Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rethinking drug policy

The Financial Times has a long and thoughtful look at fighting the flow of drugs in Latin America.  What I find striking is that the mainstream media is increasingly echoing what many academics started saying a decade or more ago, namely that the drug war has failed on virtually every front and needs to be rethought.  Not surprisingly, this idea is slowest to take hold in the United States, but still the facts are overwhelming and it is only a matter of time.

Some in the region believe that, while they take steps to deal with the problem, the west appears less willing to make sacrifices. Mexico, for example, has embarked on police reforms that will require constitutional change to come into effect, while a US ban on domestic sales of semi-automatic rifles that expired in 2004 is yet to be reinstated. Many believe the west has also failed to tackle money laundering. As Carlos Slim, the Mexican telecoms magnate who is the world’s richest man, has observed: “It is unfair that the drug-producing countries get to keep all the problems, and the consumer nations all of the profits”.

There is no silver bullet that can solve the drugs problem. But many in the region feel that the longer western consumer countries fail to take a meaningful role in reducing the extreme violence associated with attempts to curb their citizens’ desire to take illicit drugs, the more it will become apparent that they have blood on their hands. Security forces and traffickers have become embroiled in a kind of “arms race”, as the GCDP report put it. “Break the taboo on debate and reform. The time for action is now.”


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