(2 July 2013) At the presentation of the report The drugs problem in the Americas, in Santiago, the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, emphasized that the drugs problem affects the pillars of development in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
Mr. Insulza was received by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, who stated in her welcome that the document, prepared by OAS at the request of its member states, comes at a time of frustration with the results of the drug policy that has long prevailed in our region and that is usually referred to as the "war on drugs".
According to Ms. Bárcena, this discussion is timely and relevant: "At ECLAC, we believe it is impossible to speak about economic and social development without mentioning democracy or social equality, and without taking on board the effects of violence, particularly in Central America and Mexico".
The senior official added "Security is one of the top concerns of our authorities and citizens, and it has an inescapable link with production, transportation and sale of drugs".
According to Ms. Bárcena, regional insecurity (which is influenced by drug trafficking) has led to a breakdown in the social fabric, segregation and exclusion.
Ms. Bárcena stated that "Just as the drug trafficking industry, violence and crime are both cause and consequence of poverty, insecurity and under-development, so crime and violence limit democracy and freedom and reduce the quality of life of citizens [...] Security is a public good that could actually lead us to more integrated and equitable societies".
During the report's presentation, Mr. Insulza highlighted the fact that violence is what most worries the population in terms of drugs: "All stages of the production process tend to be illegal, and drug-related offences generate other offences and then crimes [...] Drug trafficking produces many more victims than those generated through consumption alone".
The document recognizes the heterogeneity of Latin American and Caribbean societies, and that the drug problem affects them differently. The highest drug-related murder rates are not in the main countries for drug consumption, but rather in countries where drug trafficking is concentrated, which are also the countries where the State has the most difficulty in protecting its citizens.
Chilean parliamentarians, Jaime Orpis and Carlos Montes, also took part in the conference by analysing the report in the light of the Chilean situation. Mr. Montes stated the need to rise to the structural challenges of inequality - which is the seed for violence and drug trafficking - by heeding the proposed transformations in key ECLAC documents such as Time for equality: closing gaps, opening trails and Structural Change for Equality: An Integrated Approach to Development.
The meeting was also addressed by Martín Hopenhayn, Director of the Social Development Division of ECLAC, who declared that opting to tackle the drugs problem should involve focusing on prevention and rehabilitation (not criminalization).
At the close of the meeting, Ms. Bárcena referred to the pending debate on regional arms trafficking, while also stating that the continent's main problem was ongoing inequality.
Any queries should be sent to the ECLAC Public Information and Web Services Section.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Telephone: (56 2) 210 2040.