Mexico and Brazil - Rethinking the problem

As an increasingly violent and costly drugs war clogs up prisons with small-time users, some Latin American countries are abandoning hardline U.S. policies on consumption to intensify the fight against major traffickers. Convinced that the four-decade-old, U.S.-led war on drugs has failed, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and other countries are relaxing penalties for possession and personal use of small amounts of narcotics.
Former presidents of Brazil, Colombia and Mexico issued a report last year saying U.S. coca crop eradication efforts in Latin America have merely pushed cultivation areas from one region to the other. "The dominant strategy has been the so-called 'war on drugs.'... This strategy has clearly failed. It must therefore be changed," former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso said during a recent conference in Washington.
Most of the world's cocaine still comes out of the Andean countries of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia, even after billions of dollars spent eradicating crops.
In Mexico, the drug war has killed more than 16,000 people since late 2006 when President Felipe Calderon took office and deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to combat ruthless cartels that behead and dismember rivals, and bribe or intimidate police and judges.
Drug violence has also soared in Central America, where street gangs have taken over the trade and in some cases infiltrated political parties. Mexico is the world's biggest producer of marijuana and Paraguay, in the heart of South America, has taken the No. 2 position as demand grows in neighboring Argentina and Brazil.

Rethinking the problem
Brazil and Mexico, the two largest economies in Latin America, are taking the lead in a new approach to individual drug consumers. Brazil has partially decriminalized drug use and in Mexico, carrying small amounts of any drug is no longer a criminal offense.
In Argentina, President Cristina Fernandez is expected to soon send a drug reform bill to Congress that proposes sending users to treatment instead of jail, following on a Supreme Court ruling that made it illegal to prosecute drug consumers.
"The U.S. is retreating from imposing a model," said John Walsh, head of drug policy for the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. "The White House... is going to be taking a more measured approach to talking about drug policy." Even some areas of the United States, the top global drug consumer, are rethinking their approach, with more than a dozen states now allowing marijuana use for medical purposes.

Editors opinion
One has to realize the current US drug policies are costing lives and money and they are not working. Marijuana should be legalized and taxed like alcohol and cigarettes. That will get rid of a significant portion of the problem. For hard drugs, it is time to mount a publicity campaign denouncing users, rich or poor, as murderers. It’s they’re demand that makes the drug business profitable and causes world wide misery.
Put the harsh realities of drug violence on prime time TV. Denounce Hollywood and the pop music industry every time they release "entertainment" that in any way excuses or glamorizes drug use and trafficking. At the same time keep educating our young people and keep busting the bigger players with tough mandatory sentencing including the death penalty. It is appropriate for the murderers that they are.
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