Publications by Drugs and Democracy

  • January 2010

    The current law prohibits drug use and punishes possession for personal use with internment and forced treatment. Domestically, a legal market for coca leaf has always existed and Bolivia is trying to change the international legal regime for the coca leaf.

  • January 2010

    Historically, Brazilian drug legislation has been strongly influenced by the UN drugs conventions. Under these conventions, Brazil committed to 'combating' drug trafficking and reducing consumption and demand through any means possible, including the most drastic one, criminal law. Moreover, the official commitment to the international narcotics monitoring system and the close diplomatic and trade ties between Brazil and the United States led to the adoption of a prohibitionist approach that was very much in line with the U.S. war on drugs.

  • January 2010

    Chile is progressively reforming its drug laws, especially under Michelle Bachelet’s new administration. These proposals recognise that there is a growing international tendency to view drug policy in a new lens, one that is based upon health considerations and empirical research. Recent proposals include reassessing the categorisation of cannabis as a Class A drug and implementing regulations regarding the quantities that would be allowed for personal use.

  • January 2010

    Although the legislative trend in Colombia has tended towards the criminalization of possession and consumption of psychoactive substances, decriminalization prevailed when it comes to jurisprudence. In addition, while the government of former President Álvaro Uribe Vélez (2002-2010) insisted on prohibiting, persecuting and punishing drug consumption through legislative and judicial channels, the country’s health sector, influenced by more progressive trends for dealing with consumption, made important progress in the areas of risk and harm reduction.

  • January 2010

    In contrast to other Central American countries, the possession of drugs for immediate personal use is not a criminal offence in Costa Rica. In August 2013 the cultivation, manufacture, transport and trafficking of drugs have all been made a criminal offence under the same article, which provides for a prison sentence of between 8 and 15 years without making any distinction between the offences. The government of Costa Rica supports the launch of an open international debate on the issue, but has declared itself against decriminalisation.

  • January 2010

    Like in other countries in the region, drug control measures by the government of Ecuador have been modeled after the pressure and interests of the United States. Even though the country is an important hub for the transit of illicit drugs and chemical supplies, as well as for money laundering, trafficking is not perceived as a significant threat. This is also the case because the cultivation of coca is minimal compared to other countries in the region such as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia. Paradoxically, Ecuador has one of the most severe drug legislations in Latin America.

  • January 2010

    As a result of a truce between the country’s main gangs (Maras), the number of murders in El Salvador so far in 2013 is down by about 45 per cent in comparison to the year before. Since El Salvador is one of the countries with the highest murder rates in the world (71 per 100,000 people in 2011), the truce represents a step forward in the eradication of street violence and, some believe, in the fight against the retail drug trade and trafficking.

  • January 2010

    Since his election in 2012, President Otto Pérez Molina has been encouraging public debate regarding the need for national drug policy reform. The plea was mainly directed to the international community: firstly to the governments of Central America, followed by a call upon the Americas Summit, then to the Organisation of American States (OAS), and finally to the UN. Although a review of the country’s existing legal framework on drugs was announced on several occasions, law reform proposals have yet to be presented in Guatemala’s parliament.

  • January 2010

    In recent years, Honduras has become the country with the highest levels of violence in the world. In 2012 the country had a murder rate of 92 per 100,000 people. Organised crime and its connection with drug trafficking may be one of the causes of this increase in violence. Drug trafficking gangs use the country as a transit point on the route to the United States. The violence is related to the conflicts between the gangs in their dispute over territory, extortion, money laundering, etc.

  • January 2010

    Mexico is the Latin American country that has bore the highest costs from the War on Drugs, suffering from high national rates of violence, corruption in state institutions, and an increase in the power of organised crime groups. As with other countries in the region, implementation of a prohibitionist drug law approach has had the adverse effect of increasing the number of people held in prison for minor drug offences. This page summarises the latest developments in the debate on drug law and drug policy in Mexico.