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Colombia’s first leftist president declares ‘the war on drugs has failed’

Colombia’s first left-wing president declared “the war on drugs a failure” when he was sworn in on Sunday.

Ustavo Petro, a former member of Colombia’s M-19 guerrilla group, pledged to fight inequality and bring peace to a country long plagued by bloody feuds between the government, drug traffickers and rebels.

Mr Petro won the June presidential election by defeating conservative parties that offered moderate changes to the pro-market economy but failed to engage with voters frustrated by rising poverty and violence against human rights leaders and environmental groups in rural areas .

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Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro, left, hugs Vice President Francia Marquez after taking the oath of office in Bogota (Fernando Vergara/AP)

On Sunday, he said Colombia was getting a “second chance” to fight violence and poverty, and vowed his government would implement economic policies aimed at ending long-standing inequalities and ensuring “solidarity” with the country’s most vulnerable .

The new president said he was ready to begin peace talks with armed groups across the country and called on the United States and other developed nations to change drug policies, which focus on banning substances like cocaine and violent conflicts in Colombia and other Latin American countries American Nations.

“It’s time for a new international convention that accepts that the war on drugs has failed,” he said.

“Of course peace is possible. But it depends on replacing current drug policies with strong policies that discourage use in developed societies.”

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Supporters of President Gustavo Petro celebrate as he takes the oath of office during his inauguration ceremony (Ariana Cubillos/AP)

Mr Petro is part of a growing group of left-wing politicians and political misfits who have won elections in Latin America since the pandemic began, hurting incumbents struggling with its economic aftershocks.

The ex-rebel’s victory was also exceptional for Colombia, where voters have traditionally been reluctant to support left-wing politicians, who have often been accused of being lenient on crime or allying with the guerrillas.

A 2016 peace deal between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia diverted voters’ focus away from violent conflicts in rural areas and pushed issues such as poverty and corruption to the fore, boosting the popularity of left-wing parties in national elections.

However, smaller rebel groups such as the National Liberation Army and the Gulf Clan continue to fight over drug smuggling routes, illegal gold mines and other resources abandoned by the FARC.

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Colombian voters have historically been reluctant to support left-wing politicians, who have often been accused of being lenient with crime or affiliated with guerrillas (Ariana Cubillos/AP).

Mr Petro, 62, has called the US-led anti-drug policy a failure but also said he would like to work “on an equal footing” with Washington, build programs to tackle climate change or bring infrastructure to rural areas where many farmers say coca leaves are the only viable crop.

He has also forged alliances with environmentalists during his presidential campaign, promising to transform Colombia into a “global powerhouse for life” by slowing deforestation and reducing the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

He said Colombia would stop issuing new oil exploration licenses and ban fracking projects, even though the oil industry accounts for almost 50% of the country’s legal exports. He plans to fund social spending with an £8.3billion-a-year tax reform that would increase taxes on the wealthy and scrap tax breaks for businesses.

https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/colombias-first-leftist-president-declares-the-war-on-drugs-has-failed-41896148.html Colombia’s first leftist president declares ‘the war on drugs has failed’

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