Several Latin American countries have called on the United Nations to strengthen its anti-drug strategies by focusing on prevention and treatment rather than the long-standing militarized approach.
Bolivia, Guatemala, Mexico and Uruguay, among others, proposed this change in strategy at the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs on Monday. According to the U.N., despite the resources devoted to the war on drugs, drug production continues to grow while drug users have increased by about 20 percent in the last decade to almost 250 million people.
World Health Organization Director Margaret Chan said that deaths caused by drugs are staggering.
"The WHO estimates that drug use is responsible for about half a million deaths every year. But this figure represents only a small part of the damage caused by the global drug problem," said Chan.
The Uruguayan representative to the commission, Juan Andres Roballo, defended his country's regulation that legalizes the sale of marijuana.
"The approach to market regulation as Uruguay has applied it doesn't imply the promotion of consumption under any circumstances," said Roballo.
Bolivian government minister Carlos Romero also said the so-called war on drugs and the militarized response to the problem is a failure. Colombia, for its part, criticized the "frustrating" results of the fight against drugs.
Guatemala also called on the U.N. to continue advancing and deepening new approaches to dealing with drugs.
"It is not a matter of approving the prohibition or legalization, that is the decision of each country. The sovereignty of each state is more than important, we are only asking for openness to innovation, since every day drugs that made of new substances are winning the fight," said Guatemalan Foreign Minister Carlos Morales.