Collage of Colombian President and Ayahuasca Jar

Colombia’s President Admits to Drinking Ayahuasca

The Colombian president might be the first sitting government official in the world to admit to drinking the Amazonian brew.

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Most politicians prefer not to divulge the details of their drug use or psychedelic histories. Gustavo Petro, the president of Colombia, is not one of those political leaders, as he recently revealed that he’s twice taken ayahuasca, a visionary Amazonian brew also known as yagé.

“The president told me that in his second, and last, journey with yagé, he saw a vision of his own death,” said Daniel Coronell, the author of a new book, The Children of the Amazon, in a Spanish-language interview last year. “I felt he was telling me that he was sure he was going to die at this moment in an attack.”

Coronell, a prominent investigative journalist in Colombia, highlighted that Petro’s real-life fears may have been amplified during his psychedelic experience. Petro, then an urban guerrilla fighter in a group that later transitioned into a political party, became paranoid under the influence of ayahuasca. His clandestine lifestyle, involving taking up arms and constantly anticipating ambushes from state or rival forces, contributed to this paranoia.

READ: What is Ayahuasca? Benefits, Risks, Side Effects

The leftist president made the revelations to Coronell while the journalist was interviewing him for his book on the discovery of four Indigenous Colombian children who went missing in the Amazon for 40 days last year. The children were found after a member of the search party drank ayahuasca.

“The president ended up speaking with the children’s great-uncle, Fidencio Valencia,” said Coronell. He recalled that Valencia had told Petro: “‘I want to thank you for what you have done for the children. It’s very good that there are soldiers, so many helicopters, that there are aluminum birds flying over there. That’s good, but it’s not enough. You have to look for yagé because this has a spiritual solution. You have to look for Mayor Rubio, who is the wisest man in Araracuara.'”

Soon after, Rubio, a shaman who often provided advice when Indigenous people were lost in the jungle, joined the search party, which Petro had helped craft, having enlisted the help of Giovani Yule, a nationally respected Indigenous figure. It is unclear if Yule, or Petro, requested Rubio’s help.

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Rubio agreed with another member of the search team, who believed the children were being held captive by a duende, a spirit sometimes likened to a pixie. Rubio then asked a group of soldiers, who were taking a helicopter out of the jungle, to acquire him some ayahuasca, as he suspected the children could only be released from the duende if he entered the spirit world and gave the order.

The soldiers procured the psychedelic potion for Rubio, and he drank it. “In his visions, Rubio later explained, he met the children and the duende who was with them,” The Atavist reported in an authoritative account of events. “Rubio told the duende that he was there to take the children, and it agreed to return them on the condition that a spell be cast on the searchers.”

Several of the Indigenous volunteers soon reported suffering flu-like symptoms, and Rubio suffered from convulsions. The shaman told the searchers they would find them that day, and after a day of hunting for them, they miraculously found them, just as malnutrition was seriously kicking in for the four beleaguered children.

Petro celebrated the children’s “total survival” and hailed the unlikely collaboration between the military and Indigenous communities. “Here, a different path is shown for Colombia,” he wrote on X.

READ: Shipibo Curandero Stabbed Six Times by Westerner Seeking Ayahuasca

Coronell echoed the president’s hope that the fairytale could help unite Colombia. He also admitted he was considering trying ayahuasca himself to help answer some lingering questions he had. The journalist noted that the president had not admitted his use of ayahuasca previously, including in his autobiography, One Life, Many Lives, which was published in 2021.

In Petro’s first ayahuasca experience, he told Coronell, he saw himself planting the roots of plants and hugging a mountain, which left him realizing that his job was to take care of nature. Petro, who sent a team of academics to Mexico to get a Colombian shaman out of prison for possessing ayahuasca in 2022, apparently did not want to drink the vine brew again because of the intensity of the experience during his second journey.

Whether other heads of state will follow Petro in his ayahuasca advocacy and experimentation remains to be seen. After all, he may well be the only head of state in the world to admit to having taken a psychedelic drug. Though, perhaps the question we should be asking is: What drugs are the rest of them taking?

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