Drug Wars: Thanks US, but we'll take it from here

'Sorry old Uncle Sam, but it's time we sorted out this one ourselves.' If Latin America had a collective voice, its message to the USA in relation to the 'war on drugs' might go something like the opening line.

'Sorry old Uncle Sam, but it's time we sorted out this one ourselves.' If Latin America had a collective voice, its message to the USA in relation to the 'war on drugs' might go something like the opening line.

For much of the latter half of the last century, the United States effectively ruled the roost across the central and southern parts of the Americas when it came to drug law enforcement. Washington's way was generally followed by governments from Mexico to Chile and everywhere else in between.

However, in what can be seen as both a sign of growing Latin American confidence and a somewhat weakening of US influence, a host of administrations in these parts are looking for local solutions to a locally-grown problem, albeit one whose tentacles are far-reaching.

Take Colombia, where its governments have long been seen as lapdogs of the US. It has recently suspended the aerial spraying of the coca leaf, the plant used to make cocaine. This had been a key measure for the White House in combating drug production, so top brass there were far from enamoured of the idea of its suspension when it was first mooted.

However, Colombia pressed ahead and rather than make a stand, United States officials stayed quiet, with some even supporting the plan.
Elsewhere, both Chile and Uruguay have introduced laxer laws on marijuana production and consumption, mimicking in a way the American states of Colorado and Washington.

Bolivia, under President Evo Morales, won an exception to a United Nations anti-drug convention that acknowledges the right of the state to allow traditional uses of coca.

Morales has pushed ahead with a system permitting farmers to grow small plots of the leaf, which has been chewed as a mild stimulant for centuries and used for traditional medicinal and religious purposes.

Throw in the presidents of both Guatemala and Mexico publicly calling for some sort of new 'way' to tackle the global drugs problem and it's clear to see that there's a longing for change.

The military-style approach, used to its greatest extent in Colombia, has lost much of its appeal.

As Colombian justice minister Yesid Reyes put it, speaking after his government's decision to suspend the chemical spraying of coca, "If you use the same tools for 50 years and the problem isn’t solved, something is not working right."

The reasons for a new approach are pretty similar across the region: a desire to reduce the bloodshed from drug-related violence, diminish the power of narco-traffickers and free up space in prisons overcrowded with those charged with drug offences.

Yet, how this will be done is far from clear. There isn't much consensus, let alone solid ideas, on the form of a new strategy.

Plus, there are still numerous conservative thinkers among the Central and South American peoples where the idea of even partial legalization is anathema to them.

That it has, though, become an open topic of conversation in these parts shows times appear to be changing.

Where that will take us to is anyone's guess at this stage. What is more certain, however, is that big old Uncle Sam to the north will have less a say on events than he has been previously used to.

LatinAmerican Post | By

Top
We use cookies to improve our website. By continuing to use this website, you are giving consent to cookies being used. More details…