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Authors: Ten-Pow, Kaya
Advisors: Centeno, Miguel
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2013
Abstract: Times have changed. Latin America is no longer just a major cocaine producer, but also a major cocaine consumer in the global market. Consumption rates have increased in many Latin American countries, including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Uruguay and Venezuela. This increase in cocaine use has threatened the political, social, health and economic infrastructures of Latin American states. Given its repercussions, the new trend is one that merits immediate attention. We therefore confront the central question of this thesis: what should Latin America do about this growing problem? Although the War on Drugs has shaped counter-narcotics strategies in Latin America for over 30 years, it has been unsuccessful. The tactics pursued under the global drug policy paradigm have undermined the region’s social, political and economic systems, thereby complicating efforts to reduce the size of the global market for illicit drugs. In an environment plagued by corruption, rising violence and political instability, the goal of winning the War on Drugs in Latin America seems unattainable. As such, the prevailing drug policy paradigm must change. International actors have already begun to consider various strategies to address the changes in the global cocaine market. The collaboration thus far between the European Union (EU) and Latin America suggests that the EU will emphasize harm-reduction and demand-side policies directed towards creating safer, healthier communities. On the other hand, United States (US) government documents indicate that the US will continue to pursue supply-side strategies that expand the role of the military, enhance border control initiatives, prioritize crop eradication and emphasize interdiction programs. Although Latin America recognizes the importance of both demand and supply-side policies, the region’s growing discontent with the War on Drugs highlights the need to place more emphasis on demand-side strategies that will address the social and health issues challenging the region today. Keeping this policy preference in mind, my thesis examines the strengths and limitations of various counter-narcotics models. Given Latin America’s current challenges, the public health approach is deemed the most appropriate drug policy paradigm for three reasons: (1) harm-reduction interventions can effectively address many of the consequences of rising cocaine consumption rates; (2) of the four policy alternatives, this approach is the least controversial; and (3) the adoption of this model would signal the end of a drug policy paradigm that has prioritized the interests of the United States, and would introduce a new paradigm that focuses on the specific needs of Latin America. I contend, therefore, that the fight against drugs has proven to be a lost cause and that we are fighting the wrong war. The battle we must now prepare for is the struggle to implement a new drug policy paradigm that truly reflects global interests.
Extent: 112 pages
Access Restrictions: Walk-in Access. This thesis can only be viewed on computer terminals at the Mudd Manuscript Library.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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