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OAS Secretary General Addresses Guatemalan Students on Drugs in the Americas

  September 18, 2014

The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, today addressed students at Rafael Landívar University, in Guatemala City, on how government views on the drug problem in the Americas have evolved in recent months and the role of the OAS in that process.

Secretary General Insulza noted that the results of that debate suggest that there is broad agreement across the Hemisphere that the drug policies pursued in recent decades have missed expectations. He said, “The road opened by this change has come from the simple argument that if something does not work after 40 years of trying, it needs to be changed.”

The head of the OAS went on to say that the discussions have led to general consensus on four specific points: The drug problem should be addressed under a public-health approach; judicial reforms are needed to offer alternatives to incarceration; transnational organized crime is a principal actor in the drug problem; and it is indispensable to strengthen judicial and public order institutions.

Secretary General Insulza reaffirmed the role of the OAS in generating and fueling the debate, starting with the release of the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas, which was prepared under the direction of the head of the Organization and published in May 2013, and continuing with the OAS General Assembly session in Antigua, Guatemala, in June 2013.

“We are very enthused because we have changed the dimension of the debate, not just in the Americas, but worldwide,” said the Secretary General, who noted that, taking its cue from the discussions in the Western hemisphere, the United Nations had decided to make drugs the theme of its General Assembly in 2016.

The Secretary General also acknowledged the roles of Colombia and Guatemala, not only in hosting the Summit of the Americas in 2012 and the OAS General Assembly in 2013, respectively, but also in promoting the discussions.

The leader of the OAS then said that a special session of the OAS General Assembly would be held in Guatemala the following day with the objective of confirming the existence of points of consensus in the Hemisphere and establishing a common platform ahead of the United Nations General Assembly in 2016. “We hope that the benefits of the work we are doing will be felt in the near term,” he said.

Secretary General Insulza’s remarks were preceded by a presentation by the acting Dean of Rafael Landívar University, Lucrecia Méndez, who said that the institution she leads “firmly believes that dialogue is the best strategy for resolving problems” and that, therefore, it was “an honor to act the physical and academic setting for the debate.”

“Academia has a fundamental contribution to make to the analysis of the reality of the situation by facilitating a creative and productive discussion,” concluded the Dean.

In attendance at Secretary General Insulza’s address was the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, Carlos Raúl Morales. The proceedings at Rafael Landívar University continued with a panel discussion on the theme “Toward a Regional Strategy on the Drug Problem,” whose participants included Ruth Dreifuss, member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy; Baroness Molly Meacher, a champion of drug policy reform in the United Kingdom; Daniel Haering Keenan, a scholar and expert on security in Central America; and John Collins, coordinator of the International Drug Policy Project of the London School of Economics, which co-organized the event.

A gallery of photos of the event is available here.

The B-Roll of the event will be available here.

For more information, please visit the OAS Website at

Reference: E-382/14