Weirder than satire in Colombia

Shocking! Some Colombian drug lords are trying to claim the reduced punishment promised to right-wing terrorists.

Sometimes I wonder whether the publisher of The Onion has figured out a way to hack the New York Times website. Today’s story about the cocaine lords of Colombia and the paramilitaries obviously belongs in a satire paper and not a real one.

Colombia is plagued by three kinds of organized wrongdoers, in addition to the ordinary criminals that are a burden on any country: the quasi-Marxist FARC guerilla organization, which like so many operations that started out as political insurgencies has degenerated into pretty much a pure extortion racket; the paramilitaries, who maintain a reign of terror on behalf of the landowners; and the cocaine barons.

(If you were really picky, you might add to the catalogue of organized malefactors the landowners who pay the paras to keep the peasants down, the army that works with the paras, and the elected officials who ignore it all, but no one is talking about prosecuting them.)

According to today’s story, the Uribe administration, which is completely in the pocket of the landowners, has proposed a deal under which the paramilitary leadership would get off with a slap on the wrist. (If there’s been any objection to this from the U.S., which has properly labeled the paras “terrorists,” the story doesn’t mention it. Under Plan Colombia, about $3.3 billion dollars of your money has gone — so far — to support the Colombian military, which works hand in glove with the paras.)

But that’s not the bizarre part; that’s mere routine background.

The Onion-like bit of the story is that some of the cocaine lords have decided to try to get a piece of the deal by posing as paramilitary leaders. \

And officials in Colombia are soberly considering the problem that some of the people who are trying to escape punishment for drug-dealing by claiming to be drug-dealers who are also mass murderers aren’t telling the truth. They’re fibbing. They never actually varied their business activities by leading a squad of armed men into a village whose leadership was suspected of supporting the FARC, rounding up the locals in the village church, and slaughtering them, while the Colombian army stood by to make sure that no rescue was possible.

Not at all. The just sold cocaine, which of course is much worse then selling cocaine while organizing massacres. There seems to be general agreement that it would be a terrible thing if drug dealers were granted the partial amnesty intended for terrorists.

And — this is the Onion touch — the reporter writes as if this were all the most reasonable thing in the world.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact:

2 thoughts on “Weirder than satire in Colombia”

  1. Colombia Round-Up

    The Times has several reports on Colombia worth reading over the past few days. Yesterday, Juan Forero wrote about drug dealers attempting to link themselves with the right-wing terrorist AUC in an effort to gain leniency for themselves as part

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