Argentina: Carrio Backs Drug Use Decriminalization

Anti-Drug NGO Criticizes Move, Says It Will Favour Dealers


"This ruling would be a huge favour for drug dealers," said Claudio Izaguirre - head of the Argentine Anti-drug Association. "Until now, drug addicts who were arrested for possession of narcotics for personal use were sent to a rehabilitation centre, which was afforded by the state," added Izaguirre.

"If possession is legalized, only those who have the money to pay for the treatment will have a chance to recover from drug addiction," warned Izaguirre. "This will only favour drug dealers, but not the addicts," he concluded.

A Catholic Church leader yesterday rejected the decriminalization of drug use.

"The Church will continue to oppose anything that goes against human life, our rejection is drastic" said Eduardo Serantes, head of the National Commission of Justice and Peace of the Argentine Synod. Serantes called on the authorities to fight the "narco-business in politics." He criticized the government for "tolerating drugs instead of focusing on consumer treatment and chasing drug traffickers and producers."

In September, Serantes and San Isidro bishop Jorge Casaretto handed out to lawmakers a the draft of a plan for drug use prevention.

In November 2007, the head of the Argentine Synod, Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, said the "narco-business is prospering in our country, destroying many families. Argentina has ceased to be a mere path of drug trafficking."

Federal Prosecutor Monica Cunarro - a member of the Justice Ministry committee working to amend the drug law - disagreed with Izaguirre's criticism and claimed it is the current drug law what favours drug trafficking.

"The current drug law is the one that's been functional to drug trafficking," said Cunarro. "For the past 28 years, people has been arrested on the streets for possession of small quantities of drugs while shady deals were made with drug-traffickers," she added.

According to Law 23737, approved in 1989 during the presidency of Carlos Menem, users can be sentenced to a maximum of two years in jail when the amount of drugs found on them "suggests without doubt that the drug is for personal use," the law reads.

The Supreme Court was set to meet tomorrow to analyze an injunction filed by a group of citizens in Rosario who have asked for the law punishing drug possession to be declared unconstitutional.

Four of the seven Supreme Court justices are expected to vote in favour of ruling the unconstitutionality of the drug law, but the ruling has been delayed because the justices are said to be trying to reach a unanimous decision, judicial sources said. The ruling would mean a drastic change in the way users are considered by the legal system and the medical treatment they receive. Reports yesterday said the ruling could be announced in February.

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