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Brazil should decriminalize drug possession, justice ministers say


Rio de Janeiro, Apr 16 (EFE).- Seven of Brazil's former justice ministers on Tuesday released a letter advocating the decriminalization of possession of small amounts of drugs for personal use.

The signers are the justice ministers who served during the 1995-2003 government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the 2003-2011 administration of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva and they delivered the letter personally on Tuesday to Federal Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes.

"Each citizen has the freedom to build his own mode of life provided that he respects the space of others," the erstwhile officials say.

They point out that the policies to fight drugs based on penalizing consumers have failed.

"Treating the consumer as a citizen and offering him treatment structure by means of a policy of damage reduction is more appropriate than stigmatizing him as a criminal," they say.

The signers cite successful experiences in countries such as Germany, Argentina, Colombia, Spain, Italy and Portugal, which adopted decriminalization of drug possession for one's own personal use as an "effective way" of fighting drug trafficking.

The position of the ex-ministers was made known at a time when the lower house of Congress is preparing to vote on a reform to the Drug Law that includes the possible involuntary hospitalization of consumers of illicit drugs and increasing the mandatory minimum sentence for drug-related offenses from five years to eight.