The Guardian | 2/16/2010 12:00:00 AM
Why the war on drugs in Colombia may never be won
Feb 16--Decades after Richard Nixon tried to end the trafficking of cocaine from Colombia, success seems as elusive as ever.
It has been cultivated on the slopes of the Andes since before the Incas, and invested with divine properties. When chewed, its leaves act as a mild stimulant and help overcome hunger, thirst and fatigue.
But these virtues do not alter the fact that having an ideal climate and terrain for coca – the raw ingredient of cocaine – has been a catastrophe for Colombia. The crop has wrought violence, narco-trafficking and corruption.
Divine or otherwise, coca has proved resilient, verging on indestructible, in withstanding the decades-old "war on drugs" declared by Richard Nixon and prosecuted by successive US presidents.
Military helicopters continue to scythe over treetops in the Colombian jungle and hundreds of millions of dollars are still poured into the fight – but there is a growing conviction that it cannot be won.
It may evolve and change shape, move from jungles to cities and from bloody battles to discreet bribes, but it will not end with a flag planted in the ground and victory declared.
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