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Pope Francis to Latin America: Just say no to decriminalization of drugs

During a visit to Brazil, Pope Francis spoke out strongly against the possible legalization of drugs in Latin American nations.

Pope Francis Rio WYD 2013Enlarge
Pope Francis waves upon his arrival at the St. Francis of Assisi Hospital in Rio de Janeiro's Tijuca neighborhood on July 24, 2013. Earlier, the first Latin American and Jesuit pontiff visited Aparecida, in Sao Paulo State, to lead his first big Mass since arriving in the country for a week-long visit of which highlight is the huge five-day Catholic gathering of World Youth Day. (Tasso Marcelo/AFP/Getty Images)

Pope Francis has used his visit to Brazil to speak out strongly against the possibility of decriminalizing illegal drugs in Latin America, arguing that education is the answer to stopping the drug trade, not liberalizing government policies. 

"The scourge of drug trafficking, which favors violence and sows the seeds of suffering and death, requires of society as a whole an act of courage," said the pontiff as he visited a rehabilitation center in Rio de Janiero, according to Al Jazeera. 

"A reduction in the spread and influence of drug addiction will not be achieved by a liberalization of drug use, as is currently being proposed in various parts of Latin America," he said. 

More from GlobalPost: Mexico's drug war shifts gear, again

"It is necessary to tackle the problems which are at the root of drug abuse, promoting more justice, educating the youth with the values that live in society, standing by those who face hardship and giving them hope for the future," he added, according to the BBC. 

Pope Francis is in the middle of a week-long visit to Brazil for World Youth Day, a five-day international Catholic festival. 

Some Latin American political leaders have contemplated moving toward legalization as a way to stop the scourge of drug-trafficking violence, as some admit that the so-called "war on drugs" has been largely unsuccessful. 

In June, former Mexican president Vicente Fox publicly stated his support for the America state of Washington's decision to legalize marijuana. 

"This state of Washington has decided to lead a new path," Fox said, according to ABC News. "In Mexico we welcome this initiative because the cost of the war [against drug cartels] is becoming unbearable."