Drug Policy Is Top Agenda Item in Central America

August 27, 2010

Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s call for renewed discussion of alternative ways to counter drug trafficking is catching on regionally, as leaders throughout Central America are joining the debate.

Efforts to counter narcotics were at the center of President Laura Chinchilla’s meeting Sunday with José Miguel Insulza, the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), as the two discussed citizen safety issues and regional efforts to reduce crime.

Insulza referenced a change in strategy adopted by the OAS in June, which says that anti-drug policies should focus not just on supply and control, but also on dependence.

“The new OAS drug strategy promotes treatment as an alternative to incarceration,” Insulza wrote in a June 23 column on the news blog Huffington Post. “The strategy explicitly recognizes that drug dependency is a chronic, relapsing disease that must be dealt with as a core element of public health policy.”

The policy shift responds to a similar move made by U.S. President Barack Obama the month before in which he called for community-based prevention, expanding treatment and strengthening law enforcement.”

Asked about the legalization of drugs, Insulza responded that whatever action is taken needs to be coordinated so as not to create confusion.”

Chinchilla emphasized that drug use is de-penalized in Costa Rica, but she reiterated Calderón’s insistence that legalization should remain a point of discussion.

“The debate is open in Costa Rica and the whole world,” she said. “This is a debate we should have, but it should be rigorous.”

–Chrissie Long

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