At the beginning of November, a panel held at the Cooperation Cultural Centre in Buenos Aires, launched the book “Latin America debates on drugs”, that gathers the presentations made at the I and II Latin American Conferences on Drug Policy, that took place in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro, in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Quantity and diversity

Graciela Touzé, president of Intercambios, highlighted the joint effort of that organization and the Social Sciences Shool of UBA to edit this book, and referred to the “great quantity and diversity of output, that the title summarizes”.

Later, the Head Public Defender of Argentina, Stella Maris Martínez said that a book like “Latin America debates on drugs” is necessary because, “although much has been said, the techniques used [in the War on Drugs] are still inadequate, causing much more pain than solutions”. As an example, the official cited the issue of compulsory hospitalization, and the judges, having passed a Mental Health Act, are still the following endorsing the argument that the rule is not regulated. 

Adriana Clemente, Associate Dean of the Social Sciences School at the University of Buenos Aires, considered the book “challenging in three categories, basically: institutions, legislation, and knowledge. In the latter there have been many changes: much was investigated and even more is known. There is progress in the legislative field, but decriminalization alone does not prevent further criminalization of users. As for institutions, there is an important debt, but policies and investment in public expenditures give us an encouraging prospect”.

Own initiatives

On his turn, Ricardo Soberón, president of the National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (Devida) from Peru, after referring to the differences between academic work and public duties as he currently practices, particularly appreciated Mónica Cuñarro´s paper on Legislative Harmonization in Latin America. “For many years –he said- the region was only a legislative receiver. Norms imposed by the United States were adopted. Now, Latin America has its own initiatives”.

Uruguay ambassador for international organizations on the global drug problem, Milton Romaní, said: “During my six years in charge of the National Council on Drugs in my country, you cannot imagine how much strength I received listening other voices each time I attended the national and Latin American Conferences” organized by Intercambios, and warned: “We must deal with both drug related harms and harms produced by the policies implemented, not only by policy makers but by police and health institutions”.

Finally, Paula Goltzman, coordinator of Intercambios Intervention and Training department, and the book compiler together with Graciela Touzé, affirmed: “A conference does not solve those things that bother us, such as policies focused in drug users´ punishment, and the trend to believe that they are guilty and not the services we organize to assist them, but a conference allows us to meet, debate and arrive to consensus”.

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