Pubdate: Mon, 16 Apr 2012
Source: Globe and Mail (Canada)
Copyright: 2012 The Globe and Mail Company
Author: Jennifer Ditchburn


Something is just not working with the way the hemisphere has tackled 
powerful and violent drug traffickers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper 
acknowledged Sunday as he wrapped up a meeting with the leaders of 
the Americas.

It was the first time Harper has suggested he is open to discussing 
new approaches to the war on drugs. Several Latin American countries, 
including Guatemala, Mexico and Colombia have called for an open and 
frank discussion about how to deal with the cartels.

"There is increasing doubt about whether we are taking the best 
approach to doing that, but nobody thinks these transnational 
networks are good guys, or that changing the law is somehow going to 
make them good people," Mr. Harper told reporters at a news 
conference following the close of the Summit of the Americas.

"I think what everyone believes and agrees with, and to be frank 
myself, is that the current approach is not working, but it is not 
clear what we should do."

The gathering of 31 leaders agreed to analyze the approach to the 
drug situation in a more formal way through the Organization of 
American States.

While some voices in Latin America and the Caribbean have suggested 
legalization and regulation of drugs might alleviate some of the 
suffering and violence in the region, others have opposed the idea.

But there is some consensus that countries such as Canada and the 
United States, who consume the lion's share of the drugs produced in 
the south, should be doing more to solve the problem.

El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes told the Latin American 
network NTN24 that the United States is not doing its fair share, and 
actually spent more money fighting leftist guerrillas during the 
country's civil war than it is in helping fight the cartels. More 
than 1,000 Salvadorans have died in drug-related violence in the past 
three months alone.

Mr. Harper announced funding related to that battle on Sunday.

A new Canadian Initiative for Security in Central America will spend 
$25-million over five years to help with the training of law 
enforcement agencies and the providing of police equipment.

The Prime Minister made it clear that he sees no easy solutions as to 
what to do next.

The Conservative government recently introduced stiffer penalties for 
Canadians who grow even small numbers of marijuana plants. He spoke 
of the wide penetration of drugs across Canadian society.

"There is a willingness to look at the various measures that can be 
taken to combat that phenomenon, but just in terms of simple answers 
like legalization or criminalization, let me remind you of why these 
drugs are illegal.

"They're illegal because they quickly and totally, with many of the 
drugs, destroy people's lives and people are willing to make lots of 
money out of selling those products," Mr. Harper said.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom