The Meeting of the Inter-American Consutative Group on Narcotics Control


The meeting


Author: Decio PARREIRAS
Pages: 47 to 53
Creation Date: 1963/01/01

The Meeting of the Inter-American Consutative Group on Narcotics Control

Rio de Janeiro, 27 November-7 December 1961

Professor Decio PARREIRAS
Member of the Permanent Central Opium Board and the Drug Supervisory Body.


The Commission on Narcotic Drugs of the United Nations decided at its fourteenth session (1959) to call upon the governments of a number of countries in America to encourage close mutual co-operation of their national authorities and to work closely with the international bodies concerned in the field of narcotics control. Following that decision, the Government of Brazil invited a number of countries to a conference which met in Rio de Janeiro from 21 to 25 March 1960, and which dealt with the illicit traffic in coca leaf and cocaine.

Amongst the resolutions adopted by that conference, resolution 4, noting that the General Assembly of the United Nations had in its resolution 1395 (XIV) authorized the Secretary-General to provide for a special allocation for a programme of technical assistance in the control of the illicit use of narcotics, recommended that American states take full advantage of the opportunity of technical assistance so offered. Following that recommendation, the Governments of Brazil and Peru requested the organization of an Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control. The meeting was organized by the United Nations under the special programme of technical assistance.

The meeting

The Brazilian Government acted as host to that group; the inaugural meeting took place on 27 November 1961 at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, Itamarati Palace, Rio de Janeiro. In his opening speech, Ambassador Carlos Alfredo Bernades, General Secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after having stated that Brazil was very much honoured to receive the representatives meeting to study a problem which presented such dire consequences for the continent and to try to find solutions for it, declared:

"My country and Peru have asked for the convening of a conference on a wider basis than that held in 1960. We are therefore assembled here today as the Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control to exchange our experience, and to listen to the teachings of the world's leading experts who are visiting us and who will transmit to us the vauable knowledge acquired by them from a long experience in the struggle against the illicit traffic. The problem of drug addiction in Latin America has its specific features, which require special regional efforts and the continuing close co-operation of the American States. This continent is the source of the raw material for the preparation of cocaine, and the majority of the secret cocaine factories in the world are to be found here."

Representatives and senior civil servants of the following 15 countries were present at the meeting of the group: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, United States of America, Uruguay and Venezuela. Also represented were the United Nations Information Centre, the World Health Organization, the Pan-American Sanitary Bureau, and the United Nations Technical Assistance Board. The Ambassadors of Honduras and Nicaragua also participated in the meeting of the Consultative Group. The United Nations provided the secretariat services for the group, and also the services of two consultants. The Brazilian Government supplied the necessary services for holding the meeting, and also arranged through the National Narcotics Control Commission for participants to visit the offices of the Chief of Police, the Oswaldo Cruz Institute and the Institute of Forensic Medicine.

The group elected by acclamation as its chairman Minister Wagner Pimenta Bueno (Brazil). Dr. Robert E. Curran (Canada) and Mr. Carlos Avalos (Peru) were elected first and second Vice-Chairman, respectively, by acclamation. The author of the present article had the honour to be elected Honorary Chairman of the group, and Dr. Angelo J. Ferrari acted as Executive Secretary of the group on behalf of the Government of Brazil.

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A meeting of the Group *

Work of the group

The principal aim of the group was to enable senior government officials to study the question of international and national narcotics control from a comprehensive point of view, including as many as possible of its various universal and specifically South American aspects. The various questions were dealt with in exposés and during discussions on the main following subjects: drug addiction as a social problem in Latin America; international control of narcotic drugs - relations of governments with the international organizations responsible for the control of narcotic drugs; application of international control in the countries of Latin America; illicit traffic in narcotic drugs - its general aspects, its Latin American aspects; the problem of drug addiction; harmful drugs which are not subject to international control; the problem of the coca leaf and cocaine; the problem of cannabis; the problems of co-operation between the governments of the region; the organization and co-ordination of the official services responsible for dealing with narcotics problems; the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs, 1961; the application of recommendations of the first Inter-American Conference on the

* Editor's note. - The presiding officer is Mr. R. E. Curran, Vice-President of the Group, representative of Canada to the Commission on Narcotic Drugs. Second from right, the Honorary Chairman of the Group, Professor Decio Parreiras, Member of the Permanent Central Opium Board and of the Drug Supervisory Body, author of the present article.

Illicit Traffic in Coca Leaf and Cocaine. The participants received a number of documents prepared by the United Nations Secretariat and, in addition, papers submitted by some of the members of the group. At the closing meeting, the group expressed its sincere thanks to the Government of Brazil and to the United Nations for their part in organizing the session and adopted resolutions which are annexed to the present article.


This documentation and the records of the discussion represent almost 900 typewritten pages, and it is obviously impossible within the limits of the present article to give anything but a very short summary of the points that were made. The general statements made by members of the Secretariat of the United Nations, of the World Health Organization, of the International Criminal Police Organization, etc. will not be summarized, but I thought it would be of interest to present the opinions expressed by representatives of the countries participating in the meeting of the group, especially as far as they dealt with concrete interregional problems or with regional aspects of questions of general interest. The following pages are a brief record of a number of these statements. 1


I have arranged these statements according to the alphabetical order of the countries represented, placing, however, Brazil at the end, as host country, and also because, being the host, it had a greater number ovf representatives.


Mr. Camilo Salces Espindola of the Argentine police said that in his country there was a general awareness of the magnitude of the problem, as shown by the recent draft law to bring up to date certain features of the penal code which would greatly facilitate the work of the police. He advocated the need to unify and co-ordinate the work of prevention and repression carried out by the various national and provincial security bodies. He added that by an order of 1958 the Argentine Government had limited the importation of coca leaf to 190 tons a year. Another order had also provided for the reduction by 10 tons annually of the total imports of coca leaf for licit purposes. That quantity was distributed amongst the pharmacists and druggists of Salta and Jujuy. In the harvest year 1960/61 the opium poppy had been grown on 5,013 hectares of land, so that the crop covered the needs of the country. Turning to the struggle against the illicit traffic, he indicated that in 1960/61,134 persons were arrested and that about 6 ? kg of cocaine hydro-chloride were seized, as well as 800 g of cocaine sulphate, 74 kg of coca leaf, and 150 g of marihuana.


Captain Federico Kaune Arteaga declared that his government, after the first Rio de Janeiro conference, had strengthened the measures for the suppression of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs (law adopted by the Senate of Bolivia in 1961 to replace the 1955 law). He said that in the last four years it had been possible to identify 47 localities where cocaine was manufactured, and 139 kg of alkaloid, either in the form of sulphate or chloride, had been seized and deposited with the Central Bank of Bolivia. The existing legal provisions laid down penalties of between 3 and 10 years' imprisonment, precluded all release on bail, specified that 70% of the fines imposed on traffickers would go to the persons reporting them and laid down the bases of joint action with Interpol. Moreover, the Bolivian Government had begun to reduce the cultivation of coca leaf; the quantity produced had fallen from 3,288 tons in 1950 to 1,915 tons in 1960, representing a reduction of 42%.


Mr. R. E. Curran, Vice-President, made a statement on the organization of the struggle against the abuse of narcotics in his country, saying that the organization responsible for dealing with that problem was the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which was specialized in questions of illicit traffic. In the three centres of that traffic, which are also the centres of addiction, there were police brigades specialized in dealing with narcotic drugs. The major problem in Canada was that of heroin.

Small quantities of cannabis are also illicitly consumed. Cocaine did not constitute a problem for the time being, but it was feared that it might make its appearance. Canada worked in perfect harmony with the United States in a spirit of full co-operation.


Mr. Sergio Hernandes Ode stated that in his country the law provided penalties for traffickers and medical treatment for drug addicts. The National Health Service was responsible for the rehabilitation of drug addicts in accordance with regulations issued in 1960 following the conclusions reached at the first Rio de Janeiro meeting.


Dr. Edgar Velasco Arboleda and Dr. Jose Quintero Chica stated that in their country coca-leaf chewing was limited to a small geographic area in the south, and to a small ethnical group in the department of Cauca, Marino and Huila, where groups of aborigine inhabitants living in primitive conditions chewed coca leaf. In the department of Cauca there were about 1,000 growers and more than 500,000 coca bushes under cultivation. As to marihuana, it was spreading alarmingly in the department of Caldas and Valle, from where large quantities are being sent to the other parts of Colombia. In other departments, such as Guaira, Huila, Magdalena, Bolívar, Atlántico, Córdova, Tolima and Cundinamarca, there is also production of and trade in cannabis.


Mr. Miguel Aucar Ris indicated that the illicit traffic had been almost completely eradicated in his country but that a close watch was being maintained since Cuba, because of its geographic position, could be used by international traffickers for the transit of narcotic drugs to other countries.


Dr. Daniel Uriguen Bravo said that there was little or nothing he could say relating to production, consumption of and illicit traffic in narcotic drugs because in his country those problems were of minor importance. With regard to opium, he had recently received information to the effect that there existed some opium poppy plantations. Apparently in the highlands there were extensive plantations belonging to the wealthy classes. Marihuana, however, was spreading considerably, and fines of up to $2,000, and penalties of up to eight months' imprisonment were prescribed in that respect. Unfortunately, there did not exist an adequate organization to enforce these laws, and to watch the traffic.


Mr. Juan Barona Lobato, in his study "Cultivation and production of and illicit traffic in narcotic drugs ", commented in the Mexican Public Health code, which devotes much attention to the question of the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts and on the classification and regulation of narcotic drugs to prevent the sale of opium, heroin, cannabis, the opium poppy and the coca leaf. He described the measures of control for the prescription of narcotics (special forms for doctors) and the compulsory treatment received by drug addicts in the state mental hospitals such as the Castañeda Hospital. He mentioned the campaign and expeditions carried out on the territory of some states (Sinaloa, Sonora, Durango, etc.) to destroy plantations of opium poppy and cannabis, a campaign which permitted the institution of proceedings against more than 2,000 persons and the discovery and closing down of four clandestine laboratories for the extraction of opium alkaloids.


Mr. Octabio A. Sosa Icaza said that marihuana plantations were the only ones existing in his country. The legal provision regarding narcotics and the penalties of imprisonment for persons selling marihuana were much too weak. Small plantations were sited in remote areas and the illicit traffic existed only in the terminal ports of the Panama Canal. Good co-ordination existed with regard to the efforts of the Ministry of Public Health, the Criminal Investigation Department and the customs authorities (subordinated to the Ministry of Finance).


Dr. Roque Avila referred to the penal legislation enacted in 1954 which laid down severe penalties against, any individual trading in or distributing narcotic substances. He considered that the problem of narcotic drugs was of minor importance in his country; the authorities of Paraguay were doing everything in their power to avoid their country being used as a centre for the storage or distribution of drugs intended for the neighbouring countries. The Government of Paraguay was taking steps to co-operate with Interpol.


Mr. Alejandro Castañeda Pastor explained the operation of the coca monopoly in Peru. He indicated that traffickers often operate under the protection of the jungle; cocaine is manufactured illicitly in the mountains near the Maranhao and Huallaga rivers, being carried from there to Iquitos. In these mountains the police discovered most of the secret laboratories. The operations carried out by the coca monopoly resulted in a decrease in the production of coca leaf of 1,000 tons from 1957 to 1960. Since 1956 exports are being effected through the coca monopoly with the prior authorization of the Narcotic Drugs Division of the Ministry of Public Health and after inspection by the customs authorities.

United States of America

Mr. Steve Minas described the problem of narcotics control in his country, especially from the point of view of frontier control: the United States has a 1,500-mile frontier with Mexico and a 5,000-mile boundary with Canada. In order to do their work patrols used automobiles and also helicopters: it was necessary to travel faster than the traffickers. The illicit activities included those of organized traffickers and also the isolated or independent activities of groups of two or three persons. The struggle against illicit traffic and frontier smuggling required co-operation of the central authorities in neighbouring countries. This co-operation must take the form of an exchange of information on journeys made by suspects, by means of telephone, telegraph and airmail communications. Amongst the methods of work employed, Mr. Minas mentioned the use of "Soundex ", which is a list of the names of all the persons suspected of illicit trafficking. He showed a new method of identifying suspects, consisting of an apparatus made of superimposed leaves of plastic material by means of which, on the basis of the descriptions of a suspect which have been received, it is possible to identify him by a process of elimination. Speaking on control at airports and seaports, he stated that it was physically impossible to inspect all passengers and insisted on the problem presented by small boats, fishing vessels and small private aircraft. He also stressed the role played by informers.


Mr. Augusto Trujillo Ledesma declared that there was no important narcotics problem in his country and that the struggle against the illicit traffic was made by the most modern methods. He added that his government had always collaborated with all the international and national organizations in the field.


Finally, a number of members of the delegation from Brazil made statements; some had to deal with the narcotics problem on the national level, some on the state level.

Professor Pedro Pernambuco Filho, member of the Brazilian Narcotic Drug Control Commission, spoke on the subject of the cannabis vice in Brazil. He stated that the consumption of maconha (marihuana) was spreading in the world with results that were not easy to forecast. Maconha smoking used to be confined to the less-educated classes in the north and north-east of Brazil; it had now spread to all social classes in all parts of the country. From the point of view of the symptoms, the speaker noted the following: somatic alterations; psychic disturbances and, most frequently, euphoria, accompanied by kinesthetic and sensorial hyperaesthesia; an irrepressible desire to laugh; exaggerated loquacity; intense cheerfulness; bravery; physical strength; false visual and aural perception; alternation of depressed and lively moods (psychological features characteristic of cyclothymia); weeping; distorted notion of time and space; dryness of the mouth; sensation to thirst and exaggerated hunger. The speaker referred of the possible crime-producing effects of cannabis, which he denied. However, he maintained that cannabis has a psychomotor action. He rejected the view that maconha is addiction-producing in accordance with the WHO definition, because, if the supply of the drug is stopped, the individual concerned does not exhibit abstinence phenomena and because the classical craving for increased doses of the drug does not exist.

A friendly controversy opposed three members of the Brazilian delegation on the subject of the criminogenic action of cannabis: Dr. Osvaldo de Andrade, of the Heitor Carrillo Court Mental Hospital (Rio de Janeiro), in an extensive paper on the subject, "Cannabis as a cause of crime ", reached the conclusion that this drug does not have the crime-producing effects on which so much emphasis has been placed in police and press circles. After examining carefully the cases of 120 offenders he was able to assert (1) that in the 120 cases examined no crime-producing effects attributable to cannabis had been found; (2) that in the majority of the cases examined the persons concerned had psychic disturbances; (3) that the cases showing psychopathic features (mental disorders) were distributed as follows: 42 cases of psychopathic personality, 20 of schizophrenia, 8 of oligophrenia, 7 of epilepsy and 4 of neuroses; (4) that out of the cases of mental disturbance, 37 were drug traffickers or possessed maconha.

Professor Heitor Pires, of the Brazilian Academy of Medecine spoke on drug addiction in Latin America, studying the history, origin and causes of addiction and stressing its dangers for contemporary society. Commenting upon the above-mentioned work of Dr. Osvaldo de Andrade, he said that for many years he had been able to ascertain that maconha induces offences against public order, property and good morals, but does not produce the so-called impulsive crimes-i.e., homicide and attempted homicide. Cannabis is a dramatic rather than a murderous drug.

Dr. Antonio Ribeiro de Andrade, of the São Paulo police, stated that he did not agree with the conclusions reached by Dr. Osvaldo de Andrade. The statistics of the São Paulo police show that out of 782 cases leading to convictions, 502 affected individuals who had been led to their criminal activities by their addiction to cannabis; these included cases of homicide, suicide and theft. "Nearly all the police from various countries present at this meeting will bear out my opinion and my experience, and the same is true of the experience of many distinguished doctors and professors," concluded the speaker.

Some of the members of the Brazilian delegation spoke of the experience they had obtained in the Brazilian states from which they came: Mr. Celso Teles, Director of the Narcotics Section of the São Paulo police, dwelt at length on seizures of narcotic drugs and on the arrest of traffickers in São Paulo; he stated that there was a menacing increase in the drug traffic, especially marihuana and a small-scale traffic in cocaine. Marihuana came almost exclusively from Alagoas by land or by air. In recent months some 12.5 kg of cocaine, which had arrived from Bolivia and Peru, had been seized. The speaker referred to the intensive campaign for the destruction of maconha plantations carried out in Alagoas by the National Narcotic Drug Control Commission. With regard to opium, the speaker mentioned that 400 packages of opium introduced into Brazil from Paraguay had been seized; they had been forwarded illegally to a pharmacy. Seven hundred and forty-two persons had been prosecuted, and there had been 443 convictions.

In his paper entitled "Systematic destruction of marihuana in the State of Alagoas ", Dr. Ruben Quintela, police representative from that state of North-East Brazil, described the manner in which the present campaign is being conducted under an agreement between the government of the state of Alagoas and the National Narcotic Drugs Control Commission. Police columns of five men each had the mission to penetrate into the villages to burn the cannabis plantations; it was necessary to act quickly so that the peasants would not destroy their secret plantations. These "lightning operations" lasted eleven days and gave quite satisfactory results: one column destroyed 18 tons of cannabis plants and 750 kg of cannabis almost dried, prepared for sale (at 1,500 to 2,000 cruzeiros per kg 2). All in all, this campaign resulted in the seizure and burning of about 30 tons of marihuana.

The report submitted by Mr. José Geraldo de Araujo, representative Of the state of Minas Gerais, showed that in Minas Gerais there did not exist any opium or cocaine problem. However, the consumption of marihuana had been increasing since 1951 and there


The rate for the cruzeiro at the end of' 1962 was 475 = $1 U.S.

were now smokers of that drug not only in the lower social classes, but also in the upper classes; in one of the most exclusive clubs of Belo Horizonte, 21 members, young men and women, had been discovered smoking maconha. The use of barbiturates was also extensive.

Mr. Eurides Celestino Malhado, of the state of Mato Grosso, said that the problem of maconha was nonexistent because, in that state, there was neither consumption of, nor traffic in, that drug; the police had discovered a marihuana plantation in 1961 in the municipality of Itapora and the plantation had been destroyed. On the other hand, there was a considerable illicit traffic in cocaine from Bolivia to São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. As was well known, Brazil's frontier with Bolivia was very extensive, and the two countries were linked by railroad, with no frontier police on either side.

Mr. Auro Homero de Mallo Lacerda, of the Santos police, submitted a detailed report on the increasing menace represented by the illicit traffic in maconha at the port of Santos; that port was one of the greatest centres of traffic in Latin America; most of the drug came from Alagoas because the climatic conditions of the State of São Paulo were not favourable to the growth of the plant. The speaker described the manner in which smugglers succeeded in escaping the vigilance of the Santos police by using packets of 2 to 5 kg of maconha wrapped in cellophane, which they cast into the sea at prearranged spots. The speaker referred to a new type of marihuana mixed with honey, which greatly increased the narcotic effect of the drug and which had been sold in the form of square blocks for prices of up to 15,000 cruzeiros per kg. Between 1 January 1960 and June 1961, 1,106 men and 135 women had been arrested, and 3,050 kg of maconha had been seized.

Mr. Werther Azambuja Marangheli, of the police of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, said that in his state, in spite of its population of 6 million inhabitants and although it bordered on the republics of Uruguay and Argentina, there was no major narcotics problem. A much more serious matter was the consumption of barbiturates and stimulants and the forging of medical prescriptions by unscrupulous persons. He mentioned a case of import of marihuana from Alagoas introduced into Porto Alegre by seamen from Pernambuco and subsequently taken to the city of Riviera in Uruguay.

Finally, I presented a study entitled "Facts and opinions regarding the narcotic drugs traffic in Brazil" I reported first that a telegram had just been received communicating the confiscation on the Rio-Bahia highway of 600 kg of marihuana. I referred to the searches made of motor cars and lorries arriving from the northeast of Brazil and proceeding towards Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. I dwelt upon the coca leaf traffic, which was on a small scale in Brazil and on the illicit trade in cocaine which originated in Bolivia and Peru; a quantity of over 13 kg of cocaine had been seized between 1957 and 1958. That figure represented 196 g of alkaloid per 1,000 inhabitants of Brazil. I reported that 163 traffickers had been arrested, 54 of them Brazilian, 24 Bolivian, 12 Italian, 5 Lebanese, 4 Egyptian and one Chilean; it had not been possible to ascertain the nationality of the others.


Resolution on the problem of coca leaf chewing

(Introduced by participants from Bolivia, Colombia and Peru)

The Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control,

Recognizingthat the problem of coca leaf chewing has many special features of a social, economic, medical and educational nature,

Consideringthat a seminar for the exchange of the experiences of the countries concerned with the problem of coca leaf chewing would be helpful in adopting the most effective approach towards this question,

Invitesthe United Nations to consider favorably requests of the governments concerned for technical assistance in organizing such a seminar;

Suggeststhat, if the governments concerned request such a seminar, the United Nations invite representatives of FAO and WHO to participate in it.

Resolution on other questions

No. 1

(Introduced by participants from Brazil)

The members of the Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control, meeting at Rio de Janeiro from 27 November to 7 December 1961,

Consideringthat, so far as concerns the technical assistance granted by the various American countries, full account has been taken at the present meeting of the substance and intent of resolution No. 4 3 of the first Inter-American Meeting on the Illicit Traffic in Cocaine and Coca Leaf held at Rio de Janeiro from 21 to 25 March 1960,

Consideringthe high professional qualifications of the experts sent to this meeting of the Consultative Group and the value of their statements on drug addiction and the suppression of the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs on the American continent,

Express their gratitude to the Secretary-General of the United Nations for arranging the present meeting and for the Secretariat's contribution to its success.

No. 2

(Introduced by participants from Brazil, Canada, and the United States of America)

The members of the Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control, meeting at Rio de Janeiro from 27 November to 7 December 1961,

Meeting of the Inter-American Group on Narcotics Control 53

Consideringthe expediency of resolutions Nos. 1, 2 and 3 4 of the First Inter-American Meeting on the Illicit Traffic in Cocaine and Coca Leaf, held at Rio de Janeiro in 1960,

Express the hope that the various American governments will observe the above-mentioned resolutions, especially those calling for an increase in the number of hospital beds for drug addicts and for an increase in the penalties imposed on illicit traffickers.

No. 3

(Introduced by participants from Brazil)

The members of the Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control, meeting at Rio de Janeiro from 27 November to 7 December 1961,

Consideringthe success achieved at the meeting owing to the fact that the representatives attending from various American countries were able to exchange experience and information on

the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs on the American continent and the existing means of suppressing it,

Express the hope that the American governments will promote further meetings of the Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control, with the co-operation of the United Nations and other competent international bodies.

No. 4

(Introduced by participants from Brazil)

The members of the Inter-American Consultative Group on Narcotics Control, meeting at Rio de Janeiro from 27 November to 7 December 1961,

Considering the need to co-ordinate the various means of combating the illicit traffic in narcotic drugs in the American countries,

Suggest to the United Nations that it promote regional coordination for the suppression of the illicit traffic, including the appointment of a resident official from the United Nations Division of Narcotic Drugs, the organization of meetings and regional study groups, and other appropriate measures.