Santos Celebrates that the U.S. Wants to Discuss Drugs

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March 9, 2012
El Tiempo, Colombia

The debate on legalization or decriminalization will be addressed at the Summit of the Americas. The Supreme Court supports it.

English Translation

President Juan Manuel Santos welcomed yesterday the decision of the U.S. to be open to “discussing” the “legalization” or drugs and announced that he will prepare a methodology to address the issue at the Summit of the Americas in April in Cartagena.

In an interview with La W, Santos affirmed that the U.S.’s new position “is very important” and added that “it is something to be valued and positively channeled so that the discussion can be had and so that it can be something that really might bring to the world a better solution to the terrible problem of drug trafficking.”

Santos referred to the announcement made on Thursday by the Acting Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Public Affairs, Mike Hammer, that “We are willing to discuss the issue to express our opinion as far as why we do not see it as the best way in which to address the problem.”

The rethinking of anti-drug policies was a debate that Santos himself has revived since the end of 2010, when the state of California tried to pass a referendum on marijuana legalization. Afterwards, in various forums, the Colombian leader tried to keep the debate on the issue alive. 

Yesterday in Bogota Santos met with former leaders Fernando Henrique Cardoso (Brazil), Ricardo Lagos (Chile) and Felipe González (Spain) to talk about the right formula to bringing this issue to the Summit of the Americas. “Colombia, and me personally, have put this issue on the table because if there is a country that has suffered from drug trafficking, it is Colombia,” said the president.

But Colombia is not the only country that wants to open the debate. Central American leaders such as Laura Chinchilla (Costa Rica), Otto Pérez (Guatemala) and Mauricio Funes (El Salvador) have also spoekn in favor of legalization or decriminalization.

Following the statement by the U.S., the issue will definitely be raised at the Summit of the Americas. “There is a methodology that we are working on with several people (…) on the ways of discussing the issue,” said Santos.

The Central American countries will bring their proposal to Cartagena and their determination is not free: that región has the highes levels of violence. The most violent city in the world, according to a recent report, is San Pedro Sula, in Honduras, whose president, Porfirio Lobo, asked Santos to include the discussion on legalization at the event in Cartagena.

For his part, the president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Javier Zapata, said that “it is already a step forward” that the U.S. is ready to “discuss” the issue, otherwise they would “continue with the same prohibitionist mentality (…) all of the dialogue on this problem is important (…) and both statesmen and legislators should approach the issue in an interdisciplinary way (…) so that humanity sees which is the best way of eradicating the problem.”

UN says no to legalization

The UN does not look favorably on President Santos’s proposal to open the debate on legalization or decriminalization of certain drugs. Hamid Ghodse, president of the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB), said that arguments “in favor of legalization fail at their base and ignore the complexity of the problem.”

In the E.U., the situation is not different. Marianne Van Steen, a delegate of the E.U. in Peru said that “for us, it is very clear that we have international commitments and that now we are not considering, by any means, changing them.”

View the article in Spanish.

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