Antwerp Open Vld alderman Erica Caluwaerts: “Are the millions confused about drugs still to be accounted for?” (Antwerp)

Antwerp Open Vld alderman Erica Caluwaerts: “Are the millions confused about drugs still to be accounted for?” (Antwerp)
Antwerp Open Vld alderman Erica Caluwaerts: “Are the millions confused about drugs still to be accounted for?” (Antwerp)

After Antwerp’s Vooruit alderman Tom Meeuws, Open Vld alderman Erica Caluwaerts is now also involved in the debate about the war on drugs. Unlike her Vooruit colleague, she does not attack Mayor Bart De Wever (N-VA) on his vision of the war on drugs. “Opinions are free”, says Caluwaerts, repeating the reaction that De Wever gave to Meeuws’s criticism. As a lawyer, her client base included the user, the young dealer and the top of the drug scene.

What has your experience taught you?

Caluwaerts: I saw a young man who went into psychosis from his drug use, young dealers who don’t use themselves but chose the big money and were blind to the consequences of their actions, boys who squandered their business talent in the drug environment. And I also know that the top of the drug trade does not care about punishment, because they parked their money abroad or invested it. Meanwhile, they continue their activities from prison or from a hotel room in Dubai.

On the other hand, there is a frustrated government that continues to lag behind. It costs a lot of money to take care of people in prison or in social services. Society does this to protect itself. That’s a choice. In the meantime, however, immense sums of money are being spent in the drug world, none of which flows back to the government.

The war on drugs costs too much money?

Everyone says that the war on drugs is unwinnable, meanwhile millions of euros are being pumped into the fight against drug crime. The call for even more money is loud. Just look at the Sky ECC investigation with the encrypted phones. It yielded a wealth of information, but the federal police don’t have enough people to process it all, so more people are needed.

Should the war on drugs be stopped?

We must dare to ask ourselves whether it is justified that we are pumping so many millions into this war. I have not heard anywhere that these efforts would have reduced the drug trade by 20 percent. The more we fight this battle, the scarcer drugs are likely to become and the more the price will rise. Some criminal organizations are already rubbing their hands. So we have to be careful not to make the criminals even richer with our policies.

What then is the alternative?

Take the war on drugs out of political discourse and taboo atmosphere. Look, drug organizations are actually businesses with an economic activity. Currently there is a parallel society where people avoid taxes, where there are no norms and values ​​and a human life is worth nothing.

It is important to sit down not only with drug experts, but also with financial experts. The taboo surrounding drug use and legalization must be broken. And no, I don’t think that with decriminalization everyone will turn to drugs en masse. Of course you should not only do this in Belgium, but at least arrange it in Europe. The debate must be conducted openly.

According to Mayor Bart De Wever, the federal government, of which your party is a part, is simply not aware of the drug violence in Antwerp.

Better leave the shooting to the criminal organizations. (laughs) It just does nothing. Everyone shares the same frustration, both De Wever and Minister of the Interior Annelies Verlinden (CD&V) and Minister of Justice Vincent Van Quickenborne (Open Vld).

So no criticism?

I’m just saying my opinion, just like De Wever does. We must not lose ourselves in a debate of ‘he is doing a good job’ and ‘she is not’. De Wever is a smart man. Well, smart people are those who dare to backtrack on their opinion.

Do you at least support his demand for more instruments in the fight against drug crime through administrative enforcement?

Yes. A local government should be given more resources to deal with the rogue businesses that are fronts of organized crime. I understand that the federal government is working on that.

Tags: Antwerp Open Vld alderman Erica Caluwaerts millions confused drugs accounted Antwerp

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