BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Saturday proposed an alliance between Latin American countries to bring a unified voice in the fight against drug trafficking by recognizing drug use as a public health problem rather than confronting it with something that he described as a “failed” “militarized approach.”
Petro, the first leftist president in Colombia’s history, closed the Latin American and Caribbean Drug Conference held in the city of Cali by saying that 50 years of failed drug wars had resulted in untold bloodshed and pain in Latin America.
“What I propose is a different and unified voice that defends our society, our future and our history and stops repeating a failed discourse,” the Colombian president said.
“It is time to regain hope and not repeat the bloody and cruel wars, the ill-named “war on drugs,” and consider drugs as a military problem and not as a health problem for society,” Petro said.
According to security sources and analysts, Colombia, like other Latin American countries, faces ongoing violence due to drug trafficking and the presence of cartels with growing clout and economic power.
Countries taking part in the conference said in a joint statement that the demand for illegal drugs must be reduced by educating the public and combating inequality, poverty, lack of opportunity and violence.
They also agreed on the need to break the harmful links between drug and firearms trafficking, transnational organized crime, illegal logging, human trafficking, migrant smuggling, money laundering and corruption.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who attended the event, said countries must strengthen family unity through love, fight poverty and promote the cultivation of corn, beans, cocoa, coffee, fruit and wood to increase land area for illegal crops such as marijuana, as well as opium poppies and coca leaves – the raw materials for drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
The Mexican president said Latin American countries must support the United States in the fight against fentanyl out of “moral obligation” and “humanism.”
“You are facing a pandemic,” Lopez Obrador said. “Regardless of our differences, human rights prevail over partisan ideas and ideological positions, and the most important human right is the right to life.”
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta in Bogota and Raul Cortes in Mexico City; Writing by Jackie Botts; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)
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