Latin American leaders at ground zero of the “war on drugs” called for a new approach on Wednesday, saying the current drive to crush powerful cartels has failed to reduce consumption.
The presidents of Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia all spoke at the UN General Assembly of the need to find a new approach to the global war on drugs.
“The premise of our fight against drugs has proven to have serious flaws,” said President Otto Perez of Guatemala, who in the past has advocated legalizing drugs to wipe out the profit motive for traffickers.
According to US government figures, about 90 percent of the cocaine and other drugs sent from South America to the US passes through or is stored in Central America, helping make it one of the world’s most violent regions.
Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon pleaded with the UN to examine the “limits” of the war on drugs and weigh alternatives to the fight in which thousands die every year.
“I demand that the UN not only take part in, but that it lead a discussion without prejudices ... that could bring us all to solutions that have new and efficient focuses,” Calderon told the UN General Assembly.
In his last address to the world body before he steps down Dec. 1, Calderon charged that most countries have not owned up to the role they play in deadly organized drug crime, “the biggest cause of violent crime in the world.”
The UN “must honestly examine, with academic rigor and global responsibility, what the [policy] alternatives could be — specifically regulatory and market-based alternatives — so that we can determine if they are really alternatives or not.”
Mexico’s relentless drug war has claimed more than 60,000 lives since 2006, when the Calderon government deployed troops to break up drug cartels.
Calderon has been one of the most high-profile figures in the war on drugs.
However, more recently, as he prepares to hand over power to Enrique Pena Nieto, who was elected in July, Calderon has advocated alternatives — an increasingly common demand among Latin American leaders.
Consumer nations, with the US on top, have not managed to make a significant dent in demand for drugs, Calderon said.
The president of Colombia, which along with Peru is the world’s top producer of cocaine, also said the problem needs a rethink.
“We must determine, on an objective and scientific basis, if we are doing the best we can or if there are better options to battle this scourge better,” Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said.