Roundup: LatAm countries mull drug war's failure, planning to change course

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Latin American countries on Friday, the UN-designated International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking, mulled the failure of the hardball tactics in fighting drug, planning to change course in the drug war on Friday,

In Mexico, violent crime has become a daily scourge, with drug use on the rise among its young adults.

Some 40 percent of crimes committed in Mexico are tied to the use of illicit drugs, Mexico's Quadratin news agency reported, quoting Eunice Rendon, the Interior Ministry's under secretary of Prevention and Citizen Attention.

"The abuse of alcohol and cannabis among young college students increased between 30 percent and 20 percent, respectively, according to Marco Antonio Pulido, an academic at the Iberoamericana University," Mexico's prestigious Reforma daily reported.

The 40-year U.S.-led war on drugs has done little to stem drug abuse, instead it helped turn drug trafficking into such a lucrative business that criminal organizations are becoming power players in politics, media reported.

In Peru, lawmakers are investigating suspected " narcopoliticians."

"The parliamentary commission that's investigating the infiltration of drug trafficking in politics will insist on calling legislators that have some form of accusation against them, " said congresswoman Rosa Mavila, president of the commission, according to Peru's state Andina news agency.

Apparently, the investigation was launched after Peru's former minister of the Interior Daniel Urresti submitted the names of " approximately 950 people linked to narcotrafficking" to the National Electoral Board (JNE), the agency said.

Colombia's Minister of Justice Yesid Reyes called Friday on the international community to change the global anti-drug strategy as it meets in 2016 for a United Nations General Assembly special session on drugs (UNGASS).

Four decades of fighting the illicit drug trade almost exclusively through law enforcement and firepower has failed, he said in Vienna, where the UN launched its 2015 World Drug Report, Colombia's El Espectador daily reported online.

"That's why it is so important to stop at this point and look for a change in drug policies," said Reyes. "We think (the report) has to be carefully studied to be used as input ... at UNGASS, with the goal of redesigning future drug policy."

Uruguay's top drug official Juan Andres Roballo praised the government's decision in 2013 to change track and regulate marijuana use as a means to fight drug trafficking and organized crime.

"Uruguay is proposing a different way to deal with the drug problem," said Roballo, president of the National Drug Council ( JND), adding the new strategy rejects "the traditional prohibitionist approach" in favor of a more human rights-based approach, "which puts the country on an innovative path."

Uruguay's experience "will be a very important input" for next year's United Nations special session on drugs, he said.

While it's too soon to expect substantial results from Uruguay' s innovative legislation, said Roballo, "a serious and sustained policy will, without a doubt, in time to meet its proposed objectives. That's what's happening with tobacco regulation, that' s what will happen with marijuana and alcohol regulation."

Cuba has for now decided against legalizing marijuana use.

According to Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez, president of Cuba's National Medical Ethics Committee, marijuana, along with alcohol and other substances, is a psychoactive drug capable of significantly transforming brain function and therefore human behavior, state daily Granma said Friday.

Gonzalez likened marijuana use to playing Russian roulette, saying "no one can know with certainty when the bullet will fall into the breech, and when it does, its effect is usually fatal."

"Proponents of legalization cannot ... assess the impact at home, at work and on the community, of the effects on the brain of this drug blocking the rational mind and releasing the more primitive structures and functions," he said.

Cuba, however, also spends money on year-round educational campaigns that warn of the dangers of illicit drug use, and offers free drug rehabilitation programs to those with problems of addiction. Endite

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