The Organization of American States (OAS), Secretary General José Miguel Insulza, presented on Monday Uruguayan president José Mujica the Report on the Drug Problem in the Americas, prepared by the hemispheric institution following a mandate of the Sixth Summit of the Americas.
The presentation took place during a meeting between President Mujica with the OAS leader, at the presidential residence El Prado in Montevideo, which included the Foreign Minister Luis Almagro and members from the National Drug Council, among whom were the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the Presidency, Homero Guerrero and Diego Cánepa; the Secretary General of the National Drug Council of Uruguay, Julio Calzada; as well as the Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the OAS, Milton Romani.
Secretary General Insulza was accompanied by the OAS Secretary for Legal Affairs, Jean-Michel Arrighi; and the OAS Representative in Montevideo, John Biehl.
President Mujica welcomed the initiative of Insulza to travel to Montevideo to present the document on the problem of drug trafficking and consumption in the region and, along with praising OAS, said the document opens an unprecedented debate on what has been done and what can be done in the search for solutions to a phenomenon that affects the Hemisphere to a much greater degree than other regions.
Determined to move Uruguay forward with legislation to deal realistically with the drug phenomenon, President Mujica stressed the great importance of the research supervised by Insulza, who has begun a long-awaited and much-needed debate. He cited the need to create mechanisms to allow the most vulnerable sectors to confront a problem that affects the poor with greater violence, and in that sense welcomed the contents of the two parts of the report: the Analytical Report and the Scenarios Report.
In the afternoon, the OAS Secretary General made a new presentation of the Report at the headquarters of the Uruguayan Foreign Ministry in the presence of senior national authorities and the diplomatic corps. Insulza began his address by presenting dramatic figures that show the impact of the phenomenon in the region.
Nearly half of all consumers of cocaine and opiates in the world live in our region, as well as a quarter of those who smoke marijuana, he said, adding, this consumption has created an illegal business that threatens the integrity of our institutions.
With these figures Insulza opened the presentation of the Report that, in his words, is based of the collective understanding in the Americas that the drug problem is an issue of multiple and shocking consequences, but which at the same time is perceived in different ways by our countries, as each of them has different protagonists and geographical realities, and is experienced with a different intensity and impact.
Insulza said that the Heads of State and Government of the Americas, at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2012, decided to move forward in the search for ways to unravel the complexities of the phenomenon, to reinforce a common vision of the situation and move ahead with ways to achieve greater effectiveness in dealing with it.
The result is the Report that the Secretary General supervised and presented in May to the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos, who hosted of the Summit of the Americas. The primary objective of the document, he summarized, is to lay out facts that help in decision making and can be, in short, a decisive factor in the opening of a much-needed debate.
“It is not for us to offer solutions, but we did want to offer for the consideration of the leaders of the Hemisphere, and for all of those who will participate in a future dialogue, some conclusions that are drawn directly from the analysis presented in the Report,” said the Secretary General. At the same time, he said, the Report does not represent a complete break with the past, but seeks an evolution. “What we are looking for is to take from existing policies everything that can help us to move forward in the solution of this problem,” he said.
The Report is divided into two parts, he explained. “The Analytical Report seeks to show the problem as it is and how it manifests itself in different ways in our countries and sub-regions.
In it, we offer a definition of the problem, an explanation of how we addressed its analysis and an examination of the reasons that led society to become concerned with the consumption of various substances and decide to control them, he added.
This first part contains basic data to frame the problem of drugs. The Secretary General explained that, for example, the economic dimension is such that the drug retail business moves 151 billion dollars a year just in the Americas, and its earnings make up between 0.4 and 0.6% of global GDP, according to figures from the United Nations, amounts that are available for laundering through the financial system.
At the same time, he continued, drugs are responsible for a shocking increase in violence, to the point that the number of deaths caused by drug consumption seem minimal when compared with the deaths caused by drug-related criminal activity.
The second part, called the Scenarios Report, he continued, shows what could happen in terms of the various courses of action open to us. Specifically we show four possibilities of what could the drug problem in the Americas could become depending on the decisions that we begin to take beginning today.
The conclusions of the report, said Secretary General Insulza, can be summarized in four parts: although the drug problem in the Americas is expressed as a single process, it supports different treatments in each of its phases and in the countries where they take place; the links between drugs and violence have more impact in countries where the state is weak or is not able to deliver effective responses; drug use requires a public health approach in all our countries, with more resources and programs to succeed;” and “confronting the drug problem requires a multi-pronged approach, with great flexibility, understanding different realities and above all, the belief that, to be successful, we must maintain unity in diversity.
Finally Insulza praised the efforts of the Government of Uruguay to study the potential benefits that could result from an initiative toward the decriminalization or even the legalization of drugs like marijuana.
I would like to publicly recognize the responsible and serious manner in which the Uruguayan State and civil society are addressing the project presented by the government on the production, sale and use of marijuana in this country, he said.
Uruguay's experience is being watched with great attention by the rest of the Hemisphere and we are convinced that whatever the outcome of this process, we can all draw important lessons from it, he concluded.