WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

The Catastrophe of Prohibition and the ‘War on Drugs’ in Latin America and the Caribbean

10:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. Thursday, 15 July 2021

Join the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) for the inaugural event of a six-part webinar series:

Decades of Damage Done: The Drug War Catastrophe in Latin America and the Caribbean

This year marks six decades since the advent of a prohibitionist global drug treaty system and five decades since U.S. President Nixon launched a global ‘war on drugs.’ In combination, these two watershed moments in drug policy have generated disastrous consequences worldwide—especially for the people of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Far from achieving a so-called ‘drug-free world,’ decades of intense enforcement of prohibition and escalating drug war tactics have witnessed vast growth in the size and reach of illegal drug markets. Even worse, the drug war enormously amplifies the dangers of drug use, exacerbates the damage associated with drug markets, and fuels organized crime and corruption, all generating an incalculable toll of human bloodshed and suffering.

For Latin America and the Caribbean, the ‘war on drugs’ is no mere metaphor, but a lived reality with devastating consequences for millions of people every day—the brunt of the harms felt by the most vulnerable communities, whether in the form of brutal repression and state-sponsored violence, callous abandonment, or both.

As has also occurred on a massive scale within the United States itself, the drug war in Latin America and the Caribbean stigmatizes people who use drugs and fuels dramatic increases in incarceration, mostly for drug possession or low-level drug trade activities and with a disproportionate impact on women and marginalized communities.

Please join WOLA as we launch a six-part series of webinars to examine the consequences of prohibition and the drug war for Latin America and the Caribbean and identify alternative approaches consistent with protecting human rights and achieving social justice.


Event Details:

Thursday, July 15, 2021

10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. EDT

(Washington, D.C.)



Rose-Marie Belle Antoine

Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of the West Indies

Trinidad and Tobago

Julita Lemgruber

Coordinator, Center for Studies on Public Security and Citizenship (CESeC)


Milton Romani

Former Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the Organization of American States


Rodrigo Uprimny

Drug Policy Director, Dejusticia




John Walsh

Director for Drug Policy and the Andes, WOLA

Simultaneous interpretation will be available on Zoom only.

 This event will be livestreamed on WOLA’s YouTube page.

Rose-Marie Belle Antoine is the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Professor of Labor Law and Offshore Financial Law at the University of the West Indies. She has served as the President of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and also served as inaugural head of the IACHR’s Unit on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. She chaired the Caribbean Community’s (CARICOM) Regional Commission on Marihuana.

Julita Lemgruber is a sociologist and coordinator of the Center for Studies on Public Security and Citizenship (CESeC) in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A former police ombudsperson and former director of the prison system State of Rio de Janeiro, she coordinates the CESeC research project, Drugs: How Much Prohibition Costs (Drogas: Quanto Custa Proibir).

Milton Romani is a licensed psychologist and professor. He has served as Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the Organization of American States (OAS) and as Secretary General of the Uruguayan National Drugs Board (Junta Nacional de Drogas, JND). He received the WOLA Human Rights Award in 2013 for his outstanding commitment to the promotion of a human-rights oriented drug policy in Uruguay and internationally.

Rodrigo Uprimny is a lawyer with a Ph.D. in Political Economy (University of Amiens Picardie) and Master’s degrees in Sociology of Law and in Economy of Development (University of Paris). He serves as director of Drug Policy at Dejusticia and is also professor emeritus at the National University of Colombia, a co-judge on Colombia’s Constitutional Court, and a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.