Pubdate: Sun, 15 Apr 2012
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2012 Los Angeles Times


It's a valid discussion for U.S., Mexico and others Latin American
leaders, weary of the drug war, are calling for an important discussion
on drug legalization. The U.S. should not turn away.

April 15, 2012 The Summit of the Americas is more often a photo
opportunity than a forum for bold policy initiatives. When issues of
substance are discussed, the meeting of the hemisphere's 34 leaders
has generally yielded more clashes than regional pacts. But some saw a
chance for a little more action this year when leaders from several
Latin American countries came to this weekend's summit in the
Colombian seaside city of Cartagena complaining of drug war fatigue.

Over the last six months, that weariness has been spreading throughout
Latin America. Colombia'sJuan Manuel Santos, Guatemala'sOtto Perez
Molina and Mexico'sFelipe Calderon have all suggested that governments
need to look at options beyond the military strategies that have left
tens of thousands dead in Latin America while failing to curb
consumption in the United States, the largest cocaine market in the

The three leaders, all close U.S. allies, say it is time to discuss
decriminalizing drugs, with Perez writing that global drug policy is
grounded in what he calls the false premise that "global drug markets
can be eradicated." He says that ending prohibition would remove the
obscene profits from the trade and, as a result, reduce the
competition and violence that is part of it.

Crime and violence associated with drug trafficking threaten to
destabilize the region further, despite U.S. counter-narcotics aid.
The drug wars in Mexico have left some 50,000 dead since 2006.
Honduras now has the highest homicide rate in the world, much of which
is blamed on transnational gangs and drug cartels operating in the
region. Government corruption tied to drug trafficking has swept
across much of Central America.

Withthe U.S. presidential electionjust months away, the Obama
administration is not going to engage in discussions about
liberalizing drug laws just at the moment. But Latin American leaders,
weary of failed enforcement policies, are calling for an important
discussion. The United States should not jump on the decriminalization
bandwagon without a lot of serious thought and careful analysis. But
nor should it shut itself out of that debate. Alternative approaches
that hold out hope for a regional solution deserve a fair hearing.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Matt