Latin American Leaders Bring Drug War Debate to Mainstream

Thanks to the efforts of former and current Latin American leaders, the debate on the drug war is finally going mainstream.

As Former presidents Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil write in the Huffington Post, “Latin America is talking about the drug war like never before."  Gaviria, Zedillo, and Cardoso began the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, and more recently the Global Commission on Drug Policy that addresses alternatives to the current failures in the drug war.

Propelling the debate into the mainstream are the atrocities abroad. Gaviria, Zedillo, and Cardoso write in the Huffington Post:

The facts speak for themselves. The foundations of the U.S.-led war on drugs -- eradication of production, interdiction of traffic, and criminalization of consumption -- have not succeeded and never will. When there is established demand for a consumer product, there will be a supply. The only beneficiaries of prohibition are the drug cartels.

They also say:

Our commissions presented two key recommendations. The first was to end -- as soon as possible -- the criminalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. People struggling with drug abuse or addiction may indeed harm themselves and their families, but criminalization and social marginalization are not going to help them.
Our second core recommendation -- which is more complex but just as important for ensuring peace and public safety -- is to encourage experimentation with different models of legal regulation of drugs, such as marijuana, in similar ways to what is already done with tobacco and alcohol.

They ardently support current presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia, Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, and Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, who have put the drug war on the agenda at the Summit of the Americas on April 14-15.  In their Huffington Post piece, they thank these presidents for putting “different options on the table that would undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and security of their citizens.”  The summit, which will take place in Cartagena de las Indias, Colombia, will be a gathering of presidents from 34 countries, including President Obama.  The former Latin American presidents write,

It is unlikely that the heads of state will reach a consensus about such a complex and controversial issue. At this point, what is most needed is a serious and rigorous debate, enabling each country to develop its own position and to adopt more appropriate solutions that take their history and culture into account.

At the Summit of the Americas, President Obama will finally have the opportunity to join in on the drug war debate and consider new measures of regulation and legalization proposed by these Latin American leaders.

Read the full post here.

AlterNet / By Angela Lee

Posted at April 10, 2012, 11:20am

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