Battling Drugs in the Americas: 'The Military Is Not Suited to Pursue Criminals'

Drug-related violence is once again on the rise in Latin America. Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 78, told SPIEGEL that the drug war has failed and that it is time to try a new strategy: decriminalization.

SPIEGEL: Mr. President, why do you and the former presidents of Mexico and Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo and César Gaviria, want to liberalize drug use?

Cardoso: The drug problem endangers the Latin American democracies. Addicts are a case for the doctor, not the police.

SPIEGEL: You even want to allow cocaine?

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Cardoso: Many people in Brazil take drugs. During my term in office, we destroyed cannabis plantations, but it didn't do any good. With such a thriving market, there is always someone who will risk everything. We have to fight organized crime and, at the same time, decriminalize drug use for addicts.

SPIEGEL: But wouldn't that only further stimulate the demand for narcotics?

Cardoso: The only way to find out is to try.

SPIEGEL: Is the Brazilian government even prepared to handle an onslaught of addicts?

Cardoso: No, which is why it can't happen from one day to the next. If you don't reduce demand, the war is lost. We have to fight back with education. It's similar to the fight against AIDS: You can't ban sex, but you can make it safer. We were very successful with that in Brazil.

SPIEGEL: Washington spends billions of dollars on military and police assistance to fight the drug trade in Latin America. Is this a wise investment?

Cardoso: When I was in Colombia on a state visit, the general in charge of drug enforcement said to me: Although we are killing the smugglers here, we haven't managed to contain the smuggling. The profits are so immense that the ones who are killed are replaced right away.

SPIEGEL: Haven't the authorities succeeded in breaking apart the big cartels?

Cardoso: The drug trade today is no longer vertically structured. Instead, it operates in small cells that can be disbanded at any time. Such structures are much more difficult to combat. Besides, Mexicans have replaced the Colombian drug traders. The United States pursues a two-faced policy: It bans drugs, and yet it permits the sale of weapons. As a result, the Mexican gangs go across the border to get their guns.

SPIEGEL: How do you feel about the use of military force against the drug mafia?

Cardoso: When I was president, Washington wanted to set up a joint military supreme command in the fight against drugs, but we never accepted it. The military is not well suited for the pursuit of criminals.

SPIEGEL: So far the US has advocated a tough anti-drug policy. Does US President Barack Obama see things differently?

Cardoso: There are some indications that he does. The old approach has failed. Afghanistan is the best example of that. Despite the presence of US troops there, opium production is flourishing. And drug use hasn't declined in the United States, either, where hardly any marijuana is imported anymore. Most of it is produced domestically.

SPIEGEL: After the US, Brazil is the second-largest drug market in the Americas.

Cardoso: Drug consumers are primarily from the middle and upper classes. These people must recognize that they are partly responsible for violent crime. Cocaine is becoming a people's drug. In every society, there is a certain percentage of addicts who are lost causes. Many others, however, could be saved. These are the people we have to reach.

Interview conducted by Jens Glüsing

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1.
symewinston 02/10/2010
Zitat von sysopDrug-related violence is once again on the rise in Latin America. Former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, 78, told SPIEGEL that the drug war has failed and that it is time to try a new strategy: decriminalization. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,676864,00.html
Cardozo is right in all counts, drugs are consumed by the affluent people in all countries and of course most of its consumers are in the USA. And he is also right when he says that decriminalization and education is the solution. But, to say so is political suicide for any politician. Chao, Winston Smith
2. We cannot make omelette without breaking the eggs
Norberto_Tyr 02/15/2010
The problem is really simple, criminalizing illegal consumption and reducing the price by providing drugs through medical prescription. Criminalizing consumption is good and effective, it is not employed because the main consumers are the 'law makers', euphemistically called 'politicians', as well as the 'law givers' euphemistically called 'judges', and all the cacophonic over rich fat cat establishment entrenched in art business, media, sport and so on. Medical prescription would allow to reduce the price and ruin the business, build databases, reduce crime, increase health of the population, treatment of drug addicts, etc. These two measures must be combined and applied internationally to work, but it would not be done because a politician or a judge won't want to be 'booked' and they have the money and the power to get away Scott Free. Anti-drug organizations will loose budget (bribes) and access to cheap drug for them to sell. Anti-drug providers of training, advertisement, weapons, PR, HR, journalists, and you name it, will have to change and do something productive. And finally, the most important condition is to have honest governments, which is absolutely impossible in the entertainers’ democracy designed precisely to corrupt and exploit human miseries. I subscribe to Schopenhauer: giving political rights to the masters in the art of lying is pure lunacy, they will embrace 'democracy' "con amore" (in Italian).
3. t
symewinston 02/16/2010
Zitat von Norberto_TyrThe problem is really simple, criminalizing illegal consumption and reducing the price by providing drugs through medical prescription. Criminalizing consumption is good and effective, it is not employed because the main consumers are the 'law makers', euphemistically called 'politicians', as well as the 'law givers' euphemistically called 'judges', and all the cacophonic over rich fat cat establishment entrenched in art business, media, sport and so on. Medical prescription would allow to reduce the price and ruin the business, build databases, reduce crime, increase health of the population, treatment of drug addicts, etc. These two measures must be combined and applied internationally to work, but it would not be done because a politician or a judge won't want to be 'booked' and they have the money and the power to get away Scott Free. Anti-drug organizations will loose budget (bribes) and access to cheap drug for them to sell. Anti-drug providers of training, advertisement, weapons, PR, HR, journalists, and you name it, will have to change and do something productive. And finally, the most important condition is to have honest governments, which is absolutely impossible in the entertainers’ democracy designed precisely to corrupt and exploit human miseries. I subscribe to Schopenhauer: giving political rights to the masters in the art of lying is pure lunacy, they will embrace 'democracy' "con amore" (in Italian).
Schopenhauer knew the human condition in all its ugliness. To be a politician you have to be a master in the art of lying, because to become elected you need the combined support of groups which do not see eye to eye on many issues so you have to tread a careful path lying left and right to make them believe you are on their side, on all sides. The solution to the drug problem is simple: legalize drug use and production then tax the product heavily and use the tax to educate the general public and to rehabilitate drug addicts. This strategy employed against smoking was a resounding success in Australia. Chao, WS
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Much of the drug-related violence in Latin America is fueled by demand from the US. Zoom
DER SPIEGEL

Much of the drug-related violence in Latin America is fueled by demand from the US.


About Fernando Henrique Cardoso
AFP
Fernando Henrique Cardoso was president of Brazil for two terms from 1995 to 2003. A year ago, he published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal entitled "The War on Drugs Is a Failure," together with former Colombian President César Gaviria and former Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo. "Prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and criminalization of consumption simply haven't worked," they wrote.

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