Feb 24, 2012

Drug Policy Debate: Decriminalize drugs--an urgent debate

La Jornada editorial: "Yesterday, in front of members of the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat), the head of the Mexican Foreign Ministry, Patricia Espinosa, said that while the government of Mexico does not agree with the decriminalization of drugs that are currently banned--because that measure does not suffice to end drug trafficking and organized crime--it is willing to participate and open itself to a debate regarding this matter.

As you may recall, in January last year, three former Latin American presidents, Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, Colombian Cesar Gaviria and Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, recognizing the failure of the police and military struggle against drugs, spoke out to promote drug "regularization." This position was supported by the writers Carlos Fuentes and Mario Vargas Llosa and, months later, Vicente Fox joined the proposal.

The most recent regional impetus to the discussion of decriminalization came from the presidents of Colombia and Guatemala, Juan Manuel Santos and Otto Perez Molina. The former said, at the end of 2011, that he would agree with a decision to that effect, provided that it was accepted by the rest of the world. Last week, his Guatemalan counterpart went further, arguing the benefits that would follow from eliminating the ban on the production and trafficking of currently illegal psychotropic drugs.

It is surprising that two political representatives of authoritarianism and militarism, such as Santos and Molina-Perez--the first, a former Defense Minister charged with criminal responsibility for the Colombian military attack on Sucumbios, Ecuador, and the second singled out for having participated in the genocide of indigenous people in Guatemala carried out by military regimes--now advocate a humanistic and avant-garde approach to meet the security challenge involved in drug trafficking and to delimit the problem posed by addiction, which is a public health issue that must be approached differently and with different instruments. Again paradoxically, it is two of the most pro-American rulers of the region that are openly challenging the anti-drug approach driven--or imposed--by Washington.

Similarly, one wonders why progressive, sovereign governments like Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador and Brazil--all affected by drug trafficking and the power of blackmail and interference that this criminal phenomenon gives the United States--have not taken the lead in this matter. The current Mexican authorities, meanwhile, have, so far, stubbornly and counterproductively insisted on the failed strategy derived from U.S. policy on drugs. This also is in harmony with submission to our neighboring country and with the morally conservative and authoritarian ruling party which has led this country into a bloody, very costly and tragic conflict, .

It is striking that now the Foreign Secretary expresses the government's disposition to participate in the discussion of an idea that has been rejected in advance by the Federal Government, whose head has repeatedly expressed his determination to end his term "with drums beating" and throwing "all his weight" into the war that he declared against organized crime, particularly against the drug cartels.

Perhaps, if the debate on the decriminalization of drugs had been begun before adopting the present course regarding public security, the country would have saved countless lives, widespread social suffering, grave processes of institutional breakdown and astronomical monetary resources. In whatever form, it is urgent and impossible to postpone the analysis of alternatives to the failure of a drug policy that is one only of the police, the military and the judiciary. In that sense anyone who takes this position--though it may be late and contradictory--is welcome." Spanish original

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