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OAS General Assembly: Countries Discuss Drug Policies and Other Matters

  June 6, 2013

The representatives of the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) today finished expressing their points of view on the topic “For a Comprehensive Policy against the World Drug Problem in the Americas” during the third plenary session of the 43rd General Assembly, which took place in Antigua, Guatemala. They agreed, in general, on the need to identify better policies for tackling the drugs problem in the Hemisphere, and they noted the importance of the Report on the Problem of Drugs in the Americas, which was presented by the Secretary General, José Miguel Insulza, to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, as a starting point for their discussions.

Following the order in which they requested the floor, 18 heads of delegation spoke, in addition to the 14 who addressed the Assembly on Wednesday. In their addresses, the heads of delegation applauded the OAS’s report and described it as an essential contribution for the start of an open and high-level debate.


Minister of Foreign Affairs María Ángela Holguín spoke of her country’s experience in fighting drugs. “In Colombia we learned the hard way, facing off against cartels whose reach at first we did not understand. For that reason we are continuing with this struggle, getting better with every passing day, and we are eager to share our experiences and to warn others,” she said. “Unfortunately Colombia had to tackle this scourge with neither experience nor understanding; for that reason, we want to stress that the problems caused by drugs must be addressed with a comprehensive vision and with the urgency that this requires.” Minister Holguín concluded by speaking of her country’s proposal to ask the OAS Permanent Council to analyze the usefulness of institutionalizing the relationship between the Police Community of the Americas (AMERIPOL) and the OAS.


Foreign Minister Alfredo Moreno noted the transnational and multifaceted nature of the drugs phenomenon which, “in addition to destroying lives, feeds violence, corruption, and organized crime, and often undermines the foundations of our institutions.” He also noted the importance of considering both supply controls and demand reduction as “important and complementary elements of the problem.” On another topic, Minister Moreno said he appreciated the tone used by his Bolivian counterpart in raising that country’s maritime demands and said that, “out of respect for the rules of confidentiality and the obligation of silence that apply to proceedings before the Court in such cases, Chile will not speak of this matter but will wait to assert its rights before the judicial venue.”

El Salvador

During his speech, Minister Hugo Martínez spoke of the human, social, and economic consequences of the drugs problem, which “has transcended borders and, as a result, demands greater efforts from governments and civil society to contain the impact it has on people, institutions, and communities.” Speaking of the OAS’s Report on the Problem of Drugs, he said that “the desire for a coherent and solidarity-based inter-American order to deal with the global drugs problem was what motivated our Heads of State and Government to ask the OAS to prepare the report.” He added that in dealing with this topic, the efforts made under the leadership of the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD) should not be ignored, and he underscored the urgent need to continue strengthening policies and actions intended to reduce and prevent drug use.


Irving Centeno, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Panama in Guatemala, spoke of several of the international instruments and commitments that had already been adopted to tackle the drugs problem. “Forums such as this allow us to update and enhance international cooperation for dealing with this terrible scourge,” he said. He went on to describe his country’s National Antidrug Strategy, which involves actions in the areas of legislation, prevention, treatment, rehabilitation, supply and demand reduction, and money laundering and related crimes, which he said were “steps that showcase Panama’s commitment to the fight against drugs.” Ambassador Centeno added that one of best approaches in dealing with the scourge of drugs was preventing consumption, and that such programs “must be accompanied by a joint policy among the countries and strengthened by international strategies, with real commitments and shared responsibility.”


Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio de Aguiar Patriota gave an overview of the region’s democratic, economic, and social progress, and of the challenges still facing it, including the one enshrined in the central theme of the Assembly. “I note with satisfaction that the Declaration of Antigua is fully compatible with the principles, rules, and policies that apply to the government of Brazil. The text underscores the need for a comprehensive approach, respect for and the observance of human rights, and the principle of common and shared responsibility among the countries of the Americas,” he said, before describing the initiatives his country is pursuing in this area. “A ‘comprehensive’ approach means the effective inclusion of public health issues and the socioeconomic strategy for fighting drugs,” he stated during the course of the debate. Regarding other topics, he applauded the discussions held within the OAS on the inter-American human rights system, which he described as a “a victory for the region’s peoples and an invaluable tool in the defense of human rights and fundamental freedoms.”


Eda Rivas Franchini, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, expressed her agreement with the proposal for a new strategic agenda defined by OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. “Consequently,” Minister Rivas said, “it is urgent and vital that we embark on a political dialogue within the Permanent Council to establish that strategic vision and to prioritize the Organization’s mandates, in order to focus on its core activities, provide it with the means to do so, and guide it forward with renewed efficiency into the future and toward the new challenges posed by the international context.” Regarding the Assembly’s central theme, Minister Rivas said the report on the drugs problem was “an important contribution to our discussions,” and she noted her country’s wish to continue discussing the pertinent policies.


Arnaldo Brown, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, emphasized the connection between drugs and development, saying that “the illicit use of drugs and drug abuse continue to pose significant threats to governance and human development in the region.” In response to these challenges, he explained that his country’s government had adopted “a comprehensive approach” to the drugs problem, which includes initiatives for public education, institutional strengthening, and training for the police and the judicial service. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment with the region’s efforts to deal with the drugs problem and underscored the need for “a coordinated approach that is understanding, balanced, and multidisciplinary.”


Niermala Hindori Badrising, Permanent Representative of Suriname to the OAS, said that her country had taken “important steps forward to combat drugs and drug-related crime.” The government of Suriname has demonstrated its political will by “incorporating antidrug strategies as an integral part of our national security policy,” said Ambassador Badrising. She added that her country “is determined to lend its support to the process of redefining our approaches and actions toward a comprehensive policy to address the drugs problem in the Americas.”


Elías Jaua, Venezuela’s Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs, proposed that the IACHR eliminate Chapter IV of its Annual Report, which includes special reports on certain countries, “because it hinders and prevents dialogue between the Commission and those states that are, on a discretionary basis, included in that chapter, and because it reveals an insistence on selectively denouncing those countries at the regional level.” He demanded that in its Annual Report, the IACHR record the undertakings and efforts made to support the member states in implementing their policies for the promotion, protection, and defense of human rights. Regarding the central topic of the General Assembly, Minister Jaua said that any comprehensive regional policy to tackle the global drugs problem must be based on the principle of “shared responsibilities, in a way that takes into account the different realities of the different member states.” Minister Jaua also expressed his government’s resolute rejection of “any unilateral evaluation, listing, or certification of the member states, since such a mechanism only represents an action of interference.” In addition, he noted that for the seventh consecutive year, Venezuela was free of illicit crops, as indicated in the 2012 World Drug Report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.


Mireya Agüero, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of Honduras, thanked the OAS for presenting the report on the drugs problem in the Americas, which was “perhaps the most important report produced in our Hemisphere.” “We have witnessed the work carried out within the OAS, with innovative studies on the global drugs problem; we recognize the efforts made to reach consensus on the Declaration of Antigua Guatemala, which is sure to be a landmark that will set the foundations for a novel approach to the problems faced by the Hemisphere vis-à-vis the drugs phenomenon,” said Secretary Agüero. She also expressed Honduras’s hope that through the mandate handed down by the Assembly, “we can produce a planned and effective hemispheric strategy” that will yield positive results in the short, medium, and long terms.


Luis Porto, Uruguay’s Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, applauded the themes proposed by Guatemala for the Assembly: strengthening health systems and the treatment of drug users as a matter of public health, the state as a promoter of peace, closer attention to illicit arms trafficking and money laundering, and new rules for certain crops. These constituted, he said, “a road map for political dialogue, broadened perspectives, a diversity of opinions, and the overcoming of myths, dogma, and fundamentalism.” Vice Minister Porto said that Uruguay agreed with the idea of calling for a halt on the current path and of opening up a political dialogue, and he said that the OAS had, “in this debate on drugs, the opportunity to reposition itself as a forum for unity and diversity, and also for action.” He also described the OAS Report on Drugs in the Americas as “a thorough analysis, defining possible scenarios that represent an excellent contribution to this political dialogue.”


Ricardo Patiño, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Integration of Ecuador, applauded the report on the drugs problem that the OAS had drawn up under the supervision of Secretary General, saying that “it allows us, at the very least, to lift the veil from our eyes and to begin dealing with the topic directly and with clarity.” He also called for “a frank and open debate to design common, coherent, and comprehensive lines of action, so that we do not again make the mistake of thinking that a single country or a single policy can solve the problem.” The drugs issue was a matter of public health, said Minister Patiño, one that required an “objective, sensitive, and common-sense response, to enable us to arrive at proposals that are in line with the reality of the Hemisphere.”


José Félix Fernández, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Paraguay, announced his country’s offer to host the 2014 General Assembly and thanked the Secretary General of the OAS for presenting the Report on the Problem of Drugs in the Americas. Paraguay’s top diplomat went on to say that illicit activities had encouraged to the emergence of vast crossborder criminal networks that had diversified their operations to include, in addition to the production and sale of controlled substances, the illicit trafficking and sale of weapons, piracy and contraband, human trafficking, organized prostitution, theft, illegal mining, kidnapping and extortion, human smuggling, organ trafficking, and other criminal activities. “We agree that this situation must be tackled more realistically and with greater effectiveness if we want to make progress with real solutions, and we make ourselves available to encourage a dialogue with all the delegations in search of a solution that is satisfactory to everyone,” Minister Fernández added.

The Bahamas

Elliston Rahming, Permanent Representative of The Bahamas to the OAS, explained that his country’s geography made it “particularly vulnerable” to the illicit trafficking and transshipment of drugs, in that it was situated between the producing and consuming nations. He underscored the need to “continue strengthening and developing partnerships at the national, regional, and international levels, while never forgetting” the problems of development that lie at the base of the problem. He also called for a discussion of the threats to development in the Hemisphere posed by the drugs problem, and he noted his country’s commitment toward continuing to work with the OAS “to strengthen its institutions and to establish the mechanisms necessary to fight against the scourge of drugs.”


Pierre Richard Casimir, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Haiti, reminded the meeting that “the Caribbean corridor, where Haiti is located, is still a preferred route for cocaine heading north and to Europe,” and he said that drug trafficking respects no borders. He added that in spite of the difficult conditions in which they have to work, the country’s antidrug agencies – such as the Haitian Drugs Observatory, the National Money Laundering Committee, the Central Financial Information Unit, the Anticorruption Unit, and the National Police of Haiti – have obtained significant results. Minister Casimir underscored the importance of international cooperation in finding a “strategic and effective way to tackle the problem.”

Costa Rica

Enrique Castillo, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Culture of Costa Rica, said that his country believed that the drugs problem undermined the “social fabric” and was the “consequence of shortcomings and the failure to deal with them effectively through state policies.” Policies for dealing with the problem must be comprehensive, he said, and it was necessary to safeguard, “first and foremost, individuals and their dignity.” In addition, said Minister Castillo, the countries must “work ceaselessly to improve our societies’ living conditions, focusing our efforts on policies that target the individual and ensure full respect for human rights, the rule of law, and democratic principles.”


Maxine Ometa Pamela McClean, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, began her address by speaking of the process to strengthen the inter-American human rights system. “We must be vigilant to protect the independence of the agencies of the OAS,” she said. Regarding the theme of the Assembly, Minister McClean called for an approach that went further than mere security and recognized that “fighting crime must be a part of the development agenda, and economic and social development approaches must be a part of our response to the threat of illegal drugs.”


Wilfred Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Belize, said that the Report on the Problem of Drugs in the Americas “provides a starting point” on which “we can build over the coming months.” He noted the “catastrophic” effects of drug trafficking in transit countries such as his own, most particularly among young people. “Regarding the drugs problem, I would suggest that our main approach should perhaps be to reduce the voracious appetite for illicit drugs in developed nations. Where there is no demand for drugs, there are no incentives for producing or transporting them,” said the Belize’s Foreign Minister, who compared the drugs problem with that of global warming in terms of their origins and differentiated effects between developed and developing countries. He said that similarly, “the drugs problem is a global problem, and it therefore requires a global solution.”

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-230/13