Pact against the Hydra 

Héctor Olimpo Espinosa

Sucre Governor, Colombia

I bring you news from a country that, sadly, could be one with the biggest authority to talk about the issue discussed in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals Summit. 

In Colombia, we have gone through all kinds of violence, from the cultural shock that the conquerors' arrival meant to the accentuation of an armed conflict that confronted paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug traffickers. All of this while going through the political violence that ended up exterminating party supporters and leaders in many regions. 

According to the Truth Commission, between 1985 and 2018, there were at least 800,000 homicides registered in Colombia, which is like eliminating Guiana’s, Butan’s or Luxembourg’s populations.

But victims of forced displacement ascended to 7.7 million, as if, overnight, all habitants in Nicaragua, El Salvador or Uruguay had had to flee from their houses to seek refuge in other territories.

Some sociological assumption says that societies produce a true leader every 50 years; between 1987 and 1995, in our country, we allowed ourselves the murder of five presidential candidates, not to speak of the 160 social leaders that have fallen throughout the last two years. 

We have tried everything: the strengthening of military actions, the civil society empowerment, about twenty peace processes… but yet we are still learning the lessons and trying, as Martin Luther King, to raise the principle of love in the centre of no-violence. 

Our painful reality could be no different to other many regions if we stick to the 2019 homicide rate: while the global indicator was 6.1 per 100 100,000 inhabitants, the African one was 13 and the Latin American one was 17.2.

These cold statistics, mediate, at the time what has happened in Colombia, a cocktail of circumstances that many of us and you locate, as part of a generation of successive violence, wrapped by feelings of pessimism or uneasiness of our society, every time closer to anxiety, stress and depression. 

And I want to stop myself, precisely in Latin America, our region, only to leave some reflections that must turn the alarms on and promote effective actions from this important forum. 

Our region represents only 8% of the global population. Nevertheless, 44% of global homicides are registered here- and to a great extent, this high criminality and violence rate has its origin in inequality, social exclusion and lack of opportunities. 

Teenagers and young people are getting close to these groups of drug traffickers and criminals in searching for opportunities to generate income, recognition, respect, protection and a sense of belonging. Something that, unfortunately, they do not get in any other way, not even with governments. 

In other ruthless ways, there are disturbing factors that are generally gravitated by political ambition or political ambition, resulting in armed groups, terrorists, drug trafficking mafias or criminal gangs, not entering into each country's semantics.

Let’s put the phenomenon in its fair measure: here there is drug trafficking and we do not face gangs, but organizations, as criminal offences, far from being marginal, have made criminality a sort of Greek mythology Hydra of Lerna: when we cut a head, other two appear. 

I don’t want to come into the debate of transnational fault; I won’t even exclude the responsibilities of countries to which we have contributed from our own circumstances to the violent atmosphere of the region.

We are in a purely repressive focus. Here the basis is that poverty, drugs, repression and violence are a real-time bomb for the whole region. 

That is why my invitation is to focus each State’s action on listening to young people, to general a dialogue process that leads to inclusion policies sustainable in time. 

In the beautiful department that God has allowed me to govern these last four years, we are already doing it. The “Sucre Listens Strategy”, through which we have achieved an in-depth intervention, takes away drugs from thousands of people and from drug trafficking organizations. 

Today we can talk about girls and boys that thanks to this strategy are managers and multipliers of peace and coexistence.

The key is in opportunities. 

That is why, I insist, the biggest challenge Latin America has today is to overcome violence, drugs and youth problems. It is more than an issue of repression; an opportunity issue for a population that duplicates unemployment rates in relation to the general population. 

It is there, in those small or big cities, where two-thirds of humanity will live in 2050. There, where rulers are barely performing tasks promoted by central governments. 

Life and also death are decided there. There we can calmly lay down or with the creed in our mouths, without this being an optional dilemma. There they come, as winter winds, the rumours of knives, bullets or bombs, before they accomplish the mission of ending with hope. 

In that sense, we must give life to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) mentioned: number 11, which intends to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable and number 16that seeks peace and justice with the strengthening of our institutions. Insecurity cyphers, at least, do not predict an optimistic route for these Goals, but we must try it with a global pact that international organizations, governments and companies commit to.

The illusion might not be eaten, as the veteran colonel in Gabriel García Márquez’s novel claimed, but it always nourishes.

And ours for a better world must necessarily go through the streets and alleys and the reasons that haunt their tranquillity.

We have to understand that, if consuming nations do not seriously assume control and prevention of demand for hallucinogenic drugs that multiply per ten the previous value chain, every effort will be in vain. There is no SDG that is worth it if we do not eliminate violence. The main task to address is the one to preserve integrity, dignity and hope. Therefore, life.

We must understand at last, that as serious as the terrorist violence that validly worries some represented societies in this magna organization, it is the criminal violence the one that ends with dreams in our streets. 

And in the end, how to kill the Hydra.

Through a silent, consistent, coherent and effective revolution. With a lot of determination from local and regional governments. We must overcome the damaging effects that repression and prohibitions have left in our territory. A little bit more than 100 years of declared war gains drugs have left more violence and more consumption. More young victims and victimizers.

Without participating in the legalization debate and its complexities and recognizing the failure of what until now national governments and international organizations have governed, regional and local governments have to take the lead.

Integrate us in a collective fight to bring back hope to our youth. Take them away from the hands of violence. Promote more availability of health opportunities and protective environments. More family, more culture, more sport. 

Listen, dialogue, and give psychosocial assistance, including economy and politics. Protect, and characterize the youth population, prioritize it in all levels of State action. Take urgent decisions, articulate us, invest and involve us all so with all facts we show our young people that we really care about them.


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