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OAS Secretary General: "Drugs are a Business that Moves 84 Billion Dollars a Year Worldwide”

  April 25, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today participated in the World Economic Forum on Latin America, held in Lima, Peru, where he stressed the importance that the fight against drugs has taken on in recent years and urged the adoption of public health and security policies to deal with it from a integral perspective.

The Secretary General was one of the speakers on the panel “Drug Policy: Untying the Knot,” which also included the participation of the Director of the Instituto Latinoamericano de Ciudadanía of Mexico, Oscar Adolfo Naranjo Trujillo; the Director of “Cultural Afro Reggae,” of Brazil, Washington de Oliveira Rimas; and the Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Michael Botticelli.

The OAS leader laid out in his presentation the relevant current statistical data on the fight against drugs. Since 2010, between 40 and 50 percent of cocaine shipments have been seized, 'but the cocaine continues to flow," he said, recalling that "drugs are an enormous business worth more than 84 billion dollars a year worldwide, of which 34 billion are in the United States.” “In this business, everyone earns money” he said and detailed the business chain whose profit is used to buy weapons, to corrupt officials, and to intimidate the population. "This is big business and of course the enemy is growing more and more powerful and increasingly has more weapons with which to fight this war," he said, "and that is precisely the great tragedy of drugs."

The leader of the hemispheric organization said that in the last two or three years, the fight against drugs has gained much greater urgency. "This has to do, of course, with the high consumption of drugs, which is more or less stable, but above all it is because of the violence it generates and the criminality that it has led to in a number of countries in the region, increasing alarm among citizens."

Discussing the options to confront this scourge, Secretary General Insulza said that "there is consensus that the problem of people who use drugs is a health problem and they are no longer being treated as criminals, but as addicted people who need treatment." The change of perspective regarding the criminal treatment of drug addicts is significant, he continued, although he noted the need to "attack all aspects of the phenomenon" and said that "this is a war with enemies that are criminal gangs, which are increasingly stronger than they were before."

The OAS Secretary General said the Americas is the only region in the world where the cultivation, production, trafficking, sale and consumption of illicit drugs "happen in a relatively comprehensive way, and that is what is affecting security and stability in our countries." In this regard, he said that it should be the police, instead of the army, that is called upon to fight drug trafficking, complemented by interdiction policies.

The leader of the hemispheric organization mentioned the report on the drug problem entrusted to the OAS by the Summit of the Americas held a year ago in Cartagena, Colombia, and reported that it will be delivered in the next 20 days. In the report, the issues of violence, crime and the need to cooperate to face this threat are of great importance, he said.

Finally, he called on governments to delineate appropriate health and safety policies "that prevent people from profiting and murdering through a business that has diversified and now includes trafficking in persons and immigrants, extortion and piracy."

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-161/13