Drugs and Peru

Drugs and Peru's Presidential Politics

It’s a trend blowing through electoral politics and drug policy around the Americas. Last year, Mexico’s Felipe Calderon mentioned having a debate about legalizing drugs; last month, U.S. President Barack Obama told a YouTube audience that the debate needs to take place; Colombia’s President Santos has joined this chorus, now for a second time; in late January Bolivia sought and failed to achieve an exception to Coca-leaf chewing via a UN treaty; and, lately debates about drug policy have entered Peruvian political life.

Watchers of the wind of global drug policy will want to follow Peru’s upcoming presidential race, scheduled for April 10, 2011. Drug policies have taken something of a center stage in the Western Andean nation, of late, in part because of former (2001 – 2006) President Alejandro Toledo’s current campaign to return to the presidency on a ticket which espouses socially progressive policies: drugs, abortion, gay rights. Our friends over at the Drug War Chronicle provide an excellent overview of what different presidential candidates have said or done over the issue, and whether or not the debate is actually meaningful since Peru has already decriminalized small amounts of marijuana and cocaine.

Peru’s importance as a drug producer is well known, and the proximity to the wealth of cocaine affects all parts of life. Even Toledo has suggested that Peru must not become a “narco-state.” Whether the country manages to offer a different approach to the “war-on-drugs” may depend on the outcome of April’s election.

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