OAS wraps up regional meeting on security, drugs

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ANTIGUA, Guatemala: The Organization of American States (OAS) wrapped up a ministerial meeting on Thursday (Friday in Manila) focused on costly efforts to combat a rampant drug scourge that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said that, member states have taken an important step by producing a report covering “all stages of drug trafficking from the planting of crops to the final user . . . including dimensions of the problem ranging from health to public security.”

Individual countries must now weigh future actions.

One measure under consideration is legalizing marijuana, a proposal that has previously met with broad resistance but is gaining support from governments overwhelmed by years of runaway drug violence.

However, some countries, like St. Lucia, remain unconvinced.

Alva Baptiste, the Caribbean nation’s foreign minister, cautioned against legalizing marijuana, warning that “consumption has risen” in countries that softened their drug laws.

“We need a policy that is anti-crime and not pro-drug,” Baptiste told the gathering.

According to the United Nations, about 90 percent of the cocaine consumed in the United States passes through Mexico and Central America—a region that also counts among the world’s most violent.

“The price that the transit countries is paying is unjust and intolerable,” said Mireya Aguero, foreign minister of Honduras.

Her Central American country is the most violent in the world, with about 90 homicides each year for every 100,000 residents—nearly 10 times the global median.

The OAS meeting saw the first high-level contact in years between top diplomats from the United States and Venezuela, which were bitterly at odds during the rule of late leftist leader Hugo Chavez, who died earlier this year.

Also attending the three-day meeting as observers were representatives from outside the Americas, including China, the European Union, India, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Thailand.

AFP

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