By Juan Carlos Garzón-Vergara for E-International Relations. Richard Nixon declared war on drugs in 1971, arguing that the consumption of illicit drugs was one of the main reasons for insecurity in the United States. Ten years later, Ronald Reagan declared drug trafficking to be a national security threat. Military campaigns were deployed in Latin America, the center of the drug production and trafficking chain. In the post-Cold War geopolitical era, international drug regulation became the new language of subordination imposed by the U.S. With acquiescence, and also conviction, the governments of the region followed the prohibition model as designed and enforced by the United States.
Thirty-five years later, in April 2016, the United Nations will dedicate a Special Session of the General Assembly (UNGASS 2016) to evaluate the performance of the UN drug control system. Several Latin American countries have emerged as leading voices in the international debate, questioning the underlying premises of the current regime. In fact, UNGASS 2016 is the result of pressure brought by high level Latin American officials, who have advocated changes to the drug control paradigm.