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Secretary General Insulza Promotes "a Multiple and Flexible Approach" to Drugs in CAF, OAS, and Inter-American Dialogue Conference

  September 5, 2013

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today participated along with other prominent analysts and authorities of the hemisphere in the debate: "The New Approach in the Americas to the Global Problem of Drugs" which was conducted as part of the XVII Annual Conference of the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the OAS and the Inter-American Dialogue, which seeks to encourage analysis on key issues for the region.

The dialogue, moderated by Colombia’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, María Emma Mejia, highlighted the impact, importance and relevance that the "Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas," (Analytical Report and Scenarios Report) has had since its publication, and the opportunity it has provided to generate debate around one of the problems that most affects the hemisphere. The document was prepared by the OAS at the request of the leaders of the region

Opening his speech, Secretary General Insulza explained the regional context in which the report was conceived, and revealed that the document "does not arise in the midst of a divisive debate , but rather as part of the important consensus that this is a very serious problem in a continent that consumes half of the world’s heroin and cocaine and a significant amount of the other remaining drugs, and as part of the consensus that repression alone was not working and that this is a serious public health issue experienced differently in each country. "

He also explained that the consequences of involvement in the drug business or in trafficking are much higher than for actual drug consumption.

After presenting the contents of both parts of the report; the Analytical Report and the Scenarios Report, the leader of the Hemispheric Organization underscored important data linking drugs and violence, the need to accept that consumption is a public health issue and, as such, requires measures aimed in that direction, as well as the recognition of the need to tackle the problem from a multi-pronged approach and with great flexibility. "While we are all together in this, there is no magic solution, the realities of each country are very different and, therefore, the word that must precede here is flexibility," he said.

The former director of the National Police of Colombia, Oscar Naranjo, praised the OAS drug report because "it is a differential element." "For the first time in America we have a platform for serious language, detached from old ideological and political conceptualizations and biases," he said, and stressed "the technical, political, plural and inclusive effort " produced by the OAS, which "provides a basis for serious discussion, and allows us to look forward instead of continuing in the past, because we have a serious report to take that step." "The publication of the report allowed consensus to be identified on how to reformulate the drug policy, humanizing it, giving it the status of a public health issue," he said, adding that thanks to these documents "the information gaps and conceptualization on the subject of drugs were left behind."

The Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, referred to the drug policy of his country and the efforts to reduce demand. He recalled that the ideas of the OAS report coincide with many international treaties, and with many of the past and recent efforts undertaken by the government of his country. "We are very much all in this together; there is no such a thing as a production country, transit country or consumer country. We all face serious difficulties when dealing with this. Looking at how we can deal with this problem holistically without finger pointing is an important step in the right direction that the OAS has shown us," he said.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Fernando Carrera, recounted how addressing the issue of drugs in the country has evolved recently. He recalled that drug policy appeared to be beyond public debate, and that therefore "the absence and virtual ban of that debate was the first political event that we had to deal with." Having overcome that problem, he explained the conviction that led the presidents of the region to seek possible solutions." In this process of debate it has been possible to identify that this is a multidimensional issue that involves not only security, but also social and public health issues," he said. He highlighted that "breaking the paradigm that law enforcement should be the only answer to address the drug problem from a limited angle was one of the main conclusions of the report."

Nelson Jobim, former Minister of Defense of Brazil, acknowledged that progress has been made in addressing the problem of drugs. He also recalled that the "macro view" is well known and accepted and advocated the need to begin to move towards dealing with the "micro view" to identify the individual steps and treatments "on an issue that has many variations" and implications, and to consider specific treatment depending on the offense, the type of drug and the legal implications and the policies of each country. He insisted, however, that this is a global problem and, as such, represents even greater challenges.

Jorge Castañeda, former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, referred specifically to the case of Mexico and the economic and social implications of drugs in the country in terms of foreign direct investment. “The enormous costs of the so-called war on drugs has led to a deterioration of the country's international image," he said. After recounting the recent government initiatives in Mexico to combat drug trafficking, he acknowledged that one of the biggest challenges facing the country is its strategic location in the continent.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-326/13