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OAS Secretary General Presents Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas

  May 17, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today issued a stark review of the reality experienced by the countries of the hemisphere in relation to drugs, analyzing the policies implemented in the region to this point and possible scenarios that could develop if the phenomenon is not dealt with in a coordinated manner, during a ceremony in Bogota in which he delivered to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas: Analytical Report - Scenarios Report.

“By delivering this Report today,” said Secretary General Insulza, “we are encouraged by the sincere aspiration, which I now have the privilege of presenting to the entire hemisphere, that this is not a conclusion but only the beginning of a long awaited discussion." The first opportunity to begin the discussion based on the document, which Secretary General Insulza immediately sent to the other 33 OAS Member States, will be the upcoming General Assembly of the hemispheric organization, which will be held in Antigua, Guatemala, from June 4 to 6.

President Santos received the Report in the Casa de Nariño, the seat of the Colombian government, as host of the Sixth Summit of the Americas in 2012, in which the Heads of State and Government of the Americas commissioned the OAS to prepare the document. "The Report that the OAS has delivered to us is an important piece in the collective construction of a path that allows us to confront with this problem," said President Santos during the event.

"This document should be known, publicized and analyzed not only in the hemisphere, but worldwide. We are very pleased, because the quality of the Report is truly exceptional. This was what we wanted, empirical evidence without prejudice, and now the real work begins, which is the discussion at the political level," continued President Santos. "Let it be clear that no one here is defending any position, neither legalization, nor regulation, nor war at any cost. What we have to do is use serious and well-considered studies like the one the OAS has presented us with today to seek better solutions. I have no doubt that we all share a common destiny, where we sometimes differ is in how we reach it, and this Report will help us to come to agreement, it will be the basis for a long postponed discussion," he said.

Also present at the ceremony were former Colombian Presidents César Gaviria (also former Secretary General of the OAS) and Ernesto Samper; the Chair of the Permanent Council and Representative of Panama, Arturo Ulises Vallarino, whose country will host the next Summit of the Americas in 2015; the Secretary for Multidimensional Security of the OAS, Adam Blackwell; and the Ambassador of Colombia to the OAS, Andrés González. The Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), Paul Simons participated in explaining the contents of the Report, as did Adam Kahane and Joaquin Moreno, two of the experts who contributed to the Scenarios Report.

In his speech, the Secretary General Insulza said, in the Report "we have tried not to silence or hide anything," in order to “show the problem just as it is and how it manifests itself in different ways in our various countries and sub-regions; to show the volume of money that changes hands and who benefits from it; to show how it erodes our social organization and how it undermines the health of our people, the quality of our governments and even our democracy.”

Insulza shared some of the data from in the Report, which was prepared by a team of experts who worked under his direction for a year, which indicate that in the Americas "approximately 45 percent of all the cocaine users in the world are found, approximately half of the heroin users and a quarter of the total marijuana users. The consumption of cocaine paste, crack, inhalants, amphetamines and the abuse of legal drugs has increased." He added that this consumption “generates some 151 billion dollars in drug retail alone” in the hemisphere.

He explained that although the impact of the drug phenomenon affects countries in different ways, "we are united by our concern" because "the relationship between drugs and violence is one of the main causes of fear amongst our citizens and has contributed to making security one of the most worrying issues for the citizens of the entire hemisphere." Following this line of thought, Insulza said that "this situation must be faced with greater realism and effectiveness if we want to move forward successfully," and added that "all of us who hold public responsibilities owe it to the millions of women and men, young and old, mothers and fathers, girls and boys who today feel threatened to find clear answers and effective public policies to confront this scourge.”

In terms of the structure of document, which through President Santos, has been delivered to all the leaders of the region, Secretary General Insulza said that the Report, of approximately 400 pages, consists of two parts: the Analytical Report, explaining the reasons that have caused concern in society about drug consumption and which have led to attempts to control the effects of drugs on human health; and the Scenarios Report, an examination of the paths that the phenomenon could take in the hemisphere in the coming years.

In the first part, he said, "we follow the entire process of drugs in the region, the only part of the world in which all of its stages are present in a dominant way: cultivation, production, distribution and the final sale of controlled substances. In each stage we review the various forms this activity assumes, as well as its environmental impact and the reaction of the State, its implications and its limitations." He said this part of the Report examined "the consumption of the different drugs in our countries, their effects on social exclusion and the exercise of human rights, the possible forms of treatment and prevention practiced today and, again, the reaction of our States.”

In the second part, he said "three of the four scenarios –“Together,” “Pathways” and “Resilience”- describe different future alternatives, depending on whether the focus is largely on institution building, experimentation with legal changes, or the community's capacity to respond to the problem. The fourth, "Disruption," alerts us to what could happen if we are incapable in the short run of reaching a shared vision that allows us to join forces to address the problem, while respecting diversity in our approaches to it.”

In concluding his speech, the OAS Secretary General presented four conclusions: the problem must be dealt with taking into account each country’s different situation; countries with fewer resources and less institutional strength have more difficulty dealing with the impact of drug trafficking; the phenomenon requires a public health approach; and the approach to the problem must be multifaceted, flexible, taking into account differences, and the countries of the regions must be united in their diversity.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-194/13