Latino Voices

Latin American Leaders Blast U.S. Drug Policies, Call For Decriminalization

This week, 11 Latin American leaders convened in Mexico City to make a formal statement calling for the U.S. to revise its current drug policies and consider legalization as a means of curbing the high demand for illegal drugs in the U.S.

Once again, calling for shared responsibility among drug-consuming countries, Latin American heads of state looked to the U.S., the number one consumer of illicit drugs in the world.

In recent years, Latin America countries and the U.S. have differed about who is most to blame for the uninterrupted drug trafficking, with Mexico leading the charge with the claim that it is the steady and insatiable demand for drugs in this country that drives the huge industry.

According to this year's National Drug Threat Assessment report by the U.S. Department of Justice, the overall demand and abuse of heroin, marijuana and methamphetamine has only increased.

For countries such as Mexico, which bear the economic burden of policing a drug trade whose overwhelming scope has been linked to the deaths of an estimated 45,000 persons in the last five years, it is clear that frustrations are running high.

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina said, "It seems that Latin America ends up with all the deaths and guns, and others end up with the drugs and the money."

The concerns raised this week are not new. Earlier this month, leaders from every Latin American nation converged to inaugurate CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States. While the international financial crisis was the main issue tackled over the two-day summit in Caracas, Venezuela, the drug trade and the violence that accompanies it was another important topic of discussion.

Some of the head of states present in Venezuela assigned historical value to the meeting.

President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua said there that the gathering of the 33 nations was the beginning of the end for the Monroe Doctrine, the 1823 U.S. policy which gave Washington the rationale to intervene in the region.

Referring to the almost $700 million of aid that the U.S. has invested in Mexico to fight drug traffickers, Ortega said, "All the money, regardless how much it is multiplied, and all the blood, no matter how much is spilled" would not curtail the drug trade "as long as the north continues consuming."

Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos suggested that he would not oppose legalization of marijuana and cocaine in order to reduce drug-related violence.