Two articles that help emphasize the importance of the recent Summit of the Americas in Cartagena.
Douglas Haddow’s OpEd in the Guardian is a must-read: Did Cartagena mark the beginning of the end of the war on drugs?
But while lurid tales of secret service agents behaving like hirelings on a piss-up tour make for tasty headlines, the summit could well be remembered not for its failures, but as the beginning of the end of the war on drugs.
The significance of what transpired over the weekend cannot be overstated: in years past, we’ve seen countless instances of former leaders, judges and law enforcement officers coming forward to argue the case for international drug policy reform, but this is the first time we’ve seen sitting governments openly discussing ending the war on drugs in a diplomatic setting. […]
If we view Cartagena within the framework of a traditional war, what we have witnessed is the first draft of an armistice. The problem with the drug war, and the reason why it has taken so long for reformers to gain any traction, is that it has remained a niche issue due to its deeply classist nature. In a global context, developing nations endure the violence while the developed subsidise it, through both consumer demand and law enforcement funding. Within the developed countries a similar formula is reproduced; with poor neighbourhoods and demographics taking the place of their nation-state equivalents.
The corrosive results of this arrangement are obvious to anyone who has been paying attention. […]
The shift in language at the Cartegena summit presents a rare opportunity for a global policy renaissance that would have profound implications on how citizens relate to their governments.
Also of interest, Coletta Youngers writing at Foreign Policy in Focus: Drug-Law Reform Genie Freed From Bottle at Summit of the Americas
The lasting legacy of the Cartagena summit, however, will likely be the beginning of a serious regional debate on international drug control policies. With the apparently adept leadership of Colombiaâ€™s President Juan Manuel Santos, the issue was discussed at a private, closed-door meeting of the presidents â€“ according to press accounts, it was the only issue discussed at that meeting â€“ and Santos later announced that as a result of the presidentsâ€™ discussion, the Organization of American States (OAS) was tasked with analyzing the results of present policy and exploring alternative approaches that could prove to be more effective. A topic long considered taboo â€“ the U.S. â€œwar on drugsâ€ â€“ is now being seriously questioned and debate on new strategies â€“ including legal, regulated markets â€“ is officially on the regional agenda.
The significance of this development cannot be underestimated. For years, Washington has used its economic and political muscle to squash any dissenting opinions from Latin American governments. Academics and other experts who proposed alternative policies were ostracized as â€œlegalizers,â€ even if that is not what they were proposing. The â€œLâ€ word could not even be mentioned in official circles. In fact, the present debate is not about outright legalization per se but rather legal, regulated markets. Administration officials, nonetheless, continue to misconstrue the issue. At the summit, President Obama said that drug traffickers could â€œdominate certain countries if they were allowed to operate legally without any constraint.â€
Now, Latin American governments have turned the tables, taking on a leadership role in considering alternative policies.