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Bigger scandal in Latin America than US secret service: US drug hunger

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The US is the endpoint in a supply chain of drugs that originates in South America and travels up through Central America and Mexico. Despite costly prevention and enforcement efforts, the American appetite for illicit substances remains insatiable and rates of drug use have been relatively consistent for years – especially among young adults.

Unfortunately, the US Secret Service prostitution scandal dominated headlines from this weekend’s Summit of the Americas. It overshadowed regional leaders’ call for the US to consider new approaches to stanch US drug consumption and aid international partners in the fight against drug trafficking and violence.

Several Central American leaders – the loudest voice being that of Guatemalan President Pérez Molina – have been pressuring the US to legalize some drugs, such as marijuana. The US, however, remains steadfast in its opposition, even to decriminalization.

If the US refuses to decriminalize drugs and enforcement efforts are not enough to quell consumption, then the Office of National Drug Control Policy needs to rethink its prevention strategy. Utilizing the National Youth Anti-Drug Media Campaign (a propaganda campaign from the executive office and the Office of National Drug Policy) to educate young Americans on the magnitude of the regional violence. Challenging viewers to consider the international consequences of their actions is a strategy that has yet to be tried. Yet it could have far-reaching effects, both domestically and abroad.

Consider that in Mexico alone, there have been nearly 50,000 deaths from drug-related violence since President Felipe Calderón took office at the end of 2006. This breaks down to roughly one murder per hour for the past five years. Violence has spread further south, and Honduras and El Salvador now have among the highest rates of homicide in the world. Yet none of these facts or figures is incorporated into the anti-drug messaging that is broadcast in the US.

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