October 27, 2011 4:10PM

Colombian President Backs Drug Legalization

One of the worse kept secrets in Latin America is that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos believes in drug legalization. Back in the 1990s he co-signed an open letter to then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calling for an end to the war on drugs. And, since assuming office last year, Santos has hinted on several occasions that a new approach is needed in drug policy.

Earlier this week, Santos finally came out supporting the legalization of soft drugs, such as marijuana. In an interview published by Metro World News, Santos said that he favors legalization “provided everyone does it at the same time.” However, Santos balked at the idea of being the first sitting president to propose this in an international forum, citing mostly political reasons: “I would be crucified if I took the first step,” he said.

Despite Santos’s lukewarm endorsement of drug legalization, he adds his voice to the growing number of Latin American leaders calling for ending prohibition. Cato will host a big conference on November 15 on ending the international war on drugs, featuring some of the leading voices in the region on this issue: Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil, Jorge Castañeda, former Minister of Foreign Relations of Mexico, former Colombian Senator Enrique Gómez Hurtado, and Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, Uruguay’s current Speaker of the House of Deputies. You can see the full program of the event and register here.