Bouncing Back - Relapse in the Golden Triangle, a new in-depth report by the Transnational Institute (TNI) launched in Yangon, Burma/Myanmar, on Monday June 2, highlights the profound changes in the illicit drugs market in the Golden Triangle – Burma, Thailand and Laos – and neighbouring India and China over the past five years.
The statement presents the main findings of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy. Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the desired results, concludes . We are further than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs. Breaking the taboo, acknowledging the failure of current policies and their consequences is the inescapable prerequisite for the discussion of a new paradigm leading to safer, more efficient and humane drug policies.
Amira Armenta, Martin Jelsma, Tom Blickman, Virginia Montañés
20 December 2001
With the new international context of the war against terrorism, the war on drugs moves centre stage as well. While drugs and terrorism are now shoved together to demonise the ‘evil’ enemy, reality is the victim. Blending the two wars to one seriously endangers the advances made to find a solution to the drug problem.
5 years ago Felipe Calderón declared a War on Drugs followed by a firm military crackdown on drug trafficking organizations. The US and Mexico agreed upon the Mérida Initiative; provision of US security assistance, mainly in the form of security equipment and law enforcement training for police and military. What it has ‘accomplished’ is a severe deterioration of Mexico’s human rights climate related to abuses by army officials employed in domestic law enforcement tasks and to the specifics of military jurisdiction in Mexico.
Despite efforts by governments in Latin America, illicit drugs continue to provide one of the largest incomes for criminal organizations, enabling them to penetrate and corrupt political and social institutions.
Critics of the international drug control regime contend that supply-oriented policy interventions are not just ineffective, but they also produce unintended adverse consequences. Research suggests their claims have merit. Lasting local reductions in opium production are possible, albeit rare; but, unless global demand shrinks, production will shift elsewhere, with little or no effect on the aggregate supply of heroin and, potentially, at some expense to exiting and newly emerging suppliers.
Remarkable drug policy developments are taking place in Latin America. This is not only at the level of political debate, but is also reflected in actual legislative changes in a number of countries. All in all there is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’. This briefing explains the background to the opening of the drug policy debate in the region, summarises the most relevant aspects of the ongoing drug law reforms in some countries, and makes a series of recommendations that could help to move the debate forward in a productive manner.
The countries of the Northern Triangle are experiencing much higher rates of violence and increasing Drug Trafficking Organization (DTOs) activity than Mexico which has occupied the limelight when it comes to media attention. To what extent is the drugs trade responsible for this violence?
Mexico has occupied the limelight when it comes to media attention focusing on drug-related violence in Latin America. However, it is actually Central America's Northern Triangle – consisting of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador – currently experiencing much higher rates of violence and increasing Drug Trafficking Organization (DTOs) activity, thus providing an illustration of the 'balloon effect' previously experienced by Mexico itself after the implementation of Plan Colombia which was conceived at the end of the 90's. Together the countries of the Northern Triangle now form one of the most violent regions on earth.
There is an undeniable regional trend of moving away from the ‘war on drugs’ in Latin America. This briefing explains the background, summarises the state of ongoing drug law reforms, and makes recommendations to move the debate forward.
Fifty years after signing the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and 40 years after the U.S. government declared a "war on drugs," many obstacles remain despite the partial successes of efforts to counter the problem. The Andean-United States Dialogue Forum, noted with concern how drug policy has monopolized the diplomatic and economic agenda between the Andean countries, contributing to tensions among the governments and impeding cooperation on other crucial priorities, such as safeguarding democratic processes from criminal networks.
It is time to reopen the national debate about drug use, its regulation and control. In June 2011 a prestigious Global Commission stated that the 40-year “War on Drugs” has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. It urged all countries to look at the issue anew. In response to the Global Commission report, Australia21, in January 2012, convened a meeting of 24 former senior Australian politicians and experts on drug policy, to explore the principles and recommendations that were enunciated by the Global Commission.
Prohibitionist policies based on the eradication of production and on the disruption of drug flows as well as on the criminalization of consumption have not yielded the desired results. We are further than ever from the announced goal of eradicating drugs.
Breaking the taboo, acknowledging the failure of current policies and their consequences is the inescapable prerequisite for the discussion of a new paradigm leading to safer, more efficient and humane drug policies.