The drug war has resulted in enormous costs for Colombia, which sees a lifting of trade barriers as one way to undermine the illegal drug trade, a journalist from the Latin American country says.
"Colombia wants different treatment for exporting our products and a freer access to the U.S. market." That includes such products as coffee, flowers, oil, manufactured leather goods and coal, said Enrique Santos, a columnist and member of the editorial board of the newspaper El Tiempo, during a Deseret News interview Wednesday.The journalist, who was accompanied to Utah by his wife, Jacqueline, was to address communication students and faculty Thursday at Brigham Young University.
With a daily circulation of 270,000 and 350,000 on Sunday, El Tiempo is the largest daily newspaper in the nation of some 30 million people. Bogota, where El Tiempo is published, has a population of about 5 million.
The Santos family is the majority shareholder in the privately owned publication, whose managing editor, Francisco Santos (Enrique Santos' cousin), was kidnapped six months ago and is still apparently being held by the notorious Medellin drug cartel.
Since the drug war began eight to 10 years ago, more than 20 journalists have been assassinated by the drug cartels. The press has become a prime target of drug traffickers, Santos said.
Although drug-related bombings and other attacks continue in Colombia, Santos said he believes that his government is slowly but surely getting an upper hand with the problem.
Although Pablo Escobar, the ringleader of the Medellin cartel, is still at large, three of his main associates have given themselves up or have been placed in prison in recent months, Santos said.
Santos said the lifting of trade barriers that inhibit international marketing of legitimate Colombian goods would provide ongoing strength for Colombia's economy. Despite the drug war and other problems, the Colombian economy has been surprisingly stable, he said.
Colombian President Cesar Gaviria met with President Bush on trade matters and to discuss the drug war and other matters Tuesday.
Santos said contradictory trade policies are a major stumbling block to Colombia getting on top of the drug war.
While the United States has pushed the Latin country for more initiatives to curtail the flow of drugs, Santos said it also spearheaded an international initiative that "undermined the international coffee pact. Colombia's main export is coffee, and Colombia will lose $400 million a year in revenue with the ending of the pact," he said.