Summit seeks a global drug enforcement strategy

Peruvian authorities recently incinerated more than 8.8 tons of narcotics seized during police operations from April to June, according to the Ministry of the Interior. (Mariana Bazo/Reuters)

Peruvian authorities recently incinerated more than 8.8 tons of narcotics seized during police operations from April to June, according to the Ministry of the Interior. (Mariana Bazo/Reuters)

By Pedro Hurtado Cánepa for Infosurhoy.com – 02/07/2012

LIMA, Peru – The 70 countries that participated in the recent International Conference of Foreign Affairs Ministers and Heads of Specialized National Agencies on the Global Drug Problem reached a consensus on how to win the narcotics fight: work together.

“The message is not aimed at producer countries or consumer countries, but for those nations that have this problem and want to face it together,” said Carmen Masías, the executive director of the Peruvian National Commission for a Drug-Free Life (Devida).

Attendees spent June 25-26 in the Peruvian capital discussing the progress and what improvements could be made throughout the world in curtailing money laundering, developing alternative crops and improving drug prevention and rehabilitation programs, as well as lowering narcotics supply and demand.

Between 153 million and 300 million between the ages of 15 and 64 – representing 3.4% to 6.6% of the world’s population – consumed an illicit substance at least once in 2010, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) 2012 World Drug Report.

“Every country [impacted by drugs] must base its efforts on the exchange of information, technical cooperation, prevention measures and sharing successful experiences,” Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said during his speech to open the summit.

That’s why Humala also called for the international community to present a united front against narco-trafficking.

“We hope the conclusions reached at this event will become a road map for the war on drugs, with a new focus on designing and building effective policies,” he said.

Peru is considered the world’s largest producer of coca leaves, growing about 45.4% of the world’s total production, followed by Colombia (39.3%) and Bolivia (15.3%), according to UNODC.

About 160,618 acres of coca leaves were cultivated in Peru in 2010, compared with about 148,263 acres in 2009, according to UNODC.

The Peruvian government allocates about US$230 million annually to fight narcotics, but Humala said it’s not enough, so it’s imperative the Andean nation receive help from other countries.

Adalid Contreras, the secretary general of the Andean Community (CAN) – a regional organization comprised of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru aimed at helping countries achieve comprehensive, balanced and self-directed development through integration – agreed with Humala.

“The war on drugs requires a comprehensive strategy that includes prevention, seizures, development of alternative crops and the principle of shared responsibility,” Contreras said. “It is imperative to consolidate the coordinated efforts of the financial intelligence units from all the countries to battle effectively against the laundering of drug proceeds.”

A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of cocaine can sell for as much as US$1,200 in South America but can reach US$30,000 in countries in the Northern Hemisphere, according to CAN.

Mexican Assistant Attorney General Alejandro Ramos said it is necessary to create an international information center on drug trafficking, which would allow authorities throughout the region to share information to bolster counter-narcotics operations.

“We must no longer view drug trafficking as an isolated problem in certain countries, but rather as a crime that affects the entire region and demands a coordinated response,” he said. “Drug trafficking is like a waterbed. If you step on it on one side, the other side goes up. So we [as Mexico] have to step on it together to get it to go down.”

Meantime, legalizing the drug trade, which is tied to human trafficking, violent crime, child prostitution, money laundering, illegal logging, tax evasion, and bribery, is not an option, Masías said.

Earlier this month, the Uruguayan government proposed legalizing marijuana, putting the officials in charge of cultivation and distribution.

Numerous countries, including Peru, Colombia and Venezuela, criticized the proposal.

“The position of the Peruvian government is firm: Drugs should not be legalized,” Masías said.

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