Personalities urge new ways to tackle drug abuse

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A group set up by former Latin American leaders and personalities including Virgin chief Richard Branson on Monday recommended that consumers of illict drugs should not be treated as criminals.

The Global Commission on Drug Policies felt that the prevalent repressive approach to drug abuse was failing, members said after their two-day inaugural meeting here.

The group of ex-politicans and intellectuals was set up this week to promote new ways of tackling drug abuse, following a similar regional venture in Latin America.

"You have to give up on the idea that drug consumers are criminals," Cesar Gaviria, Colombia's president from 1994-1998, told AFP, insisting on the need to tackle drug producing and trafficking cartels.

Colombia and Peru are the two largest sources of cocaine in the world, producing an estimated 400 tonnes of the illicit drug in 2009, according to the United Nations.

Brazil's ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who chairs the commission, said addicts should be treated like people who are ill and offered health care.

The commission also includes Mexican former president Ernesto Zedillo, ex-EU foreign affairs chief Javier Solana and former Norwegian minister Thorvald Stoltenberg, as well as Nobel literature laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and writer Carlos Fuentes.

Branson attended the first day of the meeting, according to a source close to the commission.

The emergence of powerful drug barons in recent years has also been blamed for Mexico's slide into bloody violence and gang wars, which left a record 15,200 people dead in 2010 alone.

© 2011 AFP

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