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Álvaro Henry Campos Solórzano

Exclusive interview with Vice Minister of Justice and Public Safety of the Republic of El Salvador

“We need regional policies, we cannot act in isolation”

In an interview prior to the Third Latin American Conference on Drug Policy, the Salvadoran official said that policies must be processed jointly by the different countries.  He also explained that sanctions should be excluded from the consumer without affecting the effectiveness of the crackdown on drug traffickers and that there must involve civil society organizations when making decisions.

-What is your country’s situation on the problems of narcotics-related violence currently affecting the region?

- Since the beginning of the post-war, El Salvador has been under high levels of violence and insecurity, considering it one of the most violent countries in the region. Currently for the number of homicides, we are in order, the third most violent country and the second with the highest homicide rates in Central America. Police reports indicate that essentially there are three sources of homicide and injury in El Salvador: gangs or gang activity, organized crime and narcotic and social violence. Drug trafficking is one of the principle generators of violence, especially the fight for territorial control and profits from the sale of drugs. The use of Central American territory to transport drugs leaves a trail of violence that prevents development. In recent years the payment for services for drug trafficking and drug use in the country has been rising, which have also increased the severity of the violence, the number of crimes committed by those who need to keep access to the drug and the number of street sales that confront different competitors.

- What are the policies being implemented by the government to deal with them?

- We have designed a Justice Policy, Public Safety and Violence Prevention that aims to improve police efficiency and coordination, drug prevention and rehabilitation programs for consumers, more control in prisons, a regional plan of joint actions crime and rescue and strengthen public institutions to prevent the drugs to corrupt or contaminate them.

-  What assessment is made from the directives emanating from the multilateral agencies in addressing problems related to drugs?

- Provide tools to states and specific lines of action to address them in order to help reduce the damage from the complex phenomenon of drugs. It is true that in some cases the recommendations may be ineffective or contradictory, but it is important to maintain an ongoing relationship with these agencies and accord to regional realities as applicable and suitable recommendations. We can not deny progress, for example, that some agencies have been focused on the countries to be effective in the criminal exclusion of consumers. It is possible that in the years we will observe many positive developments in these agencies policies.

-  What are the main concepts that will turn your paper at the Third Latin American Conference on Drug Policy?

- That the current drug situation is a permanent threat to the States and citizens and that policies must be transformed from a regional and not act in isolation. That the major acts of crime repression should be developed violent crime related to drugs and to regain the territory usurped by cartels and violent microtraffickants. The policy must exclude prosecution sanction truly to the consumer without compromising the effectiveness of the crackdown on drug traffickers and that they should have legal backup systems or other novel therapeutic ways to reduce the dealer’s contact with the consumer, reducing the use of more dangerous drugs and to ensure the reduction of economic power of drug traffickers.

-  What assessment is made from the usefulness of these forums?

- I consider these meetings beneficial because they allow us to know different experiences, overcome fears and prejudices between public institutions and civil society organizations and develop consensus for the positive transformation of ideas, policies and actions that can lead to positive results.

-  In your opinion, what role should occupy civil society organizations when making decisions on drug policy?

- The same have an important place to be a critical and independent voice that contributes to their opinions, questions and contributions to making decisions about drug policy. They must engage these organizations in consultation processes and in the construction of both public policies and specific projects. *Governments cannot continue making decisions on drug policy that go behind civilian organizations’ backs. Just to reinforce this position, El Salvador today is accompanied by the National Drug Commission on efforts by some NGOs involved with caring for people affected by drugs, to train the Salvadoran Association of Addiction Treatment Centers (ASCTA) and a Salvadoran chapter from the American Federation of Therapeutic Communities.