Now first and foremost, this is intended as a reaction to the popular Netflix show, “Narcos,” and not some political pop culture-propaganda (yes, I made that term up) conjured to get attention or money from any group or whatnot.
So in other words, I watched “Narcos” and it made me realize a few things about the current war on drugs, because to be honest, you could really see a lot of similarities between what happened in 1980s Colombia and modern-day Philippines. Just not with narco-terrorism because Colombia really had it bad, but more on the issue about extra-judicial killings, American/DEA involvement, and corruption from the higher-ups.
For those who are not familiar with the show, “Narcos” is based on the infamous drug lord and leader of the Medellin cartel, Pablo Escobar. Before I watched this show, I am already familiar with the story of Escobar because I once saw a documentary about him on Cable TV (and somehow, the rooftop chasing footage was stuck in my head since then). When I heard that Netflix did a retelling of his story, I decided to take a look – and in no time, I was hooked!
So the Medellin Cartel is not the only drug cartel in Colombia, but they are the biggest and most powerful one back then because they produce and supply most of the Cocaine that gets trafficked (shipped) into the U.S.
Just a few observations in the show:
- It is very violent and brutal.
- Even though it is based on a real person, some events/characters are exaggerated.
And more importantly, these are the personal realizations I got as to why any war against drugs is unwinnable:
First and foremost, it is an underground business with its own economic set-up (and money TALKS really WELL).
To put it straight, the death of a drug lord does not eliminate the drug business. Escobar is long dead, but the Cocaine business is still alive and well.
This is because in the drug business, you also have a few rivals here and there. Escobar for one has the Cali Cartel as its main rival. This cartel actually spread the drug business outside Colombia (e.g. Mexico).
It is not a black and white thing.
These drug lords have families that knew about the business but opted to turn a blind eye because it is the very thing that is making their lives comfortable.
Also, you cannot really hold the rest of the family accountable, especially in Escobar’s case wherein his wife and children did not take any direct part in running their Cocaine business. In fact, they really had it hard when Escobar went into hiding.
Declaring a war against drugs or drug lords only make it worse.
Like any other business man, drug lords would also protect their business at any cost. When the government went tough on Escobar, the guy retaliated by storming and burning the Supreme Court, blowing up several streets and an airplane, and killed judges, government officials and innocent people along the way.
The violence and continuing drug business made me understand why many critics of the current Philippine president encourage a more holistic approach to the drug problem. Going tough and violent might seem to work at first glance, but in the long-term, it actually grows into a much bigger problem (and it does not even solve the drug problem in the first place).
I think one of the most effective way to tackle the drug problem better is to strengthen education and economic opportunities for citizens. High poverty rates is a good breeding ground for drug businesses to grow because many people are willing to deal drugs just to put food on the table. So the focus should be more on lessening (or even eliminating) poverty.
This is a slow solution, but it is more likely to result in a lasting and permanent remedy for the drug problem.