Reform Conference Will Spotlight Devastating Impact of Drug War on Mexico, Latin America and U.S. Latino Communities

Press Release October 25, 2011
Media Contact

Tommy McDonald 510-338-8827 or Tony Newman 646-335-5384</p>

LOS ANGELES – Over a thousand activists, experts, health professionals, elected officials, students and law enforcement will gather in Los Angeles November 2-5 for the 2011 International Drug Policy Reform Conference.

Among a broad range of topics, part of the conference program will focus on the destructive impact of the drug war on Latin American and Latino communities, and the urgent need for a new and more effective approach.  Several panels and roundtable discussions – featuring prominent scholars, activists, journalists, human rights defenders, peace movement leaders and current and former officials – will address the failure of current drug policies for Latin Americans and Latinos, and the possibilities for critical reforms in the future.

Topics that the conference will explore include: What can be done about the 50,000 prohibition-related deaths in Mexico since President Calderon ramped up the Mexican drug war five years ago? What is the impact of the drug war on immigrant communities in the U.S. and Latin America? Why is Colombia not a model for Mexico to follow? What reform strategies have some Latin American countries begun to pursue, and what have been the outcomes?

In conjunction with the conference, a mass protest will be held to acknowledge this year’s 40th anniversary of the war on drugs and to demand health-centered alternatives.  "No More Drug War: A Rally & Concert to End the War on Drugs" is taking place Thursday, November 3rd at the Levitt Pavilion in historic MacArthur Park.  Hundreds of people will gather to demonstrate against the drug war and its tragic consequences, especially the extreme violence in Mexico and California’s mass incarceration crisis.

The rally and concert will feature food, live music, spoken word artists, youth performers, and international reform leaders – most prominently Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet who lost his son to drug war violence and who is now leading a mass movement against the drug war that brings tens of thousands to the streets of Mexico.

There will be more than 50 panels and roundtable discussions at the conference.  For the full conference program, see:

Below is a list of program highlights that pertain to Latin America and Latinos:

1.    Mexico’s Crisis and the Bi-national Movement Against the Drug War
Thursday, November 3, 2011, 3:30pm – 5:15pm, Avalon Ballroom, 3rd Floor

The war on drugs has inflicted enormous harms on Mexico in recent years, generating extreme violence, crime, corruption and human rights abuses. What is behind this drug war and what are its national and regional implications? What effects has it had on border and migrant communities? Can drug legalization change the dynamic? How can people in the US make drug policy reform efforts an integral part of supporting Mexico’s national peace and justice movement?


2.    Innovations in Drug Policies and Strategies in Latin America
Friday, November 4, 2011, 11:15am – 12:45pm, Avalon Ballroom, 3rd Floor

The persistent failure of US-driven drug war strategies in Latin America has resulted in increasingly frequent and diverse calls for reform. The 2009 Latin American Commission on Drug Policy and the recent Global Commission have legitimized calls for reform, as national advocacy efforts in Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and elsewhere gain momentum. What has been the impact of these Commissions? What are courts and national legislatures increasingly endorsing reforms? What sorts of coordination exist between national reform movements within Latin America? And what opportunities are afforded by the declining influence of the US in the region?


3.    Detention, Deportation, and the Drug War: The Impact of the War on Drugs on Immigrant Rights in the U.S.
Thursday, November 3, 2011, 1:45pm – 3:15pm, Santa Barbara A/B, Lobby Level

Immigrants arrested on drug charges face not just the criminal justice system, but the immigration system as well. Tens of thousands of legal residents and other noncitizens are deported for drug law violations each year. What efforts are under way to protect immigrants from this? How are drug policy reformers and immigrant rights advocates working together – or not? How can we better understand the intersection of the drug war and immigration? And how can we effectively mitigate the harmful impacts of drug laws on immigrant communities by organizing immigrant communities around drug law reform?

4.    Marijuana Policing Targets Youth of Color
Thursday, November 3, 2011, 1:45pm – 3:15pm, Emerald Bay Ballroom, 3rd Fl.

Violations of marijuana laws account for about half of all drug-related arrests in the US each year. The overwhelming majority are for possession of very small amounts for personal use. Most of those arrested are young and disproportionately nonwhite. Although few receive long sentences, they do cause social marginalization, permanent criminal records, and denial of public benefits such as financial aid for college. What’s driving these arrests? Who’s tracking this phenomenon? And what can be done about it?


A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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