The man who hunted down the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar, former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, warned Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte Wednesday that he’s repeating his mistakes in his aggressive war on drugs.
“Throwing more soldiers and police at the drug users is not just a waste of money but also can actually make the problem worse,” Gaviria wrote in a New York Times opinion piece. “Locking up nonviolent offenders and drug users almost always backfires, instead strengthening organized crime … Trust me, I learned the hard way.”
Duterte immediately slammed the former president, calling him an "idiot."
Official figures say at least 5,882 people have been killed across the country since Duterte took office on June 30. Of that number, 2,041 drug suspects were killed during police operations from July to December, while another 3,841 were killed by unknown gunmen within a similar time period.
During his political campaign in mid-2016, Duterte, who has been compared to U.S. President Donald Trump, pledged to kill 100,000 criminals and dump so many in Manila Bay that the "fish will grow fat" from feeding on them.
Gaviria — who was president of Colombia from 1990 to 1994 — said using brute force in combating illegal drugs will just create more problems.
"Not only did we fail to eradicate drug production, trafficking and consumption in Colombia, but we also pushed drugs and crime into neighboring countries," he said.
Last October, Duterte himself said the country could expect about 20,000 or 30,000 more deaths in his administration's bloody war on drugs.