With the attention of the world focused on the Americas for this month’s Summit of the Americas, the war on drugs that has cost so many lives was high up on the agenda. For the first time, leaders from both continents were speaking openly about the prospect of changing tactics in the fight against the narcotrafficking trade. The Argentina Independent took to the streets of Buenos Aires to gauge the public’s opinion: is the war on drugs working, and is it even a war worth fighting?
Photos by Lillo Montalto Monella
Luis Fernando, 36, musician, Bogotá (Colombia)
They are never going to win [the war on drugs] – just by prohibiting something doesn’t mean that people are going to stop doing it.
I believe that if it becomes legalised, there’s a high chance that the consumption and the sale will calm down a lot. Because the war, with force, won’t be won, ever. No one ever wins with repression whether it is with prison or fines or what have you, it’ll never be won that way.
It’ll be very difficult to legalise it even now but I see it more possible than before. Before it seemed impossible, now – even though it’s very difficult – it appears to be possible, let’s hope so. Politicians, even presidents have come out and said that it could be a good idea; before, that was impossible.
If one country legalises, maybe a second, third etc will follow. It’s the same as with same sex marriages – in the beginning it was unthinkable but now that the first has started, the second and third will come. I don’t think there will be a union where all the countries legalise it at once – we’re all South Americans but we’re all different, each country has its own very particular culture.
Adriana Nancy Papandrea, 27, craftswoman, Mataderos
My idea is that everything should be legal, everything. Then you have to teach people and make them conscious of the fact that ‘if you consume this, such and such will happen, it’ll do this to you’. At the most, try and teach people, educate them they should take care of their body, nothing else. Everyone should be able to do what he wants with their body and their lives as long as they don’t hurt others.
If someone tells you that this will do X to you, that certain drugs will… actually I don’t know, in reality I don’t believe that certain drugs make you do bad things, I think that’s in each person whether or not you do harm to others.
Are drugs bad for your health? Yes but so is drinking and smoking two packets of cigarettes a day, but I don’t think they’re necessarily bad for society.
For me, the reason it’s not legal is that it’s a business for people who don’t want it to change. As for what would happen to the drug traffickers, I don’t know – I imagine that they don’t want it legalised.
I think marihuana, sooner or later, will be legalised here. For personal consumption it’s pretty much legal already.
Néstor Herrera, 40, leather worker, San Antonio de Padua (Buenos Aires Province)
The governments can win [the war on drugs]; there must be a way. Legalising drugs, for me, represents crossing a limit which later will be very difficult to go back on, and that’s a very big problem. It will create other problems and it will break through certain limits – I get the impression that psychologically limits create a certain level of control in the society. If we break through that, we lose our boundaries.
The best way to combat the drug black-market is to provide a strong education; that’s all you need at the start. If the people have a very good education, they would be able to overcome them [the drugs], for their own sake they would be able to do it. As long as there is ignorance, poverty and marginalisation, there will always be a pathway to hard drugs. A good education is very important and it’s a possible solution.
José Cifuentes, 73, craftsman, Ramos Mejía (Buenos Aires Province)
I am completely against drugs, absolutely, I am a drug virgin. It is something that is very harmful, it’s not the same as a glass of wine or a cigarette – which are harmful too, but they don’t have the same cancer, the same contagion.
You have to cut the narcotrafficking here and in anywhere else in the world at its roots. If they had the balls to do it they would, but it doesn’t suit them because there is so much money behind it. It needs to be fought with force.
There are people who are possessed who think that in one way or another, there should continue being drugs, misery and ignorant people because they are necessary evils.
There should be a war against drugs, but this isn’t a war. When you hear people talking on the radio, on television, read them in the newspaper and they all think they’ve got the solution to the world’s problems with what they say, and they can’t even find a solution to this.
Pablo Soane, 52, Shop worker, San Telmo
The war can’t be won because there is too much money involved and money buys weapons, power, minds, politicians and the police. With money you can buy anything. It is an unfair fight. Who sells the best drugs? The police – so it doesn’t make sense. Narcotraffickers are very powerful and they can keep buying their power, whether from the right or the left, it’s the same.
Clandestine or legal, it will go on the same. It’s like prohibition in the United States, the people who sold the booze, sold it the same afterwards. They just sold it at twice the price.
You should legalise drugs and maintain control over how they are sold so you don’t find them at the school gates. Like in the Netherlands, where they have a permissive attitude. The difference will be that there are less people in prison and the police don’t get as much business. It’s a way of taking work away from the police.
If drugs are legalised, the consumption will go down. They should be legal with strict rules: not in schools, not for minors. etc… and that way you can maintain sales standard and it can be done.