Drugs and the People's Will

When American drug czar Barry McCaffrey visited Colombia last October, the two-year freeze on top-level contacts between the United States and the world's foremost producer and exporter of cocaine finally came to an end. U.S.A Colombian relations had reached an all time low last March, when Washington "decertified" Colombia—meaning Bogota can no longer qualify for American aid in the war on drugs—for a second consecutive year, ostensibly for not doing enough to battle narcotraffickers. "Colombia is of tremendous importance to the United States in economic, political, and cultural terms," said McCaffrey, "but I must underscore that in the short term, our relationship must be determined by the drug issue."

Colombia has always been one of the most isolated countries in this hemisphere. The country is even divided internally by an incredible topography. A traveler crossing from one valley to another should not be surprised to find starkly different dialects spoken and traditions observed. Contraband has moved through Colombia since colonial times, and no government, much less one based in Lima, could hope to control the region.

The situation remains the same 400 years later, with constant clashes between divergent political and geographical realities in which the centralized government provokes continuing resentment in outlying regions. This anti- Bogota resistance has given the...

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