The Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) received today in a special meeting the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Luis Fernando Carrera Castro, who presented the issue "Alternative Strategies for Combating Drugs" as his country’s proposal for the central theme of the upcoming 43rd OAS General Assembly, to be held in Antigua, Guatemala from June 4-6.
The Secretary General of the OAS, José Miguel Insulza, welcomed Minister Carrera and thanked Guatemala for its offer to host the meeting of the supreme body of the hemispheric institution. "It is an honor for us to have Guatemala as the host of our next General Assembly," he said, and recalled that, following the 1986 and 1999 Assemblies, the meeting in June will make the Guatemala the country that has hosted the greatest number of such meetings.
The organization’s leader also indicated that the June meeting "takes place at a transcendent moment in the work of our organization and in the follow up on the mandates it has received.” In line with the Guatemalan proposal for the Assembly, he highlighted the assignment received from the Heads of State and Government of the Americas during the Sixth Summit of the Americas in 2012, which urged the OAS to analyze the results of drug policies in the Americas and to explore new approaches to strengthen these efforts and make them more effective. The resulting report, developed under the supervision of Secretary General Insulza, will be presented before the end of March. In reference to another important mandate the organization is fulfilling, the Secretary General stressed that "Member States are engaged in a genuine effort to strengthen our Inter-American System of Human Rights."
Foreign Minister Carrera, for his part, explained that his government proposed the issue of the combat against drugs because it is "consistent with the discussions that took place in the framework of the Summit of the Americas" in Cartagena, Colombia, among whose promoters was the President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, for whom the issue is a priority.
"While we are all in agreement that the scourge of drugs is a very negative element of contemporary society, we have not always managed to achieve the results we expected with what we've done," said the Foreign Minister, who emphasized that, 50 years after signing the United Nations Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961, "the world starts the task of reflection and evaluation of what we have been doing and how we can achieve more effective results."
"President Otto Perez proposed last year in several forums, and prominently in Cartagena, the need to open a serious dialogue, deep and political and technically well-founded on this issue", said the Guatemalan Foreign Minister, who specifically referred to the work assigned to the OAS during the Summit of the Americas, saying that "the OAS Secretary General has fulfilled very clearly and with great responsibility the mandate given to him." Foreign Minister Carrera suggested that the report currently being prepared by the OAS should serve as the basis for the discussions that will take place during the Assembly, which is expected to be "a political forum to discuss these alternatives and reflect on what we can do and what we can recommend to Member States to improve the strategies in combating illicit drugs."
The Guatemalan Foreign Minister explained that his proposal includes five sub-themes "that allow us to define more clearly the conversation and to identify niches to advance in the fight against drugs." Among these, he mentioned the strengthening of health systems for the prevention and treatment of drug abuse, including the assessment of what is being done to address this scourge. Second, he referred to the reduction of violence and crime related to narcotics, with the state’s role as the promoter of peace, because “if we have to declare a war it is against violence, and we have to win this war with safer societies," he said.
The third sub-theme is how to reduce arms trafficking and money laundering, "which nourish and strengthen drug trafficking and eliminate the state's ability to control violence." In fourth place, he said Guatemala wants to analyze the option of legalizing some crops that are important for certain populations, and promote local economic development based on their development. Finally, he mentioned studying the possibility of decriminalizing drug use, which in his view, would help to reduce the prison population. Other issues raised included combating the links between corruption and drug trafficking and the respect for human rights.
Foreign Minister Carrera added that "the agenda of alternative strategies is not limited, it is a broad and deep agenda," while also reiterating the importance of considering the principles of humanity and humility when addressing the issue and added that "the solution also involves strengthening the state’s public capacities, thus achieving better solutions."
The Foreign Minister concluded his address by inviting all the Foreign Ministers of the hemisphere to attend the meeting. "We hope that the political dialogue in Antigua will be historic, one that marks a before and after in the issue of the war on drugs in the 21st century," he said.
The Chair of the Council and Permanent Representative of Nicaragua, Ambassador Dennis Moncada, who introduced the Guatemalan diplomat, spoke of the historical significance of the city of Antigua, Guatemala and thanked the Minister for his presence at the OAS headquarters. "I'm sure that in this picturesque city, and embraced by the warmth of the Guatemalan people, we can move forward in fruitful discussions on pressing issues for the hemispheric and Central American agenda, thus strengthening our relationships and common interest for a better future."
After the words of Foreign Minister Carrera, the delegations of the United States, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Uruguay, Canada and Colombia took the floor to express their support for the central theme proposed and discussed the relevance of the elements identified by Guatemala as essential parts of the debate.
A gallery of photos of the event is available here.
The video of the event is available here.
The B-roll of the event is available here.
The audio of the event is available here.
For more information, please visit the OAS Website at www.oas.org.