"Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift"

Latin America and the Caribbean

Today, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy presented its main findings on the limits and unwanted effects of the 'war on drugs' in Latin America over the past 30 years. The Commission was headed by former Presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), César Gaviria (Colombia), and Ernesto Zedillo (Mexico) and includes 17 independent members. According to today's declaration, the anti-drug strategy pursued in the region over the past 30 years has failed and the situation is "growing worse by the day." The Commission argues that it is time to move away from the "prohibitionist policies" of the past and the "criminalization of consumption" and move toward "safer, more efficient and humane drug policies." The proposals presented in the written statement, entitled "Drugs and Democracy: Toward a Paradigm Shift", are based on three main guidelines: treat drug use as a matter of public health; reduce drug consumption through information, education and prevention; and focus repression on organized crime. In terms of the current U.S. anti-drug strategy in Colombia, the Commission states that it "is a clear example of the shortcomings of the repressive policies promoted at the global level by the United States.... [Therefore,] the traumatic Colombian experience is a useful reference for countries not to make the mistake of adopting the US prohibitionist policies and to move forward in the search for innovative alternatives." As a result, the Commission suggests that Mexico "ask the government and institutions of American society to engage in a dialogue about the policies currently pursued by the US as well as to call upon the countries of the European Union to undertake a greater effort aimed at reducing domestic drug consumption. " The Commission proposes five initiatives for Latin American countries to adopt in order to reframe the policies for fighting the use of illicit drugs. These include: 1. Changing the status of addicts from drug buyers in the illegal market to patients cared for in the public health system; 2. Evaluate the convenience of decriminalizing the possession of cannabis for personal use; 3. Reduce consumption through information and prevention campaigns, such as those used to reduce tobacco use; 4. Redirect repressive strategies to focus on the fight against organized crime and the harmful effects that come with it such as money laundering, corruption and arms trafficking; 5. Reframe the strategies of repression against the cultivation of illicit drugs, in which eradication should be combined with alternative development programs. The full declaration made by the Commission today can be found on the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy website.