'Drug war' dissent at OAS summit
More than 160 civil society organizations—claiming representation of hundreds of thousands of citizens in Mexico, Central America and the United States—sent an open letter to the OAS General Assembly meeting in the Guatemalan city of Antigua this week, calling for alternatives to the so-called "war on drugs" that guarantee respect for human rights. "Our organizations have documented an alarming increase in violence and human rights violations," the letter states. "While we recognize that transnational crime and drug-trafficking play a role in this violence, we call on our governments to acknowledge that failed security policies that have militarized citizen security have only exacerbated the problem, and are directly contributing to increased human suffering in the region."
The letter, originally sent to regional leaders in the prelude to the Guatemala meeting last month, calls on the US government, the major proponent of the militarized model in the region, to end military aid for the "drug war" and focus on domestic efforts, including cracking down on money-laundering and arms smuggling, and ending prohibitionist policies.
The civil organizations representing human rights defenders, women, small farmers and professionals asked their governments to: "Propose a new model for security cooperation that provides alternatives to the ongoing war on drugs, such as regulation rather than prohibition, strong regional anti-money laundering efforts, and withdrawal of the armed forces from domestic law enforcement." (Americas Program e-mail alert, June 7; Americas Program, May 24)
More and more regional leaders—including some of the most conservative—are breaking ranks with the US-led consensus on a militarized "drug war." Juan Manuel Santos, president of Colombia, in The Guardian of June 4 called for "fresh approaches" to the question and favorably discussed the recent proposals of a special OAS report on alternatives to the militarized model.
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox late last month appeared at a Seattle press conference where local entrepreneur Jamen Shively said the US states of Washington and Colorado are spearheading a move to tear down the "Berlin Wall" of cannabis criminalization. Weighed in Fox: "In Mexico we welcome this initiative, because the cost of the war in the case of Mexico is becoming unbearable." (AFP, May 30)
Speaking days later from his ranch at San Francisco del Rincón (Guanajuato), Fox called for Mexico to follow the examples of Washington and Colorado: "Mexico should become an authorized producer, and export marijuana to places where it is already legal." He added that he would actually consider getting into the business: "Once it is legitimate and legal, of course, I do some farming. I can do it myself."
On a more serious note, he added: "This country's incredibly serious problem—violence, crime and drugs—can be solved by legalizing drugs. Trying to solve it with repression or violence just fosters more violence." (AFP, June 6)