La Plaza

News from Latin America and the Caribbean

« Previous Post | La Plaza Home | Next Post »

The International Narcotics Control Board criticizes several Latin American countries

February 25, 2010 |  4:21 pm

A new report by the independent body monitoring United Nations drug control practices strongly criticized recent moves by several Latin American countries toward decriminalizing possession of some narcotics.

The Vienna-based International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) said in its annual report that Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina were sending "the wrong message" in legislative and judicial developments that aim to  decriminalize the possession of some drugs.

The report also "wishes to remind" Bolivia that under established international conventions, the traditional use of coca leaf in that country remains an "illicit" activity.

But the report, released Wednesday, drew strong criticism itself by nongovernmental agencies that are calling the INCB's criticism of Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina an overstepping of the organization's mandate. The report's words for the Latin American countries constitutes "unwarranted intrusions into these countries' sovereign decision-making," said the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and the Transnational Institute (TNI) in a joint statement.

The organizations say the INCB has no jurisdiction over policy changes within sovereign nations.

Mexico in 2009 decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. Brazil replaced prison sentences with education and treatment for small-time drug offenders in 2006, and is moving toward rewriting drug laws this year that may include total decriminalization of narcotics possession. Last year, Argentina's Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the punishment of possession of marijuana for personal use.

“In the case of the Argentine Supreme Court ruling, it is arrogant interference by the INCB to question the judgment of the highest judicial authority of a sovereign State,” Martin Jelsma, TNI Drugs and Democracy Program Coordinator, said in a statement.

The INCB report also has strong words for the United States, where several states, including California, are moving toward legalizing or regularizing the use of marijuana. The U.N. body says it is "deeply concerned" that the regularizing of marijuana use for medical purposes "sends the wrong message to other countries."

The entire Americas section of the INCB 2009 report is available for review.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City