BY KIRTHANA SASITHARAN, HURRIYET DAILY NEWS
The delegate from Peru in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States took some time during the unmoderated caucus to talk to Hurriyet Daily News regarding the progress CELAC has taken over the course of the last few days, while also sharing some concerns regarding the current working papers.
When asked to summarize the progress CELAC has made thus far and the topics of concern for the committee, the delegate from Peru started off by acknowledging that the caucus agreed that Latin American states do not have any real power, but want to ensure that they do not overstep their boundaries.
“Latin American countries have a very big tie to the US and work in tandem with measures that are already in place, therefore the UN.”
The delegate of Peru mentioned this because the caucus is currently discussing the possibility of legalizing drugs in Latin American countries since the root of many drugs can be found in the plants found across this region. However, the committee’s plans might be interrupted by the United Nations, the neutral body of power that can help CELAC, which is not in favor of the legalization of drugs. The delegate mentions that while the committee does not wish to upset the UN or its powerful trading partners, it wants to acknowledge that what it is discussing is not strictly legalization of drugs, but more of a process that explores different solutions to the problem. “Not all drugs are meant for recreational uses,” suggests the Peruvian delegate. The fine line is very important.
“We want to make sure that coca leaves are not seen as cocaine, because it is not the same thing. For [Peru] it is something that is very traditional and very important to the people and it is important for [Peru], Bolivia, and Colombia to keep those things that are traditional and not infringe upon indigenous people’s rights. At the same time we are trying to combat the illicit drug trade.”
“This is a market. We are trying to see it from the producer’s side, the transit side, and the consumer’s side.”
The delegate mentioned that there are currently 4 working papers on the floor, but the committee is seeking to merge two of the working papers.
The delegate of Peru mentioned that some members are looking at health and education of people as they are moving away from the communicative approach that has encompassed them for so long. CLAC is currently looking at UNODC, the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, to seek resources.
The Peruvian delegate also mentioned how important it was to include Caribbean states as well, as the drug market extends far beyond the boundaries of Latin America. “The [drug] market is moving increasingly to Europe… we are focusing on Cocaine, Heroine, and Cannabis.”
“We are just making a framework for the possible legalization, but [it depends] on what your country’s problems are. It doesn’t make sense to legalize drugs in a country where there is no problem with that drug. So depending on the country, we are trying to make a framework to each country.”
Sometimes, the delegate from Peru mentions, the legalization of certain drugs may be used for health reasons in one country or rehabilitation reasons in another. Education programs about capacity building are also being explored to encourage citizens not to get involved with the drug trade.
When asked if the legalization of drugs would serve to increase the economy in Latin America, the delegate from Peru said it is not so much an economic problem, but more so of a social awareness solution.
“There is so much violence that comes from this and it is due to the fact that people are poor usually and have no other choice.” The delegate says it is important that those involved in the drug trade are helped rather than punished.
Right now, the committee is looking more so at control and prevention of the drug trade, and addressing legalization as the last step to take.
The Peruvian delegate did express a few points of hesitancy with the working papers currently on the floor, mentioning that some of the initiatives expressed will require funds and the source of those funds have yet to be discussed and addressed.
“We want to make sure to work with the UN due to the fact of how much we depend on the US for trade… one of our main trade partners… We should not anger them or the UN in any way. We must always work with them.”
The delegate expressed worry in that the US does not like the legalization of drugs, legally. As such, if Latin America pursues this idea to legalize drugs in the future, the relationship between the US and Latin America can be affected.
“We want to tread lightly and make the distinction that legalization is only a far away concept we are guiding ourselves on to see how this would work.”
The delegate from Peru does not want to start tension, and wants to keep ties with the UN, as this might be their only source of funding for the educational and preventative programs this committee hopes to implement.