Latin American countries push for alternatives in drug war

Tracy Wilkinson (Los Angeles Times) | June 4, 2013

MEXICO CITY — Drug policy and the need to substantially change the way countries tackle the problem took center stage at a major regional meeting of the Americas that started Tuesday.

Several countries from Latin America were expected to pressure the United States to find alternatives to what is seen as an approach to fighting drugs that leans heavily on law enforcement — a strategy that has cost tens of thousands of mostly Latin American lives.

The meeting in Antigua, Guatemala, is the annual general assembly of the Organization of American States, the region’s leading political body, which 2 1/2 weeks ago issued a groundbreaking report that urged governments to consider decriminalizing drug use.

The report is part of a growing movement to find new approaches to drug strategies. Advocates include former presidents, human rights organizations, citizens and even the current president of this meeting’s host nation, former army Gen. Otto Perez Molina.

“This is an important step,” Perez Molina said on the eve of the meeting.

But as the summit got underway, there were hints of disagreement among the 34 member delegations amid behind-the-scenes efforts to draft a statement embodying the group’s will.

“The U.S. does not claim a monopoly on best practices” for dealing with the drug fight, the American ambassador to the OAS, Carmen Lomellin, told assembled members. “We cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of the problem…. At the same time, we cannot see legalization as a solution.”

The May 16 OAS report made no specific recommendations but suggested that decriminalization could be one of many “transitional methods” in a new public health strategy. It was significant because it helps consolidate what many Latin Americans see as the need to alter policies as their countries have been torn apart by violent drug wars — chief among them Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras.

Read more at: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fg-oas-drugs-20130605,0,3473482.story

Photo credit: Moises Castillo

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