Pubdate: Thu, 22 Dec 2011
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2011 The Washington Post Company
Author: By William Booth, Washington Post


MEXICO CITY - Latin American leaders have joined together to condemn 
the U.S. government for soaring drug violence in their countries, 
blaming the United States for the transnational cartels that have 
grown rich and powerful smuggling dope north and guns south.

Alongside official declarations, Latin American governments have 
expressed growing disgust for U.S. drug consumers - both the addict 
and the weekend recreational user heedless to the misery and 
destruction paid for their pleasures.

"Our region is seriously threatened by organized crime, but there is 
very little responsibility taken by the drug-consuming countries," 
Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom said at a meeting this month of 
Latin leaders in Caracas. Colom said the hemisphere was paying the 
price for drug consumption in the United States with "our blood, our 
fear and our human sacrifice."

With transit countries facing some of the highest homicide rates in 
the world, so great is the frustration that the leaders are demanding 
that the United States and Europe consider steps toward legalization 
if they do not curb their appetite for drugs.

At a regional summit this month in Mexico, attended by the leaders of 
11 Latin American and Caribbean countries, officials declared that 
"the authorities in consumer countries should explore all possible 
alternatives to eliminate exorbitant profits of criminals, including 
regulatory or market options."

"Market options" is diplomatic code for decriminalization.

The complaints are not exactly new but are remarkable for being 
nearly unanimous. The critique comes from sitting presidents left to 
right, from persistent U.S. antagonists such as President Hugo Chavez 
of Venezuela and from close U.S. allies such as President Juan Manuel 
Santos of Colombia, which has received almost $9 billion in aid to 
fight the cartels.

The criticism has been bolstered by opinion leaders in the region, 
including the former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico, who 
called for the legalization of marijuana and an overhaul of U.S. 
thinking on the 40-year drug war, which has cost a trillion dollars 
by some estimates but has done little to reduce supply and demand.

Senior Obama administration officials say the resentment is 
understandable, that the production and transit countries are 
shouldering more of the violence but that the rhetorical attacks 
against the United States are misdirected.

"I refuse to accept that there has not been progress" in the fight 
against drug trafficking and consumption, said William Brownfield, 
assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International 
Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
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