Policies prohibiting the production, trafficking and use of drugs have had a major impact on Latin America’s security, justice and prisons systems. In the last five decades, the insistence upon waging a “War on Drugs,” and its militarized approach, has caused high levels of violence and served to justify heavy-handed policies. Meanwhile, the criminal organizations that dominate the trafficking of illegal substances have not been weakened and have shown they are capable of penetrating key areas of state institutions. 

Despite this scenario, for years the consequences of these policies were not analyzed from a human rights perspective. At present nearly one third of the region’s prison population is incarcerated for non-violent drug-related crimes; laws produce a direct associationbetween drugs and crime that justifies the criminalization of users; the violence linked to these policies is played out in poor neighborhoods and further deteriorates inhabitants’ living conditions; and effective strategies for combating more complex criminal networks have yet to be implemented. As a result, the impacts of the “War on Drugs” are much more harmful than the danger it purports to prevent.

This seminar seeks to contribute to current debates about drug policies in the region and on the global scene. It will also analyze in-depth the human rights impacts of the prohibitionist policies in force and the role that some Latin American countries are taking at present to question them, due to the consequences of the “War on Drugs” in their territories. At the seminar, participants will also explore alternative experiences that are being developed in the region: drug law reforms and their impacts on penal systems; the decriminalization of consumption; the regulation of markets; and new approaches in the field of health care.

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