Hemispheric Parliamentarians Reject Debate on Drug Legalization 3/16/01

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The Inter-Parliamentary Forum of the Americas meeting this week in Ottawa has rejected as "inappropriate" a call from one of its members that it address legalization of the drug trade as a possible approach to reducing crime and political instability in the hemisphere.

At a planning session for the meeting last fall, Colombian opposition congressman Julia Angel Restrepo called for the topic to be placed on the forum's agenda for its inaugural session and received cautious support from other participants (http://www.drcnet.org/wol/152.html#interparliament). But with Restrepo not in attendance -- 100 parliamentarians from 27 countries did show up -- support for the idea evaporated.

"He (Restrepo) is not here," Colombian Senator Antonio Guerra told the Ottawa Citizen last week. "That topic will not be discussed here. I don't think this is a forum to do so."

John Williams, a lawmaker from the conservative-populist Canadian Alliance, and a forum member, was reading from the same page. "It (drug use) destroys societies. Therefore, legalization is not an issue, so that debate will not happen here," he told the Citizen.

The other Canadian representative, Liberal Senator Helene Hervieux-Payette, had expressed support for the proposal last fall, but was silent on the topic during last week's meeting.

The Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas is a body of the Organization of American States (OAS), but unlike the OAS includes not only governments but also opposition parties. Also unlike the OAS, the forum does not reflect the official policies of member governments.

Lawmakers in attendance discussed a number of topics of regional interest, including eliminating poverty, free trade, and crime and corruption. They hoped to influence the upcoming Summit of the Americas set for April in Quebec City.

In raising the subject last fall, Restrepo told his colleagues that stopping the drug trade in his and other Latin American countries was "virtually impossible" and that the vast profits at stake from the black market trade had kept his country in a state of guerrilla war for the past two decades.

He also cited the laws of supply and demand in arguing that prohibition is doomed to failure. "The prohibitionist laws in the States in the 1920s are a clear example that violating the law of the market is equivalent of kicking the goat," he said.

"These are the reasons... that lead me to propose to my colleagues at the Interparliamentary Forum of the Americas that the topic of legalization of drugs, until now treated as taboo, be explored. Legalization means depriving drug traffickers of the powerful economic ingredient that makes this illicit activity so lucrative," said Restrepo.

But, according to the Ottawa Citizen, legalization was idea non grata at the forum, with delegates alternating between boilerplate drug war oratory and debates over US military aid to Colombia.

Colombian Senator Guerra, who last fall had seconded his countryman's call for the legalization debate, now defended Colombia's right to "ask for international aid to battle against drug trafficking." But even he called for a better balance between humanitarian aid and military assistance.

The potential for Colombia to cause regional conflicts weighed heavily on the delegates. Antonio Posso Delgado of Ecuador worried that the ongoing military intervention could destabilize his country." It could turn South America into a sort of Vietnam. This is not good for anyone," he said.

-- END --
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Issue #177, 3/16/01 Dedication: Patrick Dorismond | Students Helping Students, HEA Update | Colombian Governors Come to Washington to Denounce Plan Colombia, DRCNet Interviews Tolima Governor Jaramillo | US District Court Overturns Mandatory Drug Tests in Texas School, Lockney Policy Was Nation's Broadest | Drug Reform Battle Heats Up in New York: Pataki Package Would Increase Marijuana Penalties, Democrats Offer Alternative Bills, Activists Don't Like Either Version | New Mexico Update: Ups and Downs for Johnson's Reform Package, State GOP in an Uproar | In Another Step on Path to Cannabis Decrim, Swiss Government Submits Proposed Law to Parliament | Hemispheric Parliamentarians Reject Debate on Drug Legalization | Uruguayan Leader Takes Legalization Views Online, Recommends Traffic | Narco News: Mexican Federal Police Chief Calls for Legalization, Bush Adds Another Half Billion to Colombia Fire | San Francisco Conference Looks at Women and the Drug War | Job Listing: Access Works! in Minneapolis | The Reformer's Calendar | Editorial: The Rule of Law
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