The Cartagena Declaration

This fundamentally important document was ratified and signed in 1990 by representatives of countries from Latin America and the Caribbean. This included two of the biggest drug production and export countries in the Americas – Mexico and Colombia. Other signatories included the USA, Peru and Bolivia. The purpose of the Declaration was to reach an agreement that would effectively stem the flow of narcotics into the USA, one of the biggest markets in the world for illegal substances such as cocaine and other opiate derivatives.

The agreement created a three-pronged plan of action. Firstly, the aim was to reduce the demand for drugs such as cocaine in the USA. This in turn would bring down the levels of consumption, further restricting the potential market for drugs dealers and leading to a cycle of reduction. The third area to be tackled is the production of the drugs themselves, particularly in the Central American countries of Colombia (one of the largest producers of cocaine in the world) and Bolivia.

Cross-border co-operation is essential for this Declaration to work, and in 1992 a second summit in San Antonio, Texas, brought Mexico – the main ingress for drugs into the USA – into the agreement.

The agreement marked a major step forward in the ‘War on Drugs’ in the Americas, particularly at a time when political instability and allegations of high level corruption had encouraged the growth of the drugs trade in Central America. In return for the Central American countries tackling the production of cocaine, the USA agreed to financially support and encourage the development of alternative crops to replace the coca industry, as well as funding social programs. The result has been greater cross-border co-operation between US federal agencies such as the DEA with Mexican and Colombian authorities to reduce the amount of cocaine entering the USA.