Europe and the US should heed Latin America on drugs – Guardian editorial

It’s time to engage with Latin America and pursue alternatives to the present policy

You wouldn’t know it from listening to UK officials but a game-changing debate is taking place in the Americas about the war on drugs. There is a growing belief that the current punitive-based approach has failed. It has visited a savage level of violence on Latin America as narco cartels, moving cocaine and cannabis into the US, have butchered and bribed their way through the continent. The killing and corrupting of public officials – judges, police, politicians – threatened, and still threatens, to demolish the institutions of those states.

Those countries are now asking uncomfortable questions of the US and Europe, such as, why do we suffer so much in trying to prevent cocaine and cannabis leaving our countries in order to reach those markets where they are mostly consumed? There is near-unanimous agreement in Latin America that the war on drugs has failed.

A year ago, at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia, regional leaders, including Barack Obama, agreed to commission a study on drug policies and to recommend options. The report was delivered last week by the Organisation of American States (OAS), which includes all 35 North and South American countries. As we report on other pages, the report provides an evidence-based approach to rethinking the drugs war. It sets out different scenarios, including legalised, regulated markets, and provides a stimulus to debate new approaches. It also challenges America and Europe to engage with the new mood in Latin America.

Those countries are increasingly vocal in their determination to reset the war on drugs.

There are clear signals that one or more may unilaterally opt out and stop prosecuting those who pass drugs through their country. It is time for Europe and the US to join a conversation that has gained real momentum. If they leave it much longer, there is a danger no one in Latin America will be listening.

Source: The Guardian


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