The drug policy reform movement is gathering steam in Latin America and US activists are not even paying attention, even though it is happening at their doorstep!
I have said for a while that drug policy reform, or more precisely, legalization and control of the currently illicit drugs can only happen globally, or at least, it needs to involve enough of the key players of the illegal drug trade: producing countries, transiting countries and consuming countries. I have also said that Latin America is the only part of the world where can emerge a coalition of countries willing to legalize. Well, it looks like the process already started and is gaining momentum.
The latest event, which hasn’t received any press coverage in the US, might be one of the most significant in the long run. The International Forum “Drugs: A Balance to a Century of Their Prohibition” opened on Tuesday February 14th at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, inaugurated by no less than Mexican first lady Margarita Zavala, the wife of Mexican President Felipe Calderón. Now I let you digest this for a while. Just imagine such a forum inaugurated by the US first Lady at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.
The forum is attended by various members of the Mexican government, including Secretary of the Interior Alejandro Poiré. The rooster of speakers includes many major tenors of the drug policy reform movement, including former presidents Cesar Gaviria from Colombia and Fernando Henrique Cardoso from Brazil, as well as former UK drug czar Mike Trace. The leaders of the major drug policy reform organizations in the world are there too, from LEAP founder Jack Cole, to Judge Jim Gray, Ethan Nadelmann, or Steve Rolles from UK-based Transform Drug Policy Foundation (TDPF). Speakers come all the way from Australia, Switzerland, Netherland, and include of course many Mexican experts.
The live stream of the forum, as well as recorded sessions, are available on ArgosTV.
Wednesday saw a passionate intervention by former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria, that you can listen on these links: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/20468121 and http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/20469180. To hear a former president of one of the countries that has been the most affected by the war on drugs talk with such passion about the hopelessness of prohibitionism was heartening. Even politician can have epiphanies! Why do they wait to retire though, to truly speak up their mind? This, by the way, is the whole idea behind my own Calderon-Santos initiative: trying to convince the two key Latin American leaders to fully come out of the war-on-drugs closet and lead a coalition of the willing to legalize.
Steve Rolles gave a no-nonsense preview of a post-prohibition world, that bears a lot of similarities to my own roadmap at the conclusion of World War-D. If you want to find out how the rest of the world is looking at the war on drugs, I strongly encourage you to browse through the videos of the event.
The drug policy reform movement seems to be reaching a turning point with heads of states ready to jump onboard. This is indeed an important development. Up to now, only retired heads of states were vocal against the war on drugs. The coalition that I was calling for can now emerge. We all can accelerate the movement by expressing our support. The time has come for an international public opinion campaign to get behind those joining the reformist camp.
Some background on recent developments in drug policy reform
I have reported on this blog some of the major developments and will just recap here and refer you to previous posts.
The first clear indication of the emergence of a regional coalition for drug legalization came on December 6th, 2011, during a meeting of Latin Americans and Caribbean leaders in what is known as the Tuxtla System for Dialogue. http://www.world-war-d.com/2012/02/04/will-global-drug-policy-reform-start-in-latin-america/
Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina started talking about drug policy reform 4 days after taking office on January 14th, 2012. He went much further on February 11th, announcing that he will propose drug legalization in Central America at the next meeting of regional leaders. The US promptly fired back that it would be a terrible idea, but Perez Molina stuck to his guns and briefly gained to his cause Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes on Monday the 13th. President Funes backpedalled shortly after getting back to Salvador, but it would of course be twisted to allege the effect of US pressure.