Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Changing Latin America Drug Policy

The New York Times has an editorial today applauding the shift in thinking about the "drug war" in Latin America. What I find odd is that the Obama administration is not mentioned at all. Instead, we get generic references to "the United States," "American government," and "Washington." But none of those amorphous things changed U.S. policy: President Obama did.

I see this as significant primarily because Obama deserves to be credited with this policy change in conjunction with the other two big ones: immigration and Cuba. He waited a long time, but in all three cases he broke through years--or even decades--of rigid thinking. "Washington" didn't do this. If anything, "Washington" fought him tooth and nail because the status quo is good for a lot of people regardless of how effective it is at achieving stated policy goals.


Roque 10:41 AM  

Punishment of casual users and low-level dealers is still common in the region, particularly in Brazil -- the country with the largest population and probably the largest domestic illegal drug market. I think NYT is a little quick to applaud here. I don't see such a major change.

Greg Weeks 11:23 AM  

My own sense is that there has definitely been a change and that the Obama administration is trying to respond to it. That's what the NYT is applauding, and I think justifiably. For sure, however, that does not mean change is all encompassing or that it exists everywhere. But you compare drug policy now to, say, the early years of the Bush administration and it's quite different.

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