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Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 21:51 GMT 22:51 UK
Author denies drugs call
Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The writer's message was watched by the Colombian president
Leading Latin American writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez has denied reports he called for the legalisation of drugs in his native Colombia as a way of ending widespread violence in the country.

Mr Garcia Marquez - who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982 - said he was against the legalisation of drugs and that he had been misquoted.

Contrary to what journalists have attributed to me, I am against the legalisation of drugs and against the consumption of drugs
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

He explained he had said it was Colombia's tragedy that one could not imagine an end to drugs trafficking without their legalisation.

Mr Garcia Marquez made his comments through a video message sent to a group of intellectuals gathering in the Colombian city of Medellin.

"I have not said that drugs should be legalised and nor have I made any proposal of that nature to the Colombian Government."

Colombia is the world's major producer of cocaine.

Thousands displaced

The message, entitled Beloved Fatherland Although Distant, was sent from Mexico City, where the writer lives.

"What I said is that the Colombian drama is such that, to be exact, it is not possible to imagine that an end will be put to drug-trafficking, without consumption being legalised. That is the enormity of the tragedy that Colombians are having to suffer," Mr Garcia Marquez said.

The author also attacked the United States' attitude to Colombia as one of "imperial voracity".

The US has sponsored the Colombian Government's massive counter-drugs programme - Plan Colombia - since 2000.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe was among the audience at the University of Antioquia listening to the writer's message.

The paradox is that these fugitives from themselves are still victims of a violence which is sustained by two of the most profitable businesses in this heartless world
Gabriel Garcia Marquez

The author of One Hundred Years of Solitude said that in 2002 "about 400,000 Colombians had to flee from their houses and plots of land because of the violence, just as almost three million people have had to do, for the same reason, during the last half century".

He said the displaced people were "the embryo for another country of drifters - almost as populous as Bogota and perhaps much larger than Medellin - who roam aimlessly within their own territory in search of a place to live, with no more wealth than the clothes they have on their backs".

Anti-drugs unit in Colombia
Mr Garcia Marquez criticised US influence in the region
"The paradox is that these fugitives from themselves are still victims of a violence which is sustained by two of the most profitable businesses in this heartless world: drug trafficking and the illegal trade in arms."

President Uribe, who launched an aggressive campaign to end drug trafficking and has promised to defeat the rebels, avoided questions on the writer's misreported message, saying only that it was "very controversial".

Mr Garcia Marquez does not shy away from controversy.

Earlier this month, he joined more than 160 writers, artists and actors from across the Americas and Europe in signing a declaration in support of the Cuban Government.

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