An interesting development in the Latin American drug law reform debate this week. In an interview with Spanish newspaper El Pais on Monday (as reported in Colombia reports), US Ambassador for Colombia, Peter Michael McKinley, when the question of Colmbian president Santos' recent remarks on drug legalisation came up, said that the issue 'had to be addressed':
"the issue presented itself several times in the last 20, 30 years, and it is now a question that is on the table, and what is always important in political debates is to analyze the options present."
McKinley, was clear however, said that even though the debate is taking place, the U.S.
"remained opposed to legalization."
According to the report, the ambassador went on to describe Colombia as an important ally of the U.S. in the struggle against narco-trafficking, and praised the evolution of the Andean country over the last decade.
"The transformation of the past ten years in Colombia in terms of security, struggle against narco-terrorism, construction of institutions or strengthening democracy is something not only recognized by Colombians, but by governments on an international level,"
The significant part of this is the opening quote that acknowledges the active debate happening in Latin America, that legalisation is 'on the table' in that debate, and that it is important to analyze all the options. This is ofcourse a long way from endorsing a reform position, indeed he makes the US opposition all too clear. However, the statement is effectively an endorsement of the Santos position - that there needs to be a debate of the options, and legalisation (or as Calderon puts it 'market alternatives') needs to be amongst them.
Even this acknowledgement of the importance of a debate and analysis of options feels like progress in the context of the historically entrenched viewpoint and hawkish drug-war posturing.