Colombia Never a ‘Narco-Economy’: Academic

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Drug trafficking has made only a minor contribution to Colombia‘s economy, according to one Bogota academic, who says the illegal trade has never constituted more than four percent of the country’s GDP.

Alejandro Gaviria, dean of the economics department at the Universidad de los Andes, spoke to La Silla Vacia about a new book he has co-edited, “Anti-drug Policies in Colombia: Successes, Failures, and Follies.”

According to Gaviria, the country has never been a “narco-economy,” and the drug trafficking business now makes up only some 2.5 percent of Colombia’s GDP. However, he says that the narcotics trade is a business which puts large revenues in the hands of a small group of people, giving them the power to corrupt institutions and infiltrate politics, as happened in the 1990s.

The dean criticized those who use the drug trade to explain economic phenomena, stating that it has been fairly constant throughout the years and so cannot be used to understand short-term events like recessions or exchange rate fluctuations.

Gaviria also had criticism for the U.S.-backed Plan Colombia, saying that it limits the Bogota’s autonomy in anti-drug efforts, especially at a time when the drug problem is increasingly a regional issue: “The geography of the business is changing. It is no longer a Colombian problem: its a problem of all the region, of Mexico, the Central American countries, of Argentina, of Brazil.”

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