Conclusions and Perspectives
On the 31st of August and the 1st of September the Fourth National Conference on Drug Policy took place in Buenos Aires, organized by Intercambios Civil Association.
The meeting took place in the Argentine National Congress, bringing together more than 450 participants between legislators, judges, decision-makers, politicians, professionals of the justice system and health institutions, NGO representatives, and drug users. This conference was declared of interest by the National House of Representatives and the National Senate and by the Buenos Aires City Legislature. Sponsors included the National Department of Health, the National Department of Justice and Human Rights, The National Attorney’s Office, The University of Buenos Aires (UBA), The Pan-American Health Organization, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV-AIDS (UNAIDS), and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), among other national and international organizations.
Intercambios is an NGO that has worked on problems related to drugs for the past eleven years and has introduced the debate at the highest levels of the legislative realm.
In the opening panel, with the presence of authorities and political decision-makers in problems related to drug use, the President of Intercambios, Graciela Touzé, indicated, “we think that this conference will make significant steps toward bettering current drug control policies, increasing their effectiveness, viability, and credibility, and contributing to the consolidation of favorable public opinion regarding alternative drug policies to the predominant punitive policies now in place”.
Referencing Harm Reduction Strategies, the Representative of the National Department of Health, Dr. Andrés Leibovich, said, “We were criticized in 2002 when we gave drug users prevention supplies. It seems that now the general mindset in Argentina is beginning to accept these measures.”
The President of the House of REpresentative’s Drug Comité, Representative Garín de Tula, affirmed: “We want to establish the necessity of modifying the current drug laws to include prevention”.
In the first panel about Drug Control Policies, European Diplomat Giusto Catania said: “It is necessary to change the global strategy, and for this reason in 2008 to urge the revision of the 1961 United Nations drug convention. We must make progress in a large project to decriminalize the consumption of substances, eliminating the possibility of an illegal market.”
Dr. Pedro Gabriel Godinho Delgado, in charge of Mental Health for National Department of Health in Brazil, referring to the situation in his country mentioned the installation of harm reduction programs in the Universal Health System; he also referred to the new Brazilian drug law, recently passed, that moves toward a progressive decriminalization of drug use.
Dr. Mariano Ciafardini, National Director of Criminal Policy of the National Department of Justice and Human Rights said, in relation to the penal situation of substance use, “drugs are a large-scale business and a strong excuse for repressive systems”.
Mario Coriolano, Defender in the Buenos Aires Provincial Penal Annulment Court, and Enrique Font, From the National University of Rosario´s School of Law, also spoke at the panel.
In the table discussion “Current Trenes in Drug use,” recent studies from Buenos Aires and Montevideo on Pasta Base and Concaine were presented. Victoria Rangún, from Intercambios Civil Association, affirmed, “From the analyzed data, it world seem. that Argentina is no longer so much a country for the transit of hydrochloride for cocaine production, but is becoming a place of production in the final stages,” which would explain the higher circulation of the by-products of this process principally destined for the local market. We can call this process re-territorialization of the growth-production-exportation cycle”.
At the same time the General Secretary of Uruguay’s National Council on Drugs, Milton Romaní Gerner, said “Pasta base does significant damage in the most vulnerable sectors, not because of the drug itself, but because of poverty and marginalization. Because of social exclusion: associated poverty, socially and politically determined”. He also emphasized the benefits of the decriminalization of drug posesión for personal use in accordance with current legislation in his country.
Also present at the table discussion were: Dr. Hugo Miguez, who presented a study on the changes in alcoholization processes, and Ana Clara Cammarotti, presenting results on research about the consumption of ecstasy.
In the end of day, the Chilean philosopher Martín Hopenhayn spoke about the problematic consumption of drugs in youth as a metaphor for post-modern society.
During the second day of the Fourth National Conference on Drug Policy, the Coordinator of Drug Policy of the City of Vancouver, Canada, Donald MacPherson, declared respect for the policies carried out in his city to respond to the problems associated with drug use: “prohibition has many limits, and therefore it is necessary to establish new paradigms. He explained that in the development of drug policy, the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU) has a fundamental role. He underlined that “the adoption of harm reduction methods was key in the election of Vancouver’s mayor in 2002.”
In the table discussion about “The Sociocultural Context of the Phenomenon of Drugs” Dr. Hugo Cogen, Sub-regional Advisor in Mental Health for South America of the Pan-American Office of Health, declared that alcohol is the substance responsible for the most diseases and deaths in Latin America. He emphasized that, in spite of this fact, “78.1% of consumers do not seek medical attention.”
The anthropologist Ricardo Abduca referred to the use of the coca leaf in Argentina, with widespread use in the Northeast. He discussed its characterization as a drug and the prohibition of its importation.
At the conclusion of this panel, Emiliano Galende reflected on the dificulties of tackling drug use as a social problem, given that our society “foments the idea of responding in an individualistic manner to daily situations in our own lives.”
In the panel called: “Youth: Control or Citizen?”, the journalist Cristian Alcarón analyzed the new tendencies in the organization of drug trafficking in zones of social exclusion. He affirmed: “Drugs are sold to escape from poverty.”
The panel ended with the presentations of the Executive Secretary of the Nueva Tierra Center, Néstor Borri, the sociologist Alcira Daroqui, and Carmen Verdú, lawyer for the Coordinating Committee Against Political and Institutional Repression (CORREPI).
At the conclusión of the day, Pablo Cymerman of Intercambios Civil Association affirmed: “As a result of the Conference, we hope to incentivize multisectoral work between distinct areas of government, academia, and civil society, with the goal of outlining the difficulties of establishing communication links between public policy, programs, and research plans. Only in this way will we be able to construct drug policies that allow us to rethink the regulatory models and their effects on health, and thusly identify policies that protect human rights.”