In the latest sign that pressure is mounting on new Brazilian President Luis Inacio "Lula" da Silva to reform that country's drug laws, Lula's Public Security Secretary, the equivalent to the US Attorney General, called this week for the decriminalization of drug use and possession. In remarks made at the Forum of Liberty, a conference sponsored by the Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies, and reported by the Brazilian newspaper El Estado de Sao Paulo, Public Security Secretary Eduardo Soares said that "drug use should not be a crime."
Soares told an audience of businessmen concerned about security and public order that the government has two tasks in fighting crime. The first is repression, he said, but the second is to reduce the causes of violence through social programs and political participation. While he would continue to fight against the drug trade, said Soares, it was also necessary to "offer young people a means of learning values and social integration."
But Soares also told his audience that while he favored decriminalizing drug use and possession, the government of Lula had not yet adopted that posture. "This is not the position of the government, and I have to submit to the general policies of the government," he said.
Still, said Soares, the illegality of drugs has led to various social harms, including police corruption. Brazilian law enforcement agencies have at various times gone through "purification" campaigns to purge corrupt officers, said Soares, but the problem remains. He added that corrupt practices could be curbed through independent outside investigators with statutory authority to review police misconduct.
Soares wasn't the only reform advocate at the conference. Mexican attorney Luis Pazos told attendees that drugs should be distributed at reasonable prices to addicts in order to defeat the drug traffickers.
And fancy conferences and government ministers aren't the only ones putting pressure on Lula. As Narco News (http://www.narconews.com) has been reporting in an extended series, Lula and his government also face demands from an increasingly organized and vocal harm reduction movement to move fast to address the social ills brought about by Brazil's adoption of US-style prohibitionist drug policies.