Former Colombian president addresses drug war, economy

By Isabella Bravo, Staff Writer

Vivian Catten left Colombia to attend the U in 1994, the last year of President César Gaviria’s administration.

“He was the president that I grew up with,” said Catten, who now lives in Salt Lake City after graduating eight years ago. “I could never have access to him in Colombia, so it’s exciting to see someone who is so important to my country here,” said Catten. “I believe in drug prevention instead of jail. That’s what I graduated in, in health science and promotion.”

The Tanner Humanities Center brought Gaviria to the U to speak Thursday on the role of international leaders in shaping economic and public policy.

Gaviria said many Latin American countries have well-established economic regulation policies that have prevented economic crises from hitting as hard.

“The financial system in Colombia is intact,” Gaviria said. “We lived through the crisis so many times, we learned that regulation works.”

Chuck Emmett, a student in political science and sociology who attended Gaviria’s speech, said he was surprised to see that a lot of Latin American countries haven’t been hit as hard by the economic crisis.

Although Gaviria focused his speech on the role of leadership in helping to bring economies out of the recession rippling through international markets, many audience members were more interested in Gaviria’s outlook on drug policies.

“If you have someone who uses drugs, it’s better to put him on the medical treatment than putting him in jail,” Gaviria said. “We need to start to do something about consumption, to help addicts to abandon their addiction. Prevention is much cheaper than jail.”

Gaviria recommended giving people who struggle with drug addiction and who seek help in rehabilitation centers small doses of drugs to help wean them off their addiction.

He also emphasized coordination between international leaders and economic regulation in dealing with recession in the global economy.

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Correction: In the original version of this article, it was incorrectly stated that the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics brought Colombian President César Gaviria to the U for a lecture. The Tanner Humanities Center brought Gaviria to the U.