OAS Must Review Drug Policy

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April 16, 2012
Prensa Libre, Guatemala

English Translation

The Organization of American States (OAS) has now been charged with the responsibility of evaluating current drug policies and other options in the fight against drug trafficking, as decided by the presidents of the continent yesterday at the end of the Summit. The Summit did not have a final declaration due to lack of consensus on issues such as Cuba and the Falkland Islands.

In evaluating policies and analyzing whether there are alternatives, the OAS will draw on information from other agencies such as the Panamerican Health Organization and the UNODC.

Perez Molina said this was decided on in a private meeting between the heads of state, where not even their delegations were present. “This was a proposal that drew on practically everything that has been discussed here but it was supported by President Santos, the president of Costa Rica – Laura Chinchilla – by myself, and, finally, by all heads of state, including President Obama, who said that he disagreed with decriminalization but agreed with undertaking this study which will scientifically show us which alternatives can me taken,” said Perez Molina.

Perez Molina sees it as positive that the issue will be debated with the help and direction of the OAS. “There is agreement in asking the secretary of the OAS – Jose Miguel Insulza – to appoint experts, such as the Interamerican Development Bank or the PAHO (Pan American Health Organization), to use scientific studies, data, and analysis to find new alternatives that can make the fight against drugs more efficient,” Perez Molina said.

Santos described the agreement. “We began a discussion about the global drug problem. During the breaks, at which the heads of the delegations were, we agreed to review the results of the current policy and to explore new focuses to strengthen this fight and to be more effective. In this vein, we gave the OAS the mandate to begin this process,” Santos explained.

The aim is to establish whether the current strategy works and for this a discussion is necessary. “We had to concentrate this somewhere and since it is the Summit of the Americas, obviously it must be in the OAS, which has the tools.  It will refer to the PAHO, which has concrete information on the impact of drugs on health and it will refer to the UNODC,” Santos said.  He clarified that it is not a debate on decriminalization of drugs but on the vision that it is a problem shared amongst all countries, not just in the Americas.

Guatemalan government sources commented that Perez Molina may follow up on the efforts being made in the OAS and the progress of the studies.

Different opinions

Nicolas Maduro, foreign minister of Venezuela, said that the issue of drugs was the last to be discussed, behind closed doors, and said that the experience in his country in confronting this problem has been successful.

The government of Argentina stated that the lack of an agreement on drug trafficking was one of three that impeded the signing of a final declaration.

Instead of a joint statement, five mandates were agreed on on general topics: integration of physical infrastructure; poverty, inequality and inequity; reduction and risk management of disasters; access and use of information technology; and public safety and transnational organized crime.

View the article in Spanish.

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