Peru Anti-Drug Chief Says Won’t Support Drug Legalization Proposals

Peru’s anti-drug chief ruled out that the Andean country will support a growing call in the region to legalize drugs, an initiative that she says would do little to combat criminal groups that control the multi-billion dollar illicit trade.

Carmen Masias, the head of Peru’s anti-drug agency Devida, said however that although Peru is against the legalization of drugs it is open to discussing the issue at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Colombia.

A number of current and former Latin American leaders have said that governments should consider legalizing drugs as a way to combat criminal groups that are responsible for terrible violence and behind deep-rooted corruption throughout the region.

While President Felipe Calderon of Mexico has hinted that there may be a need to legalize drugs, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has come out with a number of pro-legalization comments.

Both countries are suffering from exceptionally high murder rates as cartels fight for control of the lucrative trade. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has also said he would be open to discussing the proposals.

Colombia and Peru are the world’s biggest producers of cocaine, a large part of which transits through Central America and Mexico to markets in the United States.

In addition to the current presidents, ex-presidents Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil, have also said there needs to be a debate about decriminalizing marijuana.

The search for alternative methods of curbing the production and use of illegal drugs has increased as decades of anti-drug policies based on police and military actions have required billions of dollars in investment and have not produced the desired results.  Additionally, violent and organized crime are greater than ever.

In Peru, policies over the past 30 years of forced eradication of coca crops, alternative crop programs, destruction of coca paste sites, and intercepting traffickers have managed to contain drug production to a certain degree but have not reduced the production as new areas open up to replace areas now growing alternative crops.

During a television interview on Friday, Masias said the proposals for legalizing drugs comes from governments that are “desperate” to find solutions to drug-related violence that has roiled their countries.

“The debates are always welcome, but the policy of the Peruvian government is very clear: No to legalization,” she said.

Masias said that if governments legalize drugs, the cost would be significantly higher than the current situation of illicit drugs, meaning that the criminal groups would continue to operate by supplying the drugs to poorer populations.

“What guarantees that legalization will end with this parallel market? What guarantees that drug trafficking is going to fall in to line with this new policy of drug legalization?” Masias said. “It would be crazy to legalize all of that.”

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