force of Columbia.

Coicué said that in Columbia 80 percent of the aid is directed to military and security services. As a result, there is more poverty, displacement, and people losing their land. The land they lose are put into the hands of the transnational corporations involved in drug-trafficking. Coicué proposed that the United States send aid not to the military or security, but to social programs in Columbia.

Schaefer said that he may sound "pessimistic because he's not sure if it [the drug war] is a war that can be won." If it can be won, changes are needed. He suggested finding allies for the United States, groups that are willing to fight drug-trafficking. He also suggested legalizing some drugs in order to reduce crime dramatically.

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