by Diego Cevallos
(IPS) MEXICO CITY --
Mexico, drug consumption is on the rise and
authorities fear that it will reach U.S. levels.
To prevent that from occurring, the government is adopting the same objectives and philosophy as its northern neighbor: Stop the sale of drugs, prevent and prohibit drug use.
At the Binational Conference on Drug Demand Reduction, held recently in the border city of Tijuana, the United States and Mexico acknowledged that drug consumption is expanding. Officials proposed joining forces, sharing experiences and following the same anti-drug strategies.
The few voices promoting legalization of drugs in Mexico and abroad have fallen on deaf ears with U.S. and Mexican authorities.
Led by the U.S. anti-drug chief, Barry MacCaffrey, and by Mexico's Secretary of Health, Ramon de la Fuente, the delegations signed a declaration to continue their cooperation in "a central strategy promoting education to reduce demand."
MacCaffrey and De la Fuente said they are open to new theories and scientific advances that help control drug use, but the word "legalization" did not appear during the talks.
to several studies, approximately 2.5 million people in Mexico have
used drugs at least once, and some 300,000 people are addicted. In the United
States, drug use totals 35 million, with four million addicts.
Profits from the illegal sale of drugs in Mexico are estimated to top $6 billion per year, while in the United States total yearly earnings are more than $57 billion, according to the data used at the conference, the second meeting of its kind between the two countries.
Mexican policy analysts Jose Antonio Crespo and Sergio Sarmiento believe that prohibiting and punishing drug use is a mistake and is the origin of an expensive and never-ending drug war.
In Colombia, the country hardest hit by drug-trafficking problems, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, suggested that some drugs should be legalized.
At the conference in Tijuana, McCaffrey recommended that his Mexican counterparts develop strategies to prevent "the tragedy" of 1970s, when in the United States, said McCaffrey, one out of seven people used drugs.
Mexico's goal is to prevent drugs from reaching the level of the U.S. problem, said Mexican authorities who stated that drug use mushroomed 30 percent over the last five years in Mexico.
According to studies by Mexico's National Council Against Addiction (CONADIC), there is a constant increase in drug use among adolescents, "alarming" levels of cocaine use, and the rising use of amphetamines and other drugs.
Cocaine use in Mexico is 16 times what it was 13 years ago. In 1986, just 1.6 percent of drug users took cocaine. Today, 26 percent of those who use drugs use cocaine.
CONADIC also reports that there has been an alarming rise in the use of inhalant solvents, a problem linked to increasing poverty.
An estimated 4.8 percent of the Mexican urban population has consumed one or more types of drugs, nine times less than in the United States.
Mexico ranks first in Latin America in alcohol consumption. Of Mexico's 96 million inhabitants, 66 percent drink alcohol on a regular basis, 25 percent of whom get drunk, said CONADIC.
Mexico can and must prevent following "the historic example of misery suffered by the United States" in the 1970s, said McCaffrey as he asked his counterparts to stand firm in their cooperative anti-drug programs.
The two countries promised to "implement a cooperative long-term program for the prevention and treatment of drug use, based on scientific research and knowledge."
Approximately 1,000 tons of cocaine have been shipped to the United States via Mexico in the last 20 years. According to Washington, Mexican authorities have been able to confiscate just 20 percent of the drugs that travel through their territory.
A United Nations report states that "Mexico is considered a strategic location to move drug money due to its geographic location and access to the United States, which is by far the biggest consumer of illegal narcotics."
July 12, 1999 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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