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Doward reports: "A historic meeting of Latin America's leaders, to be attended by Barack Obama, will hear serving heads of state admit that the war on drugs has been a failure and that alternatives to prohibition must now be found."

Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina believes a new approach to Latin America's war on drugs is urgently needed. (photo: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)
Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina believes a new approach to Latin America's war on drugs is urgently needed. (photo: Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images)



'War on Drugs' Has Failed, Say Latin American Leaders

By Jamie Doward, Guardian UK

08 April 12

 

Watershed summit will admit that prohibition has failed, and call for more nuanced and liberalised tactics.

historic meeting of Latin America's leaders, to be attended by Barack Obama, will hear serving heads of state admit that the war on drugs has been a failure and that alternatives to prohibition must now be found.

The Summit of the Americas, to be held in Cartagena, Colombia is being seen by foreign policy experts as a watershed moment in the redrafting of global drugs policy in favour of a more nuanced and liberalised approach.

Otto Pérez Molina, the president of Guatemala, who as former head of his country's military intelligence service experienced the power of drug cartels at close hand, is pushing his fellow Latin American leaders to use the summit to endorse a new regional security plan that would see an end to prohibition. In the Observer, Pérez Molina writes: "The prohibition paradigm that inspires mainstream global drug policy today is based on a false premise: that global drug markets can be eradicated."

Pérez Molina concedes that moving beyond prohibition is problematic. "To suggest liberalisation – allowing consumption, production and trafficking of drugs without any restriction whatsoever – would be, in my opinion, profoundly irresponsible. Even more, it is an absurd proposition. If we accept regulations for alcoholic drinks and tobacco consumption and production, why should we allow drugs to be consumed and produced without any restrictions?"

He insists, however, that prohibition has failed and an alternative system must be found. "Our proposal as the Guatemalan government is to abandon any ideological consideration regarding drug policy (whether prohibition or liberalisation) and to foster a global intergovernmental dialogue based on a realistic approach to drug regulation. Drug consumption, production and trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that drug consumption and production should be legalised, but within certain limits and conditions."

The decision by Pérez Molina to speak out is seen as highly significant and not without political risk. Polls suggest the vast majority of Guatemalans oppose decriminalisation, but Pérez Molina's comments are seen by many as helping to usher in a new era of debate. They will be studied closely by foreign policy experts who detect that Latin American leaders are shifting their stance on prohibition following decades of drugs wars that have left hundreds of thousands dead.

Mexico's president, Felipe Calderón, has called for a national debate on the issue. Last year Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president, told the Observer that if legalising drugs curtailed the power of organised criminal gangs who had thrived during prohibition, "and the world thinks that's the solution, I will welcome it".

One diplomat closely involved with the summit described the event as historic, saying it would be the first time for 40 years that leaders had met to have an open discussion on drugs. "This is the chance to look at this matter with new eyes," he said.

Latin America's increasing hostility towards prohibition makes Obama's attendance at the summit potentially difficult. The Obama administration, keen not to hand ammunition to its opponents during an election year, will not want to be seen as softening its support for prohibition. However, it is seen as significant that the US vice-president, Joe Biden, has acknowledged that the debate about legalising drugs is now legitimate.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil and chairman of the global commission on drug policy, has said it is time for "an open debate on more humane and efficient drug policies", a view shared by George Shultz, the former US secretary of state, and former president Jimmy Carter.

 

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+32 # jflorio 2012-04-08 17:17
It has been insanely successful, the jails are jammed packed and the privately owned corporations are making money hand over fist, they are lobbing for even more laws that imprison even more people.
 
 
+5 # RLF 2012-04-09 06:47
Plus we have destablized the central and south american countries so they still sell us cheap oil and they haven't become a competitive economic block...Ooops.. .got to take care of Brazil!
 
 
+1 # Valleyboy 2012-04-10 07:14
Yes, and American weapon sales have gone through the roof!
 
 
+15 # wolf8888 2012-04-08 20:03
Our WAR on Drugs ? ..its a fact of life: Law enforcement , Police, Lawyers, Judges, Jails and Jailers, are seriously opposed to legalization. They derive a big part of their income from our war on drugs , and stand to loose most of their discretionary budget, if it was abolished. Just like prohibition gave rise to AL Capone's Underworld, our war on drugs has given rise to the Mexican Cartels and their reign of terror south of the border. Because their rewards are so great, their competition is beyond description, thousand have lost their heads, literally. If we were to legalize drugs, we could aleviate some of that cruelty, but our good guys mentioned above, would suffer the consequences here at home..Its not an easy choice... Its complicated
 
 
+8 # Granny Weatherwax 2012-04-08 23:22
"Law enforcement , Police, Lawyers, Judges, Jails and Jailers, are seriously opposed to legalization. They derive a big part of their income from our war on drugs , and stand to loose most of their discretionary budget, if it was abolished."

Indeed, and then of course the private correctional facilities who stand to lose their cheap labor.
Land of the free: 5% world population; 25% world prison population - with a huge proportion for non-violent drug offenses.

We might as well send back the Statue of Liberty to France.
 
 
+4 # MJnevetS 2012-04-09 05:55
Quoting wolf8888:
..its a fact of life: Law enforcement , Police, Lawyers, Judges, Jails and Jailers, are seriously opposed to legalization

This is a major (inaccurate) overstatement. Lors of prosecutors and former prosecutors (myself included) realize that the drug laws as they currently exist are not helping our country and as enforced are racially and socially biased. (Does 'stop and frisk' occur inside multimillion dollar condos on NY's upper east/west side?) Can anyone explain why whites account for the majority of marijuana users, but only a fraction of the incarcerated population (on marijuana charges)? There are those in law enforcement who see the problem. It is the legislators who must act to change the laws and that is made problematic by who they rely on for campaign financing... big Pharma, Private corrections industry, etc.
 
 
+19 # psadave 2012-04-08 20:36
Fareed Zakaria had a great article in Time Magazine about the US prison-industri al complex filled with millions of drug criminals. Texas Gov. Perry has done lots of business with his buddies that run prisons in his state...many of his biggest donors. Check out the article at
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2109777,00.html
to see how the US has many more times the prisoners of ANY other country in the world. Shocking figures. But groups that influence our elections, such as ALEC, keep all politicians if fear of being labeled 'soft on crime'. You would think our country would have learned the lesson from prohibition, but facts seem to make little difference in these highly emotional matters.
 
 
+19 # dipierro4 2012-04-08 22:26
Schultz has held this view for decades. So did the late William F. Buckley, Jr. But the moneyed interests are so strong -- the prison industry the legions of police and probation officers, the gun industry that sells weapons to both the police and the cartels; and then the Democrats are scared silly of ever looking " soft on crime" -- that it is hard to be hopeful.
 
 
+1 # Yakpsyche 2012-04-08 23:15
Bravo, Presidente Prez-Molino! Al fin oimos la razon1
Finally some logic! Bravo1
 
 
+3 # unitedwestand 2012-04-09 00:46
Of course some regulations should be set when prohibition is stopped. You shouldn't be able to get high in public, or drive, or work or do a lot of things, just like we have laws about drinking.

Stopping prohibition of drugs would solve so, so many problems, including that pushers wouldn't be trying to get kids hooked on anything. Those addicted could be openly treated maybe even get off of drugs.

LIke many have mentioned, the money being made on things remaining the way they are, have powerful support mostly likely in many governments.
 
 
+5 # noitall 2012-04-09 00:56
It hasn't failed at all. It's done exactly what it was intended to do just as the war against terrorism. Drug and terrorism up and so is the profit of the owners of this government. Business couldn't be better. How could we leave Afghanistan? those damn 'terrorists' there can't be trusted to leave the poppy fields and heroin production alone. "Friends" could stand to lose billions.
 
 
+8 # Wind in His Hair 2012-04-09 03:40
Marijuana is a weed that grows along the road. If it were legal it would be free growing everywhere, take the money out of the equation and the war is won, the kids money will go for baby shoes and milk, and the cartels will be driving mopeds instead of Mercedes. The jails would be half empty and the backlog in the courts eased. Obviously the generals in this silly so called "war" suck if they can't win it in 50 years.
 
 
+6 # grindermonkey 2012-04-09 08:25
All of America's recent "wars" appear to be unresolved failures that have bankrupted the country and diminished its international reputation. War has become a first resort to perceived political and behavioral conflicts. Time to try peace and prosperity instead...
 
 
+2 # jwb110 2012-04-09 09:51
Quoting grindermonkey:
All of America's recent "wars" appear to be unresolved failures that have bankrupted the country and diminished its international reputation. War has become a first resort to perceived political and behavioral conflicts. Time to try peace and prosperity instead...

I very much agree with you about the Wars on something. They are ideologically driven and are part of the Bread and Circuses of Wash. D.C. More recently Pat Robertson has said that legalization would be the best answer.
Should prohibition continue then Tobacco and Alcohol would have to be revisited. The most recent studies have shown that the real doorway to drug use is not Marijuana but Alcohol and Tobacco.
 
 
0 # psadave 2012-04-09 18:45
Alcohol and tobacco do FAR more damage to users and others than marijuana. The 'gateway' theory, like other facts, just keep the law and order politicians in office. It is similar to universal health care in Europe, the countries with relaxed drug laws are better off than the US because of the way they handle things. Damn socialists!
 
 
+3 # Kootenay Coyote 2012-04-09 08:53
An awful lot of evidence & opinion exists against what was always a foolish, violent, oppressive, dangerous, crime-nurturing & ultimately doomed policy based on a debauched, impoverished ideology.
 
 
+1 # russinaustin 2012-04-09 14:35
Let's remember it's the ILLEGALITY of drugs that makes them expensive - and lucrative to deal. Decriminalizati on and taxation/regula tion, as many have pointed out we already do with alcohol and tobacco, would divert money TO governments and AWAY FROM drug lords and gangs.
 
 
0 # Glen 2012-04-10 13:39
Yes, and those governments would squander the money just as the U.S. has - on attacking countries and robbing them of resources.

Ah - what to do, what to do...
 

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