Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2012
Source: Observer, The (UK)
Copyright: 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited
Author: Ed Vulliamy


A Global Taskforce to Rethink the Approach to Narcotics Is Proposed 
at the Americas Summit

The government of Colombia pushed yesterday for the most far-reaching 
change to policy on drugs since US president Richard Nixon declared 
war on narcotics four decades ago.

Hosting the sixth Summit of the Americas, for which 33 leaders of the 
hemisphere's 35 nations   including President Barack Obama   have 
assembled in Cartagena, President Juan Manuel Santos proposed the 
establishment of a taskforce of experts, economists and academics to 
analyse the realities of global drug addiction, trafficking and 
profiteering, with a view to a complete overhaul of governmental strategy.

Santos's close aide and ambassador to London, Mauricio Rodriguez, 
said the outcome "could mean anything from blanket legalisation to a 
new and different war on drugs. We just do not know until we have the 
data, investigate every option with open minds, and have the full 
picture drawn up by experts who know the terrain, and are not 
motivated by interests, ideology or emotion. Whatever it is, it must 
be real change, based upon new paradigms.

"Why is Colombia leading this?" he asked. "Because we learned the 
hard way, and we have the moral authority. In the 1980s we failed to 
face the reality, and as a result our society was taken to the brink 
and almost destroyed by violence and the drug cartels. And we do not 
want other places, in Central America or Africa, to go through the 
pain we went through. They   and all of us   have to act fast, 
because the many-headed monster grows very fast and destroys very fast.

"For so many years," he said, "it has been easy for politicians to 
blame drug-producing nations like Colombia for poisoning their lovely 
kids. And the result has been a stigma on Colombia. But that 
game   that farce   is now over. We are not pointing any fingers, and 
Colombia will not act unilaterally. But we are saying that there is a 
shared responsibility between consuming and producing nations who 
must all now co-operate on a global scale to stop the scourge of 
drugs in our societies."

Rodriguez cited a recent debate broadcast to a vast audience on 
Google and Youtube by the London-based organisation Intelligence 
Squared as having "demonstrated why we have got nowhere: emotion, 
insults, celebrities. Each side accusing each other of 
totalitarianism, of wanting drugs everywhere   but no real information".

He said the taskforce urged by the Colombians "needs to be made up of 
real experts: people who know the realities of drugs, the sociology 
and anthropology of drugs, the economics of drugs and the trafficking 
and laundering routes   and people who know what drugs do on the ground".

Beyond the obvious issues of the catastrophic consequences of drugs 
on health and law enforcement, the body would "look at the social 
issues, the reasons why people take drugs: poverty, social breakdown, 
abuse and dysfunction".

Talking about the Colombian city of Medellin, once the drug murder 
capital of the world and now regenerated, Rodriguez said: "We need to 
look at the kinds of social urbanism that we applied to Medellin, 
which can isolate the criminals and give people other things to do 
with their lives, rather than resort to drugs."

Last week Colombia announced the explosive results of research by two 
experts   Alejandro Gaviria and Daniel Mejia   which shows that only 
5% of profits from Colombia's drug trade remain in the country. In 
other words, hundreds of billions of dollars of drug money finds its 
way, said Rodriguez, into "the distribution networks in the consuming 
countries, and the international banking system".

The "real value of the drugs", said the ambassador, "is not added in 
the countries of production, but once the product is moved   mainly 
to the US and Europe. And it is therefore clear that more must be 
done to fight international money-laundering of drug profits by the 
banking community."

Rodriguez said: "We want to see this go to UN level, and everyone 
knows that needs support from the US."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom