Colombia, Uruguay, Guatemala: Drug Policy Reform on the Move in Latin America

Colombia Justice Minister Ruth Stella Correa

Colombia: Creation of an Advisory Commission on Drug Policy

Colombia’s drug legislation is being re-assessed in an attempt to tackle drug use, trafficking and other drugs-related issues that have plagued the country at all levels of society for the past 30 years. To that effect, the justice minister, Ruth Stella Correa, launched on January 29 the first meeting of the Advisory Commission on Drug Policy (Comisión Asesora de Política de Drogas). The commission includes Former President Cesar Gaviria and former director of the National Police, General Oscar Naranjo Trujillo, as well as a number of experts and academics. It will evaluate the results and impact of the strategies on drugs that have been implemented over the past ten years, consolidate the progress and achievements in different areas, and make recommendations for a new anti-drug strategy.

Cesar Gaviria was president of Colombia (1990-94) and secretary general of the Organization of American States (1994-2004). He is founder and Board-member of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy and the Global Commission on Drug Policy. He is an outspoken advocate of drug policy reform.

General Oscar Naranjo Trujillo was director of the National Police from May 2007 to June 2012. As member of counter-intelligence and special forces, he was involved in all major operations against the powerful Colombian drug cartels since the 1980s, including Pablo Escobar and the Medellin Cartel. He has been credited with reducing the violence in Colombia during the 1980s and 1990s. He is special advisor on security issues in the government of newly elected Mexican President Pena Nieto.

The Justice Minister said in her Twitter account “We decided to form this Commission to guide us in the design of public policy with a holistic approach. We believe that the drug policy debate should take place within the framework of scientific and empirical evidence”. She further noted that the world drug problem requires that countries seek alternative public policies to properly confront the issue.

Speaking after the meeting with the commission, the justice minister introduced a new drug bill to legalize synthetic drugs such as ecstasy. The proposal would replace current laws, which ban cocaine and marijuana, although possession of small amounts is decriminalized. Stella Correa pointed out that the Constitutional Court had already spoken against the criminalization of possession for personal use of marijuana and cocaine.

Critics say the inclusion of synthetic drugs will only confuse the debate.

Uruguay to launch a broad national debate about the Marijuana legalization project in February:

The Uruguayan government introduced in June 2012 a project of legalization of marijuana under state control. The government has struggled to gain popular support for this project, with opposition still at around 64%. Last December President Mujica decided to slow down the project, originally scheduled to be sent to vote in the Parliament in December, and announced that he would allow more time for education and debate on the issue. In order to achieve greater consensus, the secretary general of the National Drug Board, July Calzada, announced On January 28 the launch in February of a broad debate on the issue in coordination with lawmakers.

We just wish that the US government would follow the lead of its Southern neighbors!

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina: A man on a mission

Ever since taking office in January 2012, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina, a retired general, has been on a mission: to look for alternatives to drug prohibition and the failed war on drugs, and to start a debate about drugs regulation. From the OAS in April 2012, to the UN in September, to the Davos Summit on January 23-25 and then the Latino-European summit on January 26-27, Perez Molina has been unrelenting in promoting his initiative. Under existential threats from narco-warfare following decades of military dictatorship and right-wing militia violence that brought his country to the brink of disintegration in the 1990s and early 2000s, and deeply committed to his country reconstruction, Perez Molina is acutely aware that he may not have another option. He now needs to get firm support behind his initiative. Read more

Drug Policy Reform: 2013 in progress 2013-01-29

A brief presentation of the major trends and events in the Drug Policy Debate in 2013. Latin America is taking the lead with Colombia setting up an Advisory Commission on Drug Policy, Uruguay launching a national debate on marijuana legalization, and Guatemala taking the lead of the global drug policy debate.

Meanwhile, the US Federal Government seems to take an hands-off approach to marijuana legalization while more states are lining up to legalize medical or recreation use.

Author: Jeffrey Dhywood

Jeffrey Dhywood is a European-born investigative writer, lecturer and public speaker, drug policy analyst, author of "World War D – The Case against prohibitionism, roadmap to controlled re-legalization" Jeffrey Dhywood holds a degree in Mathematical logics (Model Theory). He lived 20 years in the US and is currently living in Latin America. He is also very familiar with Asia, which gives him a good grasp of the global dimension of the War on Drugs, and its global failure. His academic background and his direct experience allows him to bring common sense and sanity to an issue often mired in confusion, misconceptions and preconceptions.

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