Things That Matter

Colombia Is Thinking About Legalizing and Subsidizing Its Immense Cocaine Industry

Photo: CARLOS JULIO MARTINEZ/AFP via Getty Images

The idea of the “War on Drugs” is shifting globally. Not only did America pass a record amount of legislation this past election regarding legalizing marijuana (and all drugs completely in Oregon), but other countries are taking steps to decriminalize drugs as well.

The most surprising country to take steps towards decriminalizing drugs is Colombia. Everyone knows that Colombia has a serious problem with cocaine trafficking and drug cartels. Colombia is estimated to export 90% of the world’s cocaine supply. And unfortunaely, Colombia decades-long War on Drugs is failing.

That’s why some politicians are suggesting that Colombia legalizes immense cocaine industry.

One politician in particular, Senator Iván Marulanda, is spearheading this fight. In an interview with Vice, Marulanda explained the reasoning behind his push for cocaine legalization as well as an outline of how Colombia can put the plan into action.

Marulanda is putting forward a bill that will legalize coca farming. The Colombian government would, in turn, completely buy the country’s entire stock of coca leaves. Per Marulanda, the state would supply the coca leaves to indigenous communities who have an ancestral relationship with the plant. These communities would create “foods, baking flour, medicinal products and drinks like tea”.

But above all: the state would produce cocaine and supply it to cocaine users.

The plan is ambitious, but Marulanda believes it could change everything for Colombia–a country that has been wracked by drug-related violence and deaths for decades.

“In Colombia, the personal consumption of cocaine is legal. It’s legal because of a court ruling that recognizes personal consumption as a human right,” Marulanda explained to Vice. “However, what we don’t have is the legal cocaine to meet that demand. Instead, we have consumers who are in contact with organized crime groups who supply them cocaine in local drug markets. It’s poor quality cocaine and it’s often mixed with unregulated substances. It’s everywhere: in our schools, in universities, in parks and bars. It’s in all these public spaces.”

Marulanda’s bill will attempt to legalize cocaine for medicinal purposes only. Users would go to their doctor for a prescription–mostly for pain-relief purposes.

Marulanda was also careful to outline the economic benefits of legalizing the cocaine industry in Colombia.

According to the senator, Colombia spends $1 billion annually trying to eradicate drugs from their country. In contrast, buying up all the coca leaves that coca farmers produce would only cost $680 million. Marulanda also insists that the farmers could “push the price up if they need to.”

Marulanda explained that the legalization of cocaine could diminish drug-related violence that is linked to cartels, but it could put a damper on the rampant deforestation that coca farmers wreak on Colombia’s land.

Because of the stigma of coca leave farming, coca farmers are forced to live in the shadows. “Usually, these farm families end up displacing themselves, deforesting new areas, and re-planting coca while they’re running from the authorities,” Marulanda explained. “Second, Colombia is destroying around 300,000 hectares of forest per year. It’s estimated that coca-growing families are responsible for 25 percent of that annual deforestation.”

The bottom line is: the old-school methods behind the “War on Drugs” are failing.

Marulanda believes that Colombia–as well as other countries–must reevaluate the way they’ve been approaching drug regulation.

“We’ve been going 40 years with a policy that costs billions of U.S. dollars with zero success and so much cost and destruction,” Marulanda said. “Let’s try out this other policy. Because something that hasn’t worked in the last 40 years is something that’s just not going to work.”

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Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

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Nicole Chapaval Advocates For More Latinas In Tech Through Teaching App Platzi

Courtesy of Apple

The gender disparity in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) jobs remains wide in Colombia. As of 2019, Colombian women hold 32.9 percent of all STEM jobs in the country.

Nicole Chapaval, the VP of education at Platzi, wants to get more women into STEM. As someone who found herself in tech, Chapaval understands what it takes for women to break into the industry.

Chapaval’s own passion for computer science started in her youth. Despite wanting her parents’ reservations about her career choice, she went to school to study software engineering.

“I learned how to code with Platzi. I was a student back in 2012 before I worked here,” she told mitú.

Platzi is a professional learning app targeting people ages 22 and older.

Photo courtesy of Apple

Instructors for the app are teaching livestream courses on programming, marketing, design, and business. The classes are available in English and Spanish.

Chapaval took an interest in content optimization practicing her coding on a personal blog while taking online courses. Starting out as a student advocate, the two founders of Platzi noticed her dedication and started to involve her more in the team.

As Platzi expanded, so did Chapaval’s job description.

Chapaval has been successful in her career. Yet, despite the success, she has seen the gender disparity firsthand. It has only further inspired Chavapal to work to get more women in their tech careers.

“One of my first jobs was in a company that was doing mobile applications and in this company there were 15 male developers and myself,” she says.

Wanting to engage with her male colleagues, Chapaval admitted to feeling weird when her enthusiasm was not reciprocated.

“I was always very extroverted and wanted to meet everyone [but] they didn’t want to talk with me,” she says.

Chapaval teaches 60 percent of computer sciences courses hoping to attract more women to the field.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I think that representation is very important. So I try to be very vocal and very present with everything that we do in social media and in content creation,” she says.

Whether it be attending company livestreams or podcasts, it is imperative for Chapaval to have women witness others in the field to show the possibilities they can achieve.

Prideful, she also amplifies the achievements of other Latinas in STEM, like that of Diana Trujillo. Yet, she still expresses a need for more women to get managerial roles.

“I am very proud of Trujillo,” she says. “She’s from my hometown and she was in the NASA project that launched the Perseverance Rover. These kinds of things are great!”

Thirty-six percent of Platzi‘s more than 1 million students are women and it is growing.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“That’s very low,” she says, “but we doubled that percentage from 2018 so we still have a long way to go.”

A key step needed to attract more students is accessibility, both financially and in content. Platzi, Chapaval mentions, offers free programming courses that aim to be accessible to those with low internet connection in all parts of Colombia and Latin America.

It’s not just about what you are learning as an individual, but also as a team or a group,” she says. “That also adds to the working ecosystem of Latin America.”

Regardless of gender, age, or background, Chapaval believes “education is very important if we want to break these blockers.”

In fact, two crucial skills she believes everyone should know is programming and English. “I like to say that both skills have to do with communications; communication with machines and with other people in the world,” she says.

In a time when remote jobs are pertinent due to the pandemic, having communication skills is a valuable asset for STEM careers in any country.

“Programming should be a basic skill that schools teach as well because it’s not only [beneficial] to be a developer,” Chapaval says. “It helps you understand how to solve problems in a logical way.”

Chapaval is grateful for her personal growth in STEM and hopes that Platzi can help others grow.

Photo courtesy of Apple

“I hope [students] can create what they dream of with the coding skills that they can get with us and can show it to the world,” she says.

“Latin America is a lovely region and a lot is happening here,” she says. “I hope that if this community can get to know each other and create the next big companies and big solutions for problems that we have right now, I would [be] fulfilled.”

As the gender disparity in STEM slowly expands, Chapaval continues to vouch for women to speak up and push through in the field.

Proudly Chapaval says, “Latinas are very extroverted, and the tech and software engineering world needs more extroverted people [like us] to add to their ecosystem.”

The App Store featured Platzi for Women’s History Month.

Read: She Came As A Teen From Colombia With Only $300 To Her Name, Now She’s a Director For NASA

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El Chapo’s Wife Turns Herself In After Being Charged With Drug Smuggling and Trying to Break Him Out of Jail

Things That Matter

El Chapo’s Wife Turns Herself In After Being Charged With Drug Smuggling and Trying to Break Him Out of Jail

Photo via Getty Images

They say art imitates life, but sometimes, it’s the other way around. Once in a while, the news seems like it’s simply replaying scenes from La Reina del Sur. Especially the latest update on El Chapo’s wife.

On Monday Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, turned herself into the United States FBI on charges of international drug trafficking.

The U.S. authorities are charging Coronel with helping Guzmán smuggle drugs across the border, break out of prison, and bribe corrupt officials. According to anonymous officials, the U.S. authorities have had their eye on her for a while now.

For years, El Chapo’s wife Emma Coronel has insisted that she had nothing to do with her husband’s illegal activities. Because she always maintained her innocence, the former teen beauty-queen was able to keep a high profile since her husband was imprisoned in 2019. She was active on social media, gave interviews to news outlets, and even appeared on a reality series.

Coronel was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Mexico near El Chapo’s “territory”.

Her father was a prominent member of El Chapo’s cartel, and according to experts, she “grew up with knowledge of the narcotics trafficking industry.” She married Guzmán when she was 18-years-old. He was 50. Her and Guzmán have 9-year-old twin daughters together. As of now, the girls’ whereabouts are unknown.

According to official documents, the FBI has evidence that Coronel was a liaison between El Chapo and his sons, “Los Chapitos” when they were planning his notorious prison escape in 2015. Coronel also stands accused of acting as a messenger and negotiator for payments to corrupt authorities.

As of now, people are speculating that Coronel turned herself in in exchange for leniency.

“Her attorney at sentencing is going to argue, ‘She took it upon herself to face charges,’ she didn’t make the government go out and arrest and extradite her,” an anonymous source told Vice. “She came out of Mexico. It would have been quite a process to get her extradited.”

According to reports, Colonel faces 10 years to life in prison, and a fine of up to $10 million USD.

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