Bolivia and Uruguay are set to implement new legal frameworks for combatting drug trafficking, reflecting a regional pattern of governments reassessing their anti-drug policies.
Over the past week in Bolivia, high level officials publicly discussed the legal package that will replace the current Ley 1008 antidrug law, which has come under recurrent criticism for its hardline zero-tolerance approach. President Evo Morales said he would replace Ley 1008 with two separate bills, one law for coca leaf and the other for cocaine, reported EFE.
The vice minister for social defense and controlled substances, Felipe Cáceres, added that the new legal measures would establish different sentences for different drug related crimes, reported Los Tiempos. This would amount to a radical change from Ley 1008 which disregards the level of offense and the specific role of the offender within a criminal organization.
In Uruguay, the government announced its new “Integrated Plan to Combat Drug Trafficking and Organized Crime” (Plan Integral de Lucha Contra el Narcotráfico y el Crimen Organizado) had been formally introduced to parliament.
If approved, the plan will establish a minimum prison sentence of two years for anyone caught producing or trafficking illicit substances. Legal producers of cannabis under Uruguay’s marijuana bill, individuals transporting up to 40 grams of marijuana or growing up to six plants of cannabis in their homes will be exempt from the minimum sentence, according to El País.
InSight Crime Analysis
The new legal measures proposed in Bolivia and Uruguay reinforce the regional trend of countries reassessing their antidrug policies, but the reforms are being proposed for different reasons in the two countries.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of Drug Policies
In Bolivia, President Evo Morales’ proposal fits with his longstanding policy to differentiate between coca cultivation and cocaine production and trafficking. Kathryn Ledebur, director of the Andean Information Network (AIN), told InSight Crime that while replacing Ley 1008 is a longstanding campaign promise of Morales, it has been long delayed due to years of protracted negotiations over the law between the government, coca farmers and other national actors.
In addition to distinguishing between coca and cocaine, removing Ley 1008 may also offer some relief for Bolivia's overcrowded penitentiary system, which is packed with low level offenders punished under the law.
In Uruguay, the country's unprecedented decision to legalize and regulate the production and sale of marijuana looms large over the country's drug policy. However, Geoffrey Ramsey, research and communications associate with the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and author of InSight Crime's special Uruguay, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs, told InSight Crime authorities in Uruguay are likely more concerned with domestic insecurity than responding to concerns over the country's marijuana law.
In recent years, there has been a slight but significant increase in homicide rates in what is traditionally one of the region's most peaceful countries, causing widespread public concern. According to Ramsey, responding to this concern is likely the government's primary motivation for the reforms.