Pubdate: Tue, 13 May 2014
Source: Buenos Aires Herald (Argentina)
Copyright: 2014 S.A. The Buenos Aires Herald Ltd.


Leaders Hint at Getting Away From 'Totally Inefficient' US-Led Policy
to Combat Trafficking

Amid the usual pomp and ceremony of a state visit, Chilean President
Michelle Bachelet yesterday touched on drug-trafficking - a sensitive
issue locally - by suggesting the problem be taken up on a regional
level at UNASUR, in a move that appears to be one more step away from
the US policy on the issue, which President Cristina Fernandez de
Kirchner yesterday described as "totally inefficient."

The leaders also put pen to paper on a series of bilateral accords
during a meeting the pair described as a "fresh start" for
Chilean-Argentine relations, which included hints of support from
Santiago over Argentina's dispute with the UK about the Malvinas.

"It's not enough that two countries agree on drug-trafficking," said
Bachelet, who added that it was a "topic that should be taken to UNASUR."

Bachelet's comment on drug-trafficking was then echoed by Fernandez de
Kirchner, who took the opportunity to criticize the United States on
its record in fighting drugs, after Argentina was last week criticized
by the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the US State Department and
the Argentine Catholic Church - on three separate occasions - over
issues regarding drug-trafficking.

Fernandez de Kirchner said "neither Chile nor Argentina produce
drugs," and described the two countries as "transit points."

In what appeared to be a clear critique of US-led anti-drug efforts,
Fernandez de Kirchner said that "if 20 years ago a strategy is put
forth to combat drugs, and drug-trafficking then grows, it's evident
that the methodology needs to be changed," she charged, describing it
as "totally inefficient."

"I think it's fundamental that countries that consume a lot of drugs
participate in the fight (against trafficking) and agree on common
protocol, because the reality is that our countries - beyond some
addictions that might exist in Chile and Argentina - are transit
points," she said.

The absence of countries that produce and consume drugs at the
negotiating-table represents "fiction or hypocrisy," CFK charged.

Bachelet has come under scrutiny in conservative Chile for having
suggested amendments to the classification of marijuana, specifically
a law that considers pot a "hard drug."

"The problem with drugs in Chile is not individual or medicinal
consumptions, but the drug-trafficking networks that are rife in the
streets of our country, and that's precisely where we'll be putting
our efforts," said Bachelet during an interview with CNN Chile in March.

For her part, Fernandez de Kirchner said under "no perspective" is she
considering any changes to drug laws, while taking aim at the media
for "using the issue (of drug-trafficking) to force it into the media
agenda and trying to show the government isn't doing anything."

'Unthinkable years ago'

Yesterday's official visit was hailed by both heads of state for its
significance in increasing the cultural and political proximity of two
countries that have historically seen themselves divided by more than
just the Andes Mountains.

"For many, many decades - I would almost even say during centuries -
we were really separated, different, distant and looking outward
toward other continents," said Fernandez de Kirchner. She noted,
however, that since the last CELAC conference in Cuba, "from Mexico
southward, we've all been able to agree on common ground, with a
vision and level of participation that was absolutely unthinkable years ago."

Part of that growing closeness yesterday included a range of
agreements that, among other measures, will see the opening up of new
border crossings, the gradual elimination of the Sole Migratory Card
for immigration, as well as disaster management cooperation, the likes
of which yesterday earned CFK the praise of Bachelet, who described
Argentina's response to the Valparaiso fire that last month killed 15
people and cancelled her initial visit to Argentina, as "concrete."

They also signed some more symbolic agreements, offering to support
each other in the development of mining projects, the exchange of
energy resources during emergencies, and in matters of national defence.  
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D