Sometimes, when a campaign needs help to remain in the public eye, that help can come from the most unexpected quarters. This has been shown today by the support coming from leaders in Latin America for a re-think of the so-called “War On Drugs”, because of their admission – as from so many others around the world – that this is a war that has failed.
Here on Zelo Street, that has been the view from the first time the subject was raised on the blog in July 2009, provoked by Phil Hendren of Dizzy Thinks notoriety – more often known as a purveyor of right leaning whataboutery – whose stance on the issue is very close to my own, although we are coming at it from different directions, his libertarian take versus my pragmatic one.
And the word coming out of the Summit of the Americas in the Colombian city of Cartagena is that alternatives to prohibition must now be found. Leading the charge is Guatemala’s President Otto Pérez Molina, who was formerly head of that country’s military intelligence service, so he will have first-hand knowledge of what organised criminality is prepared to do to maintain control of the drugs trade.
Pérez Molina does not advocate a free-for-all approach – after all, as he points out, we accept regulation of the tobacco and alcohol trade – and therefore reaches this conclusion: “Drug consumption, production and trafficking should be subject to global regulations, which means that drug consumption and production should be legalised, but within certain limits and conditions” (full interview HERE).
And he also makes this observation: “When we analyse drug markets through realistic lenses (not ideological ones as is pretty much customary in most government circles these days), we realise that drug consumption is a public health issue that, awkwardly, has been transformed into a criminal justice problem”. It helps to admit that, yes, this is a public health problem.
But will the biggest players, like the USA, listen? As ever, this is by no means certain, but Barack Obama will attend the Summit. The problem that he in turn faces is that the right wing in the States, rather like the why-oh-why part of the Fourth Estate in the UK, will irrationally and loudly howl down any sign of reform. One can guess the reaction at Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse).
And that would be a pity, because the longer the failed “War On Drugs” continues, the more money is sprayed up the wall treating the problem from the perspective of prohibition, the more misery is caused, the more lives are ruined and, yes, terminated, and still we do not move the issue forward. It was ever thus.