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Is the 'human cost' in the war on drugs too high?

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 20th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

With millions of civilians, soldiers and criminals all dead, and no change in sight, a summit of Latin American nations has suggested that the best path may be to decriminalize drug use, while stressing cooperation between nations. The Organization of American States has suggested that Latin American countries could stop deploying law enforcement agencies to fight cartels after concluding that the human costs of the "war on drugs" is just too high.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Commissioned at last year's Cartagena Summit of the Americas, the report reflects what many in Latin America feel is a much needed, new approach to the drug war. Previous hard-line policies have resulted in decades of violence in producer and trafficking nations such as Colombia, Peru and Mexico.
 
The United States is being pressured by some regional leaders for an overhaul of anti-drug policies and has suggested they might be open to legalization of some narcotics if that would reduce bloodshed.

In a 200-page review, a number of South American countries say they would break with the prohibition line. They said that they are ready to no longer deploy law enforcement and the army against drug cartels after deeming the human cost of life too high.

"The report presented by the OAS today is a vital piece in the construction of a common way to fight this problem," Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said during the presentation.

Internationally, Latin America suffers the brunt of consequences of the so-called war on drugs. In Mexico alone, upwards of 70,000 people have died in drug-related violence over the past six years, while at the same time having a lower murder rate is still lower than several nations, including Honduras, Guatemala, Brazil and Venezuela.

Drug-related violence has plagued Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador as traffickers have increasingly infiltrated Central America.

Almost all the cocaine consumed in Western countries is produced in Latin America. Even worse, drug consumption is ticking up in nations such as Argentina and Brazil.

According to the OAS, about 45 percent of cocaine consumers, 50 percent of heroin users and 25 percent of marijuana smokers live in North and South America.

The nation of Costa Rica has fared better than many of its neighbors, but it worries about spillover from nearby countries.

Honduras currently has the highest homicide rate in the world, with about 7,200 people murdered last year in the tiny nation of eight million people, most in drug-related crime.

The report, which includes all 35 North and South American nations, aims to start a debate among American nations regarding anti-drug policies. It also advocates for softer policies toward drug users.

"The decriminalization of drug consumption must be considered the base of any public health strategies," the report says. "An addict is not a person with a chronic disease that should be punished for his addiction."

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