One of the two leading candidates in the upcoming Colombian presidential election has denounced the country's militarised drug war and its apparent subservience to US counter-narcotic interests.

Gustavo Petro - the founder of the country’s progressive Progresistas movement, and the former mayor of the capital Bogotá – has sharply criticised militarised drug policies for failing to counter the growth of powerful drug cartels nationally and regionally. This failure, he says, has contributed to the “balkanisation of the Colombian territory from very well armed private armies” - referring to the fragmentation of a region into hostile or warring areas, as took place in the Balkan Peninsula in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

Speaking on May 1, Petro said that Colombia’s “militaristic approach to drugs has been ineffective”, and that the country should instead implement “social policies in the regions where drugs are cultivated [and] help people escape the mafia”.