After Mexico, it is Argentina's turn to legalise the use of soft drugs for private use. While the Netherlands is progressively losing the reputation of being extremely tolerant when it comes to soft drugs, South America seems to be adopting a new tendency.
“You see them lying in the street,” says the father of the drug addict, Cristian.
“Drugs send you immediately into a deep sleep. They have burn marks on their faces, their hands and their feet. They are dirty and lethargic, just like my own son.”
The debate on the legalisation of soft drugs is provoking serious discussions. It is especially the parents of drug addicts who are fiercely against it. Their emotional demonstrations is a reminder of those of “the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo” who have demonstrated over 30 years for their children killed by the military junta.
The Buenos Aires Supreme Court did not pay much attention to the demonstrations and the warnings of Claudio Izaguirre, the head of the Argentine anti-drug association Asociación Antidrogas: if everyone has the right to use soft drugs, we will find ourselves with 30% of the population as schizophrenics. It’s their problem, so is the message from the Court’s verdict. In fact, according to the judges, the Argentine constitution clearly determines, that the adults themselves are responsible for their choice in life. The State has no reason to intervene.
The fact that the law has just been adapted is not only because of philosophical reasons. Last week, Mexico has allowed the possession of cannabis, heroine and cocaine in small quantities. In Peru, there are no more prosecutions, even if the Minister of Interior, Octavio Salazar had to withdraw a bill for the cause.
“We cannot legalise everything, because of international conventions”, the judge Eugenio Zaffaroni from the Argentine Supreme Court said.
“But we waste precious time in matters that have no preventive measures. The small users of drugs are victims themselves. They should not be punished.”
Hence, the tendency in Latin America is similar to the policy of tolerance adopted by the Netherlands, which tries to make a big difference between soft drugs and hard drugs as well as between the users and the organised traffic.
Drug cartels are the real problem in Latin America and constitute the largest network of producers of drugs like cocaine. Thousands of people die each year due to violence related to drugs. According to Mexican authorities, the mandatory prosecution of private use would be in conflict with the battle against organised crimes.
Ironically, the Dutch tolerance policy is becoming more and more subject to controversy lately. And that is on the international scene but also in the country itself, where even those in favour denounce the absurdity of the system which allows the use of soft drugs but forbids the cultivation.
In Latin America also, the debate on the legalisation or the banning of cultivation is alive. There, other considerations come into play: in countries like Peru and Bolivia, there is a powerful lobby by the producers of cocaine. Actually, they do not want the use of cocaine to be legalised but on the other hand wish for the legalisation of the cultivation of coca leaves.
The Bolivian president, Evo Morales, would even like to introduce the use of the leaves against hunger and fatigue in a United Nation declaration for the rights of the Indian people. It has been two years now since he is campaigning at a high level to reach this goal.
Even in the fight to legalise soft drugs, the political interests involved are becoming bigger an bigger. This is what is seen in Uruguay, the next country where the debate is open. The question of whether soft drugs should be legalised or not is even a theme of the electoral campaign for the elections on 25 October. One of the favourite candidates is for and the other against.
The legalisation of drugs as the key issue in an election: even the Netherlands has not known such a thing.
( With the collaboration of Carolina Gil Posse and Pablo Gomez)