The national government presented “Argentina without drug trafficking,” a paper that summarizes the actions it plans to implement throughout the country. In his presentation speech, President Mauricio Macri said that it is necessary to “win this war,” a statement in line with those made on other occasions affirming that the armed forces should play a predominant role in relation to drug trafficking and terrorism.
The so-called “war on drugs” is a model that has failed in its promise to put an end to organized crime. Furthermore, it is responsible for human rights violations everywhere it has been deployed. There have been more than 150,000 deaths in Mexico, with only a negligible decline in trafficking levels to the United States. That said, President Macri did say that he does not believe that “the government of Pena Nieto has failed to defend human rights as it should.” The document does not reproduce the war rhetoric used by the President and it does contain some interesting initiatives that should be transformed into legal reforms and concrete actions but it omits structural issues. It is really just another communication action intended to continue installing the idea that there is a “scourge” that plagues Argentina, rather than [represent] the development of a public policy plan. The proposal is based on the idea that production, trafficking and consumption of certain drugs constitute a grave problem that requires the state’s efforts to “fight it.” However, it does not present a detailed diagnosis of each of those problematics, as if criminal structures, the dynamics of violence associated with these structures, institutional failings and social problems could all be addressed in the same manner. In this regard, the document does not propose concrete policies for addressing problems underlying the operation of the illegal drug market: prohibition feeds multi-million-dollar business dealings, which function in good measure thanks to police and institutional collusion. In this regard, it is notable that “Argentina without drugs” does not include any policy aimed at the prosecution of money laundering, one of the main mechanisms utilized in this market, nor does it address how to rectify the problem of police’s involvement in illegal networks.
- Strategies regarding drug trafficking
- A leading role given to the federal and provincial police forces. However, it does not propose any measures to disarm the participation of those forces involved in the illegal network. It briefly mentions the implementation of a “program against the cooptation and corruption of drug trafficking” without specifying what it would entail. The collusion of police, political and judicial forces is a problem that does not boil down to a “lack of transparency.”
- It upholds the strategy of police occupation as a priority. According to what has been done up until now, this policy is oriented toward the intervention of security forces in poor neighborhoods and a greater territorial control, which occurs with the population control plan, for example.
- It does not include strategies aimed at reducing the level of violence of drug markets. For example, it does not include any reference to any policy aimed at reducing the circulation of firearms.
- It does not propose any discussion regarding alternative forms of intervention in drug markets—for example, the regulation and the legalization of cannabis, strategies built around the idea that prohibition fuels illicit behavior and violence.
- The judicial system is not assigned a leading role, despite the presence of the president of the Supreme Court of Justice at the document’s presentation. Instead, it is striking that no representative of the state entity responsible for criminal prosecution was present. Consistent with this, there is no strategy linked to the coordination between the National Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Executive Branch to address a criminal prosecution policy for offenses on a large scale. Likewise, the role of the judiciary to ensure these processes and to protect the rights of criminalized consumers are not addressed.
- It does not propose a reform of the country’s security forces. The same took place in the emergency security statement made at the beginning of the year when shooting down aircraft was incorporated as a policy to combat drug trafficking.
- Strategies regarding drug use
- A valuable commitment of not criminalizing consumption is made. Today, this statement is difficult to put into practice. The non-criminalization does not depend on the goodwill of the executive branch, but rather on the existing legal framework. Ending criminalization requires legislative change, as it was already stated in the Supreme Court of Justice’s “Arriola” ruling. If that does not happen, consumption will remain a crime and criminalization, a reality. At the same time, the federal justice branch will continue dedicating public resources to cases against consumers rather than funnel them to the prosecution of organized crime. Upholding the strategy of de-federalizing these figures acts in the same way, contrary to non-criminalization.
- This commitment would require a change in policy that is not hinted at in the president’s the war rhetoric, whose consequences include, for example, an increase in the number of consumer arrests made by the Federal Police of Argentina.
- Although it sets out objectives for prevention and comprehensive approach to addictions, the resources that will be allocated to these initiatives are not specified, nor how the asymmetry between the budget aimed at reducing the supply and the funds for addressing demand will be addressed Today the resources are mainly destined for security policies, i.e., “fighting” the supply. The measures announced in the first part of the document suggest that the investment in police response will continue to receive the lion’s share of the budget. Better balanced policies would involve a reallocation of budget to strengthen the health response.
In sum, this is a statement of purposes with an electoral tone, without concrete elements that make possible its analysis as public policy.