The Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law (CEDD)
09 July 2014
The Research Consortium on Drugs and the Law (Colectivo de Estudios Drogas y Derecho, CEDD) has published a new study that assesses state responses to illicitly-used drugs in eight countries in Latin America: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. The study found that Latin American governments’ approach to drug use continues to be predominantly through the criminal justice system, not health institutions. Even in countries where consumption is not a crime, persistent criminalization of drug users is common.
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.
We, the undersigned human rights organizations, address you on this Fourth Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Public Security (MISPA) to follow up on the call upon governments to revise the orientation of drug policies that are being implemented in the Americas. This request for the governments took place during the 43rd Session of the OAS General Assembly which took place last June.
Pien Metaal, Mirella van Dun, Hugo Cabieses Cubas, Sebastian Scholl
31 December 2012
At the International Conference on Alternative Development (ICAD), held 15-16 November 2012 in Lima, the Peruvian Government continued to insist on the relevance of “Alternative Development (AD),” with particular emphasis on the so-called San Martín “miracle” or “model.” The model, started with the support of international cooperation, is proposed by Peru as a paradigm to be followed worldwide by regions and countries that also deal with problems associated with crops grown for illicit purposes.
At the International Conference on Alternative Development (ICAD), held in Lima from 14 to 16 November, the Peruvian Government supported by the UNODC claimed that currently in Peru the surface planted with alternative development crops is superior to the amount of coca, used for the production of cocaine. Allegedly, the 80 thousand hectares with cocoa and coffee have successfully replaced an illicit economy, or prevented it to establish itself.
In November 2011 I was invited by the Thai government to take part in an international delegation to develop a set of UN International Guiding Principles on Alternative Development. Our work began with a five-day journey along the Thai-Burma border to see first-hand the development programs that have been successful in virtually eliminating poppy production in that country. Over 100 government officials and experts from 28 countries visited the Thai “Royal Project,” which has research stations and development projects in five Northern provinces of the country.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
In Peru, the law on drugs does not punish drug use or drug possession for personal use by imprisonment. Nonetheless, as the Peru chapter of the study Systems Overload: Drug Laws and Prisons in Latin America concludes, the Peruvian authorities treat drug use as if it were criminal conduct. As a result, the police are overwhelmed, trials are delayed, and the prisons are filled.
Peru is a major world producer of coca leaf and its derivatives. Since the year 2000, successive Peruvian administrations have followed a drug policy focused on supply reduction through interdiction and eradication strategies. The law on drugs does not punish drug use or drug possession for personal use by imprisonment. Nonetheless, the Peruvian authorities treat drug use as if it were criminal conduct. As a result, the police are overwhelmed, trials are delayed, and the prisons are filled.
The Peruvian government has presented the “Miracle of San Martin Model” as the path to follow to achieve drug supply reduction. However a closer look reveals that the model is not replicable, not ecologically sustainable, and won't remedy the ‘symptoms of alternative development’.
In the last few years, many Latin American countries face a dilemma – imported from Western countries – of conceding some if not all of its penitentiary services to large national and/or international companies. Such a step calls into question whether or not the State should hand over legal authority, including the duty of sanctioning, guarding and rehabilitating the offenders.
On July 30th the Bolivian proposal to amend the 1961 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs by deleting the obligation to abolish the chewingof coca leaf was on the ECOSOC agenda (UN Social and Economic Council). After informal negotiations, the 54 members of ECOSOC decided unanimously to pass the amendment proposal on to the Parties of the Convention for their consideration. They now have 18 months to express any objections or comments on the Bolivian request.