The president emphasized the need for alternative ways to tackle the region’s drug problem amid the failing “war on drugs” and set out the four alternatives in detail, taking potential benefits and risks into consideration.
The Organization of American States (OAS) carried out the study after Latin American nations expressed their frustration with the current drug policy at the Summit of the Americas in April 2012. Santos claims the recently-completed study “breaks new ground” in putting forward four alternative perspectives on how to understand and deal with the region’s drug problem over the next decade.
According to Santos, the first initiative, named “together”, seeks to treat the drug problem as part of a broader security issue “with weak state institutions unable to control organised crime and the violence and corruption it generates.” As this perspective considers drugs as a part of a general lack of insecurity in Latin America, the response would be to improve security measures as a whole.
The second initiative, “pathways,” views the ongoing drug problem as a result of the misguided regime that is currently in place to control drugs. Santos says the use of criminal sanctions to target drugs is “an approach that is producing too much harm.”
Pathways’ proposed solution is to experiment with “alternative legal and regulatory regimes, starting with cannabis.” The president added that this could potentially allow the affected nations “to reallocate resources from controlling drugs and drug users to preventing and treating problematic use, and to shrink some criminal markets and profits through regulation.”
Santos then introduced “resilience”, which views the drug problem as a “manifestation and magnifier of underlying social and economic dysfunctions that lead to violence and addiction.” The president says this should be targeted through measures that “strengthen communities” and “improve public safety, health, education, and employment.”
“Disruption” is the name given to the fourth and final alternative, which argues that countries where drugs are produced suffer “unbearable and unfair costs.” The response, Santos explains, would be for governments to “abandon the fight against drug production within, and transit though, their territories.”
“Any of these scenarios – or a combination of them, or possibly others – could occur. The decisions taken by leaders both in the Americas and the rest of the world will determine which scenario will occur,” concluded Santos.
The war on drugs was initiated by US President Richard Nixon in 1971 and remains unresolved over 40 years later.