» Press » Press releases » Press Release 19
Español | English | Português

PANEL. Latin America in the international context


In the debate about “Latin America in the international context” it became clear that the policies in the region led at once to negotiate with major organized crime figures, such as the Colombian Pablo Escobar, while increasing prison mules and compulsory treatment. Also, that removing a substance from the market does not reduce consumption, but replaces the other. Lessons for Mexico from what happened in the previous 20 years.

(Mexico City, 14/09/11, 18:00 hs) Is the escalation of violence a barometer of success? What are the consequences of negotiating with the actors of organized crime? What occurs during child links as mules and individual sellers? What is the impact of prohibitionist policies on drugs and users, especially the poor? These questions were developed by the panel: “Latin America in the international context”, where Fabio Mesquita (WHO Vietnam), Steven S. Dudley (InsSight-Organized Crime in the Americas), David Holiday (OSI) and Mike Trace (IDPC) baste each of these axes.

Balloon effect and social crisis

“At the momento in which a repressive system of control is created, the market is in the hands of criminals,” he said at the beginning of his presentation Mike Trace, president of the International Consortium on Drug Policy (IDPC). And he reflected: “The war on drugs has signified a social crisis in the countries where it is carried forward.”

The expert from the IDPC also referred to the balloon effect, meaning the phenomenon by which a crop is eradicated quickly produces another, so the drug market is fast and dynamic.

This same effect occurs in the consumption: to reduce the supply of a substance does not mean reducing the number of drug users, but the rapid replacement of the substance of which there are shortages on the other, often poorer quality. Trace gave the example of Australia where the heroin shortage in 2009-2010 was considered a success by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), but actually meant that consumers have turned to meth, of which the effects are more harmful.

Compulsory treatment in Brazil and Vietnam

Fabio Mesquita, head of the HIV Unit of the WHO in Vietnam, denounced the inhumane living situations of drug users (dependent or not) in places of “treatment” mandatory in several countries in Asia and warned about the treatment model imperative that has been implemented in Brazil, its country of origin, more precisely in Rio de Janeiro, where children living on the street and crack users are driven to forced treatment centers.

Also he pointed out that the World Health Organization in its latest report, asked for the closing, for the first time of all compulsory treatment centers, which are considered real prisons for users.

Mesquita also responded to those responsible for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) from the previous day, who noted that the UN had just run the dictated by the States: “We are not simply a passive role to fulfill policies without thinking. We can also show when there are public policies that are more interesting and effective.”

Colombia: a model not to imitate

The negotiation model used by the Colombian government in the case of Pablo Escobar was presented by Steven S. Dudley, co- director of InSight Organized Crime in the Americas, as a model of how not to negotiate with the cartels. “The negotiation has lasted over thirty years¨. It is a model developed by Colombia and the U.S., which began when the government began penalizing drug users and sellers “.

He explained that with this model the ones that benefited were the judges, the DEA, the Colombian government and the same leaders of organized crime, since in this period they were able to show “results”: imprisonment, extradition and trial.

“The truth is that real negotiations by the United States did not prosecute the most serious crimes, because they gave lighter sentences for the cooperation,” said Dudley, who gave the example of Nicolas Bergonzoli, who after 39 months in prison, managed to legalize his property and to take his family to America. “While everyone wanted to be Bergonzoli, it also looked good for the anti-drug prosecutors and the U.S., which then could show success in the drug war.”

Who lost? The drug mules and drug dealers that ended up with penalties more severe than those of the members of the organized crime structure.

Dudley said it would be difficult to replicate this model of negotiation in Mexico, as a result of the fragmentation in this country, since they are not political groups, nor attain a lot of structure. He also noted that there is “no space to do that kind of negotiation now.”

Violence as a barometer of success

In conclusion, David Holiday, the representative of Program for Latin America of the Open Society Institute, reported that “the change in amount of violence remains a barometer of success of drug policy. It is a framework of thought we have to fight and change. “

In his opinion, “organized crime is present, and we can control and reduce it ,but to do so in a truly effective manner the action must be based on a long term process with the aim to strengthen the institutions.”

Press Contacts

In México: Silvia Solís (celular): +04455 1006 7647 /

prensamexico@conferenciadrogas.com / capulin2000@gmail.com

For other countries: +54 11 4954 7272 (INTERCAMBIOS)

Horacio Torres: +54 9 11 6794 6315 / Romina Ruffato: +54 9 11 5488 4033

prensa@conferenciadrogas.com / prensa@intercambios.org.ar / Twitter: @confedrogas