Source: Latin American Herald-Tribune (Venezuela)
7 August 2009
BUENOS AIRES – Latin America is headed towards the decriminalization
of drug possession for personal consumption, according to experts and
officials who took part in a regional conference in Buenos Aires.
Those attending the 1st Latin American Conference on Drug Policy,
which ended Friday, also said that legislative reforms are being
designed to give smaller sentences “to small traffickers, and to
create policies that minimize harm” by encouraging addicts who can’t
quit to come into the health system.
They also warned that the war on drugs “did not achieve its goal,”
since Bolivia, Peru and Colombia, which together produce all the
cocaine in the world, “could not manage in 10 years to reduce the
area under cultivation,” according to a communique released at the
end of the meeting, sponsored by the Pan-American Health Organization.
Brazilian lawmaker Paulo Teixeira said that his country’s current
anti-drug law “increases the harm to users, because once in jail they
get involved with organized crime.”
The legislator, originator of Brazil’s first bill to “reduce the
harm” of drug consumption, presented a study saying that 84 percent
of those sentenced between 2006-2008 for drug possession in that
country were not armed and 50 percent of those convicted for
marijuana trafficking had less than 100 grams (1/2 ounce) of the substance.
Teixeira said that the ruling Workers Party will submit a bill next
month that establishes “a democratic model” for drugs, with the
legalization of consumption, alternative penalties for small-scale
drug dealing, the inclusion of a strategy for harm reduction and
authorization for growing and marketing marijuana in small quantities.
For her part, Ecuador’s deputy planning secretary, Michelle Artieda,
said that her country is in the process of debating a drug bill that
modifies the current legislation, which dates back to 1992 and
“violates the principle of legality.”
During the meeting, organized by the Argentine association
Intercambios, the Ecuadorian official said that many of those
detained in her country on drug charges “were carrying less than 2
kilos (4 1/2 pounds)” of narcotics.
Artieda also spoke about Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s
decision to pardon 2,221 people who were arrested for carrying small
amounts of drugs and those known as “mules.”
Dionicio Nunez Tangara, coordinador of the Bolivian Coca and
Sovereignty organization, regretted that under his country’s existing
legislation, “coca-leaf growers are the same as drug traffickers,”
and went into detail about the Evo Morales government’s initiative to
industrialize the growing of that plant.
Bolivian law permits the cultivation of 12,000 hectares (29,629
acres) of coca for legal traditional uses, and a similar arrangement
prevails in neighboring Peru.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian who rose to
prominence as the leader of a coca-growers union, came to office in
January 2006 pledging to redirect anti-drug efforts from coca
eradication to cocaine interdiction.
Meanwhile Peruvian expert Hugo Cabieses warned that “under the
pretext of a war on drugs, the borders of the region’s countries are
“In 1992 the hectares (acres) of coca grown in Peru, Bolivia and
Colombia were 11,500 (28,395), but by 2004 they had been reduced to
11,000 (27,160). These plans (to militarize borders) do not expand
democracy, they restrict it,” he said.
The Argentine government defended Thursday the legalization of drug
possession for personal consumption and said that it awaits “almost
impatiently” a verdict by the Supreme Court that would make criminal
punishment for a drug user unconstitutional.
Legislative reforms in the matter of drug use sparked controversy in
several Latin American countries, the region that leads the world in
The conference, held at the seat of the Argentine Congress, was also
sponsored by the British and Dutch Embassies in Buenos Aires, as well
as by the Latin American Initiative on Drugs and Democracy.