HomeNewsBriefUruguay's Ex-President Vasquez In Favor of Regulating Cocaine Market
BRIEF

Uruguay's Ex-President Vasquez In Favor of Regulating Cocaine Market

DRUG POLICY / 9 AUG 2013 BY STEVEN DUDLEY EN

In a surprise that comes just days after an historic vote by Uruguay's lower house to legalize marijuana, the country's ex-president Tabare Vasquez said Uruguay should now consider ways "to regulate" the cocaine market.

Vasquez, who is positioning himself to run for president again next year and has a 62 percent approval rating, said in a television interview that the key question is education, not consumption. (See interview below)

"I think (legalizing cocaine) is not necessarily making it easier to consume it," he said. "We have to educate (the population) so they don't consume it. But more than making it easier, we need to regulate the consumption of drugs."

He later linked the proposal to his administration's successful anti-smoking campaign in the mid-2000s, and noted the vast number of deaths linked to smoking (an estimated five million per year) far outnumbers deaths linked to psychoactive drugs (closer to 200,000 per year).

In early August, Uruguay's lower house passed a measure to legalize the production, sale, and consumption of marijuana. The bill soon goes to the senate, where it is expected to pass easily. Once it passes the senate, it is signed into law, which will make the country the first in the world to completely legalize the drug.

InSight Crime Analysis

Vasquez's pronouncement is surprising on various levels. Vasquez had previously been coy about his position concerning the legalization of marijuana, and few expected him to come out so clearly in favor of the measure, much less talk openly about cocaine in the process.

The marijuana bill did not have popular support (63 percent were against it in the polls leading up to the house vote), so Vasquez's position on cocaine and marijuana may hurt him in the campaign.

SEE ALSO: Uruguay: Marijuana, Organized Crime and the Politics of Drugs

To be sure, legalizing marijuana has been a monumental task for the proponents of the measure. It took a sophisticated campaign that included YouTube videos (see below) to familiarize Uruguayans with the issue and win over Vasquez's own party, which barely managed to push it through the lower house.

Finally, cocaine is not marijuana and there is little consensus, even in the pro-marijuana camps, about how "to regulate" its consumption. 

Still, Vasquez is one of many leaders in the region who is trying to turn the drug debate from a security question into a health question. He knows health issues. He is himself a doctor and is quick to point out that his efforts are about regulating and legalizing the consumption of the now illicit drugs.

"We need to educate (youth) to prevent (consumption)," he said.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

ARGENTINA / 21 JUN 2017

Authorities believe that the second-largest cocaine seizure in Argentina's history is linked to a Mexican cartel that exploited an unusual…

BOLIVIA / 17 JAN 2013

Bolivia won an important symbolic victory after the United Nations (UN) said it would no longer consider traditional uses of…

BOLIVIA / 14 DEC 2011

Bolivian President Evo Morales has called on the United Nations and European Union to donate military equipment to his country’s…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Tackles Illegal Fishing

15 OCT 2021

In October, InSight Crime and American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies (CLALS) began a year-long project on illegal, unreported, unregulated (IUU) fishing in…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Featured in Handbook for Reporting on Organized Crime

8 OCT 2021

In late September, the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN) published an excerpt of its forthcoming guide on reporting organized crime in Indonesia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Probing Organized Crime in Haiti

1 OCT 2021

InSight Crime has made it a priority to investigate organized crime in Haiti, where an impotent state is reeling after the July assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, coupled with an…

THE ORGANIZATION

Emergency First Aid in Hostile Environments

24 SEP 2021

At InSight Crime's annual treat, we ramped up hostile environment and emergency first aid training for our 40-member staff, many of whom conduct on-the-ground investigations in dangerous corners of the region.

THE ORGANIZATION

Series on Environmental Crime in the Amazon Generates Headlines

17 SEP 2021

InSight Crime and the Igarapé Institute have been delighted at the response to our joint investigation into environmental crimes in the Colombian Amazon. Coverage of our chapters dedicated to illegal mining…