Federico Ríos
Colombia -
October 15, 2020

Colombia: What’s behind the War on Drugs

Colombian photographer Federico Ríos has always been uneasy about inequality in Colombia.“More than the hunger of the moment, I was interested in the future projection: What happen to the people who have no money? What do you do when you don’t have money? How do you manage it?”. He asked himself. 

“I began to think about that and I found a lot of things, but above all:  war and drugs, two things closely linked in Colombia” he says. His pictures try to reflect this reality: there are images of illegal plantations, armed men, militarized routes, children carrying bags heavier than their own bodies. 

The State, says Ríos, only appears in the form of soldiers who carries out the so-called “war on drugs”, something that he records in some of his images, which show the army coming on a helicopter at a coca plantation with long weapons. 

In one of the photos, a soldier sticks a shovel into the ground and the other hugs the plant with all his body to uproot it. With these images, he says, he seeks to have “a wider range of view” and “to oscillate between the different positions of the same war”. 

“I was on the side of the bandits who shoot at the police and are afraid of the police, and hold a grudge against them. I was also on the side of the policemen who responded, and I find almost the same life but with a uniform. It’s just as scary and some times just as boring: they’re sitting waiting with their hand on the gun and they don’t want the crooks to show up, they only want to go home at six pm”, he related. 

“It looks to me that the images work as a contradiction that is almost hilarious when viewed in context. Think about how long it might take to a soldier to uproot a plant, then he checks the number of hectares on which coca is grown in Colombia, and think about how many years it would take that every soldier of the Colombian Army tears the coca by hand. Is absurd”. 

The ineffective strategy of “war” brings with it what Ríos calls “the moralist ghost”. Thus it seems thaht “it is wrong to smoke marijuana in front of your aunts, but your aunts, secretly, give you alcohol when you turn ten years old”, he says. 

Part of his work can be seen on the  Drogas – Políticas – Violencias. platform.

cocaine  /  Colombia  /  DPV  /  Federico Ríos
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