The initiatives and rhetoric of the first five months of Gustavo Petro’s government have clearly indicated that one of the key objectives of the Humane Colombia party is to redirect Colombia’s foreign policy away from the “North Star” doctrine (Respice Polum) and toward the Respice Similia doctrine, as defined by president Alfonso López Michelsen back in the 1970s when the Colombian government pursued an autonomous position toward the emerging U.S.-driven War on Drugs. Petro’s move away from the dominant status quo parallels the initiative of López Michelsen, insisting, as Michelsen did, that the problem of narcotics trafficking must be tackled from the angle of consumption and demand and not production and supply.
The return to the short-lived sovereignty-based doctrine of four decades ago sheds light on the subordinate role defended by all other past governments, with the exception of Michelsen’s, as well as the willingness of the current government to redefine their relationship with the United States, the Western-dominated global market system, its multilateral institutions and power structures, and the ultimate pursuit of new partnerships, regionally and globally, in order to establish a foreign policy that will guarantee peace for Colombians while at the same time securing a more sustainable and self-sufficient regional economic development model. Within this initiative, the redefinition of Colombia’s role in the War on Drugs has become a key agenda item and a key pillar of Petro’s foreign policy. Without this policy shift the country and the world, says Petro, will not be able to achieve peace; this objective will not be reached “without social, economic, and environmental justice.”
From his perspective, and the perspective of many Colombians, the War on Drugs must be terminated because it has only led to death, violence, human rights abuses, economic degradation, political corruption, and environmental catastrophes. This policy, imposed on Colombians by foreign interests wanting to turn their back on their own internal social and health problem, has impeded the country from achieving peace and internal political stability. Forty plus years of failed policy initiatives and billions of dollars wasted is all there is to show for this policy initiative. The “irrational war against drugs” pushed by the United States “has failed.”