While escalating civil conflict in Colombia is attracting increasing international interest and concern, the complex relationships between drug trafficking, political violence, and the many actors involved in the social conflict in Colombia are often absent from the debate.
The Mexican army, that historically has maintained a stringent "nationalistic" stance towards the United States, now supports a form of militarization that, disguising itself as a "war on drugs", imposes a "democracy of national security".
On 26 and 27 August, 2010, the Second Latin American Conference and the First Brazilian Conference on Drug Policy took place in the noble hall of the National Law School of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) with more than 400 attendees and the presence of top drug policy experts from thirteen countries in Latin America. It was the most specialized meeting to take place to date in the region. The Conference was organized at the regional level by Intercambios, a key Latin American civil association that has worked for fifteen years on issues of harm reduction and drug policy. And, locally by Psicotropicus, a pioneer in bringing the drugs debate out from obscurity and bringing it into everyday discussions in Brazil.
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.
Three former Latin American presidents have declared the US-led “war on drugs” a failure and called for new strategies focusing on treatment to replace a repressive approach they say is discredited. The former presidents of Colombia, Mexico and Brazil made their call at the launch of the Global Commission on Drugs Policies in Geneva this week. The three statesmen hope the new body will develop proposals that will move the global drugs debate away from prohibition and towards treating the issue as a public health problem.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the UN agency charged with developing strategies to reduce global poverty, has strongly criticised current international drug policy, highlighting the disastrous costs it is producing – particularly for the world’s poor. In the agency’s formal submission to the UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on drugs (PDF), launched at the annual UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs which began last week in Vienna, the UNDP argues:
The following essays present insights into the various levels of military involvement in the war on drugs and the implications of this involvement in terms of democracy and human rights in the Western hemisphere.