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OAS wraps up regional meeting on security, drugs

Update: June, 07/2013 - 11:52

ANTIGUA, Guatemala – The Organisation of American States has wrapped up a ministerial meeting focused on costly efforts to combat a rampant drug scourge that has claimed tens of thousands of lives.

OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said member states have taken an important step by producing a report covering "all stages of drug trafficking from the planting of crops to the final user... including dimensions of the problem ranging from health to public security".

Individual countries must now weigh future actions.

One measure under consideration is legalising marijuana, a proposal that has previously met with broad resistance but is gaining support from governments overwhelmed by years of runaway drug violence.

However, some countries, like St Lucia, remain unconvinced.

Alva Baptiste, the Caribbean nation's foreign minister, cautioned against legalising marijuana, warning that "consumption has risen" in countries that softened their drug laws.

"We need a policy that is anti-crime and not pro-drug," Baptiste told the gathering.

According to the United Nations, about 90 per cent of the cocaine consumed in the United States passes through Mexico and Central America – a region that also counts among the world's most violent.

"The price that the transit countries is paying is unjust and intolerable," said Mireya Aguero, foreign minister of Honduras.

Her Central American country is the most violent in the world, with about 90 homicides each year for every 100,000 residents – nearly 10 times the global median.

On the fight against illicit drugs, US Secretary of State John Kerry told the meeting on Wednesday that Washington takes "seriously our shared responsibility for the world drug problem".

He stressed, however, that "there are no simple answers or uniform solutions".

Six member states called for allowing Cuba to take part in the Summit of the Americas set to take place in Panama in 2015.

The push was led by Nicaragua with backing from Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Also attending the three-day meeting as observers were representatives from outside the Americas, including China, the European Union, India, Israel, Japan, Russia, South Korea and Thailand.

Many shared their own nations' experiences regarding efforts to interdict illicit drugs. -- AFP

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