IDPC Latin American region covers the following countries:
Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela
Rates of inequality in Latin America are among the highest in the world, with the richest 10 percent of the population earning 41 percent of total income and the poorest 10 percent, earning just 1 percent. Poverty reduction has stagnated, with 47 million people in the region —more than 8 percent of the population—still living in extreme poverty.
Although Latin America is known primarily as a “source” of illicit drugs, problems related to drug consumption are growing across the region. The main illegal drug consumed is cannabis. Cocaine use (injected, inhaled and smoked) has increased in most of the countries. Heroin is used in northern Mexico and in Colombia to a lesser extent, but its use is unusual in the rest of Latin America. The use of legal substances such as alcohol, opiates and other pharmaceutical products also represents a rising health problem.
Injecting drug use is associated with HIV infection in Argentina, Brazil, northern Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay, while non-injecting drug use is a risk factor for HIV and HCV, with consistent findings of higher HIV prevalence among non-injecting cocaine users than in the general population.
Regarding demand reduction policies, most of the programs for drug users are drug-free based and have a low level of coverage. Harm reduction strategies are still unsystematic, narrowly focused, and do not scale up.
In this context of tremendous social inequality, income disparity and poverty, the weaker echelons within the chain of illicit drug trafficing (drug users, couriers or “mules,” and small-scale traffickers) suffer disproportionately the negative effects of drug control policies (social isolation, incarceration, violence and constant violation of their basic human rights). Of particular concern are harsh anti-drug laws that have led to the widespread incarceration of consumers and small-scale offenders who are given disproportionately high sentences. This has led to serious problems of prison overcrowding in many countries.
The Andean region is the source of the world’s supply of cocaine. Coca leaves, the key ingredient for producing cocaine, are cultivated in Bolivia, Peru and Colombia. Latin American and Caribbean countries across the hemisphere serve as transhipment routes for illicit drugs en route to the Southern Cone countries, Europe and the United States.
US Government influence
Many governments are under significant pressure from the US government to follow its “War on Drugs” policy. These supply-side policies have produced negative consequences. Of particular concern are forced eradication efforts targetting small-scale coca and poppy farmers, which increase poverty and food insecurity and lead to human rights violations, social unrest, violence and political instability. Aerial spraying raises serious environmental and health concerns.
At a regional level, the Organization of American States’s Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission (CICAD), has recently initiated a review of its hemispheric counter drug strategy and action plan, which has not been updated since 1998.
The IDPC and its member and partner organizations in the Latin American region will maintain contact with governments, regional bodies and civil society organizations, aiming to support the development of policies and programmes that promote more effective and humane counter drug policies.