Argentina has given the first sign that Uruguay’s groundbreaking cannabis reform just may have started a domino effect across Latin America. Following the momentous vote by its smaller neighbor’s senate this month — making it the first nation in the world to completely legalize the cannabis — Argentina’s anti-drug czar Juan Carlos Molina has called for a public discussion in his country about emulating the measure. His comments are the clearest sign yet that Uruguay’s strategy has kicked off a trend in the region.
Prison riots in Venezuela. Jailbreaks in Mexico. Prison fires in Honduras. Latin America is displaying violent cases of the ails of its prison systems. Overcrowded and rundown, many of the region’s jails are out of control and ready to burst. In this in-depth series, GlobalPost gets inside some of the most violent jailhouses of the Americas to figure out what’s gone horribly wrong.
For years, Peru had a simple policy to fight cocaine: destroy the coca plants that were the key ingredient in the drug. It did not go so well. That has nearly propelled Peru to the top of the cocaine-production ladder. “We need to move from eradication to reduction,” said Ricardo Soberón, Peru’s new anti-drug tsar. He is drawing up a broader, more sophisticated strategy that accepts that simply wiping out coca by force will not succeed.
Peru’s government on Tuesday replaced its drug czar, whose refusal to endorse an all-out coca crop eradication effort put him at odds with the Cabinet chief and prompted concern by the U.S. Embassy. Ricardo Soberon’s resignation came after just five months in office. He caused a stir in August by temporarily suspending manual eradication of Peru’s coca crop.
The outspoken Ricardo Soberon was head of Devida for about five months and was in favor of a stronger intervention in drug policies by his institution, changing the focus from interdiction and forced crop eradication to a more comprehensive program to incorporate active participation of coca growers in the changes. His proposals clashed with U.S. and U.N. drug policies, which concentrate on forced eradication.
A deadly riot in Mexico and an inferno in Honduras have turned the searchlight on conditions in Latin America's overcrowded and anarchic prisons. Of Peru's 66 desperately overcrowded jails, Lurigancho on the arid outskirts of Lima is the most overcrowded. Built for 2,500 inmates, this human clearing house crumbling walls are currently home to some 7,000 prisoners.
Peru is fighting on two fronts against an expanding cocaine trade and resurgent Shining Path guerrillas. The country's former top anti-drug official Ricardo Soberon told InSight Crime why the government’s militarized approach, designed to keep the army and the US on its side, is only making things worse.
Despite promising signs that Peru’s new president was ready to take a fresh approach to drug policy, focused on attacking traffickers and not coca farmers, his unorthodox top drug official has resigned and been replaced with a more Washington-friendly choice. Ricardo Soberon’s appointment as head of national anti-drug agency Devida was viewed by many as a sign that newly-appointed President Ollanta Humala planned to reform Peru’s anti-narcotics policy. Soberon's proposed policies involved moving away from attacking coca growers.
Peru's leftist government has scored some early victories in its bid to overhaul anti-drugs policy in the world's top coca grower while keeping the United States as a key partner, the country's new drug czar said. Ricardo Soberon, a lawyer who previously worked for a legislator with close links to coca growers, was seen as a risky choice to lead anti-drug efforts in a country that may surpass Colombia as the world's top cocaine producer.