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OAS General Assembly: Member States Agree on Need for Better Policies to Combat Drug Problem

  June 5, 2013

The Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), at the second plenary session of the forty-third regular session of the General Assembly, being held in Antigua, Guatemala, through Thursday, June 6, underscored the need for better policies to address the drug problem in the Americas and highlighted the importance of the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas as a starting point for their discussions.

The OAS Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, recalled that the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas (Analytical Report - Scenario Report) resulted from a mandate given the OAS by the Heads of State and Government of the region at the Sixth Summit of the Americas, held in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, in April 2012.

“The OAS was asked to prepare an objective report on the drug problem in the Americas, and that is what we did in the first report, which covers all stages of drug trafficking, from the planting of crops to the final user, going through transit and the entire economic process, including dimensions of the problem ranging from health to public security,” he said. He pointed out that the report did not contain “any conclusion or final recommendation inasmuch as that is incumbent on governments and presidents.”

The head of the OAS said that the second part of the report referred to possible scenarios and clarified that they were not “something we want to happen; rather they were suggested by the experts who worked on the report.” “Now is the time for government to discuss the issue and to decide what to do,” he stated.

In the order in which they requested the floor, 14 heads of delegation spoke today, and the rest will do so tomorrow. In their remarks, the heads of delegation praised the report presented by Secretary General, which they viewed as a sound foundation for initiating an open, high-level debate.

United States

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the OAS was the “most inclusive and most respected regional organization” and defended the independence and autonomy of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Secretary Kerry emphasized the United States’ commitment to the Western Hemisphere and recalled President Barack Obama’s recent trips to Mexico and Costa Rica, as well as Vice President Joseph Biden’s travel to Brazil, Colombia, and Trinidad y Tobago. As concerned the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas, the U.S. statesman said that his government “welcomes an honest and open discussion on the issues of drug control policy,” and added that “no country has cornered the market on how to deal with this problem.” Secretary Kerry defended police action to combat drug trafficking and indicated that it was important to work on demand reduction. In that regard, he said that the United States had changed its behavior toward tobacco use and alcohol abuse.


The Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Permanent Representative to the OAS, Denis Moncada, said that the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas was a “frame of reference for launching the debate” and indicated that the “tendency to legalize and decriminalize drugs would weaken the current strategy to combat them.” The Nicaraguan diplomat drew attention to the success of the measure taken by his county to fight drug trafficking and asserted that “replacing and weakening the public policies and strategies now in use to combat the hemispheric drug problem would end up creating dangerous voids and jeopardize the security and well-being of our citizens.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrígues-Birkett, stressed the “important advances in economic growth” in the region over the past two decades, in which 50 million people emerged from poverty. However, she said that many challenges remained in that regard, especially in the Caribbean area. Minister Rodrígues-Birkett congratulated the OAS for presenting the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas and pointed to the need for a “balanced and multidimensional approach” on the matter. The Minister of Guyana said that with narcotic drugs, as with raw materials, when there was a demand then people would run the risk of selling them, and she added that, for that reason, policies banning them were bound to fail.


The Minister of State of Foreign Affairs specializing in Americas and Consular Affairs, Diane Ablonczy, stated that the OAS was “region’s principal multilateral organization” and underscored the importance of the hemispheric institution’s discussions on prioritizing its mandates in order to “step up its game in order to deliver to its citizens” what “they deserve.” With regard to the debate on drugs, Minister Ablonczy said that the study presented by Secretary General Insulza “tells us how big the challenge is”; she added that the drug problem was one of the major concerns of all governments of the Americas. Minister Ablonczy said that her government’s efforts in that connection were guided by the hemispheric strategy of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), adopted in 2010.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The Permanent Representative to the OAS, Celia Prince, said that in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines “the problem is particularly complex” in view of its geographic location and characteristics. The country was made up of 32 islands—only nine of which were inhabited—situated in the midst of the routes between producer and consumer countries. She also said that criminal gangs made use of the uninhabited islands to plant cannabis in the forests, where they were hard to get at since installing an infrastructure was complicated, even though “our government is undaunted by this challenge” and is working with its neighbors to solve it. Ambassador Prince noted that her government was offering alternative to farmers who wanted to lead an honest life.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship, Héctor Timerman, maintained that the debate on drugs was timely because of its political and social implications in the region. Minister Timerman stated that “it is a problem that extends beyond the borders of our Hemisphere,” and that the countries of the Hemisphere “have already made major headway in identifying the special characteristics of our region enabling us to implement suitable policies.” The Argentine diplomat underscored his country’s commitment to the OAS and CICAD and emphasized the importance of the Commission’s Hemispheric Drug Strategy and the Plan of Action 2011-2015, which “are documents that, along with the Multilateral Evaluation Mechanism (MEM), are tools that will enable us to effectively coordinate our national and hemispheric policies.”


Vanessa Rubio Marquez, the Under Secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, said that President Enrique Peña Nieto considered “the country’s first goal to be a Mexico living in peace.” Alone those lines, she added that “we are convinced that our country must change the paradigm in order to make justice, inclusion, and prevention fundamental elements.” She asserted that her government’s strategy “places the well-being of people first in everything it does through two pillars: crime prevention and reduction.” Likewise, she emphasized the importance of having countries work in coordination with one another in the war on drugs.

Trinidad and Tobago

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, Winston Dookeran, said that the fact that the topic of drugs had been chosen as the focus of the General Assembly was a “significant development.” He explained that his country’s government was grappling with that problem and with rising crime, social exclusion, and the resulting insecurity. Minister Dookeran said that his country had been designing a national security architecture based on three fundamental pillars: the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Security Plan, and the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty. He also commended the OAS Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas for the contribution it made to discussions on the issue.

Saint Kitts and Nevis

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Patrice Nisbett, underscored the high cost of illicit drug trafficking and consumption for the well-being of people and stated that, for that reason, the “human element” had to be at the heart of an answer to the problem. “No country in the Hemisphere is untouched by drugs,” Minister Nisbett said, and he drew attention to his country’s efforts to combat it. “It is only through a comprehensive and balanced approach, based on the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity of states, and collective responsibility” that it will be possible to develop a suitable answer to make drug use and trafficking less attractive.

Dominican Republic

The Deputy Minister, Coordinator General in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Trullols, said that narcotrafficking and illicit drug consumption “undermined democratic governance and economic stability” and “were detrimental to the health of our people.” He gave a brief description of some of the government’s programs to improve citizen security, such as “Vivir Tranquilo,” which focused on increasing police surveillance in high-risk neighborhoods and on promoting local development initiatives. In concluding, the Vice Minister reiterated his country’s commitment “to continue tackling the growing drug problem, through a focus based on the principles of comprehensiveness, shared responsibility, social participation, balance, and flexibility.”


The Permanent Representative to the OAS, Hubert Charles, issued a call for a more rational use of OAS resources and for the prioritization of its mandates so as “to ensure the future of the Organization.” As for the central theme of the Assembly, he emphasized his country’s interest in searching for “a more effective approach” to the drug problem. “We are convinced of the need for change,” he said although he expressed “concerns about adopting new approaches,” which could possibly exhaust the security and public health services in his country and expose youths to greater risks and temptations.


The Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Choquehuanca, explained that his country had managed to eradicate coca crops in record amounts “without deaths or injuries and with full respect for human and environmental rights,” following the “Bolivian model.” According to Foreign Minister Choquehuanca, the model was based on “dialogue and negotiation” with coca leaf producers. He said that his country agreed with the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas that the “the struggle against drug trafficking must meet the particular needs of countries, with emphasis primarily on social and comprehensive policies.”


The Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Raúl Morales, reaffirmed that the country hosting the Assembly was committed to the OAS Charter and to the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. “Boosting multilateralism is of key importance to Guatemala,” Vice Minister Morales affirmed. He said that the central theme of the Assembly, “For a Comprehensive Policy against the World Drug Problem in the Americas,” was “of prime importance to my country and to the region as a whole.” He noted that by adopting the Declaration of La Antigua, Guatemala, the governments of the Americas “would recognize that the world drug problem, along with its political, economic, social, human, and environmental costs, was a global problem for health and human rights.” Vice Minister Morales also proposed holding a special session of the OAS General Assembly in 2014 to continue discussing the matter.

Saint Lucia

The Minister for External Affairs, Alva Baptiste, cautioned against arguments in favor of legalizing marijuana and cocaine and stated that “consumption has risen” in countries that condoned those problems.” He asserted that “we need a policy that is anti-crime and not pro-drug” and defended his country’s strategy against this problem, which was consistent “with international law.” Minister Baptiste also drew attention to the importance or attracting community support in this regard in order to prevent support for gang leaders who dominated the drug business. As concerned farmers involved in the drug business, instead of treating them as outlaws, they should be given the opportunity to “switch from illegal to legal crops.”


The Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Business of Grenada, Nickolas Steele, said that his country was located along routes between producer and consumer countries and that its location and size had to be taken into account to have “effective insight into the drug problem of the Americas.” Minister Steele said that he appreciated the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas as a “unique” document and added that “Grenada is 100 percent behind the establishment of political dialogue based on evidence.”

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The video of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-226/13