Saturday, May 30, 2009

Latin Americans Decry "War on Drugs"

Cardoso of Brazil.

From the Guardian

Marijuana and cocaine for personal use should be decriminalised because the "war on drugs" has been a disaster, according to some of Latin America's most powerful politicians and writers.

The current international policy on drugs encourages corruption and violence that is threatening democracy throughout the continent, according to the former president of Brazil, Fernando Enrique Cardoso, who is a co-president of the Latin American commission on drugs and democracy. As well as politicians, the commission includes the writers Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru, and Paulo Coelho of Brazil.

The election of Barack Obama has opened up the best opportunity for decades to address the failure of the "so-called drugs war", Cardoso told the Guardian today on a visit to London. He said he was hopeful that the international community would acknowledge that the time had come for a "paradigm shift" in the debate on drugs. "The war on drugs has failed in spite of enormous efforts in places like Colombia - the area of coca crops is not reducing," he said.

To start with, I think I'd question the basic assumption that there is a war on drugs. True, we say there is -- but we certainly don't make a real effort at stopping drug use. Because we know what works: prevention and treatment. Yet we spend tons of money on police and military efforts to "fight drugs." To me, it's pretty obvious why. It's just a political cover for other things -- whether it be shoring up votes, policing poor communities, or advancing geopolitical agendas.

What the "War on Drugs" really seems to amount to is a war on the poor, and in the United States, specifically Black people, who make up roughly 15% of drugs users but 75% of convictions, radically disproportionate to their use.