Ecuador To Decriminalize All Illegal Drugs?

Ecuador is making plans for an historic ammendment to decriminalize all illegal drugs. Ecuador is hoping that move will stem the country's massive prison problem.

The bill's author, Carlos Velasco, chair of the Ecuadorian congress' Commission of the Right to Health, stated "treating the drug phenomenon in a repressive way, as was done in the 1980s and 1990s when prison was the only destination for the drug consumer, is absurd."

The bill would create a system to provide treatment and rehabilitation services for addicts in Ecuador. Ecuador is seeking to become the second Latin American country to decriminalize illicit drugs following Uruguay who legalized marijuana in 2013.

Ecuador is neighbored by the world's two largest producers of cocaine, Colombia and Peru. Jamaica, another traditional hub for drug dealers, has also decriminalized small quantites of marijuana and has started the conversation of fully legalizing marijuana for consumption.

Ecuador's current President, Rafael Correa, admitted in 2007 that his father was arrested for drug smuggling. Last year, President Correa expressed the belief that Latin American countries no longer "fear" discussing the legalization of drugs due to the changing stance of the United States.

"There is no common position in Latin America, but that is being discussed now. That fear has been lost, taboos are lost."

Discussion of legalization have gathered incredible momentum from countries from within the region especially since the Obama administration is leading towards allowing states to make their own decisions.

In 2008, Ecuador's prisons were the most overcrowded in Latin America, with the number of inmates far exceeding prison capacities. In response, Ecuador hopes that the bill being table will ease the country's prisons. In a move showcasing Ecuador's shift in policy, Ecuador released thousands of drug traffickers in 2014.

According to Jorge Paladines, the national coordinator of the Public Defender's Office, Ecuador will no longer be focusing on low level drug mules.

"There is a policy of seeing mules as victims of the drug trade. I don't like using the term 'sentence reduction,' because was their sentence fair to start with? This is really about sentence proportionality."

Ecuador is set to debate the bill later this month.

[Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images]