BRASILIA: A bill calling for tougher sentences for drug possession and mandatory internment of addicts in Brazil has drawn fire from ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a strong advocate of drug decriminalization.
"Treating drug use as a police case is useless and disastrous," he said in an interview with the daily O Globo published Wednesday.
"Mandatory internment (of addicts) has been internationally condemned as inefficient, stigmatizing and a violation of human rights," said Cardoso who was in office from 1995 to 2002.
The controversial bill, which is to be debated in Congress in February, has a good chance of being adopted in plenary session after already winning unanimous approval from a special panel.
"Brazilian society, which is faced with the scourge of drugs, wants" tougher legislation against use and possession of drugs," according to lawmaker Osmar Terra, who said there were enough votes for passage of the bill.
Considered the world's largest market for crack and the second for overall cocaine use, Brazil since 2006 has had an ambiguous law on the books that lets authorities decide who is a user and who is a drug trafficker.
"Drugs, particularly crack, are the major health and public security issues in Brazil," Terra said on his web page.
Cardoso, who chairs the Global Commission on Drug Policy, also insisted Brazil was lagging behind other regional countries with respect to the debate on a new drug strategy.
In October, he urged that what it termed the failed war on drugs be replaced by policies focusing on regulation and prevention.
Insisting that regulation was not the same as legalization, he then urged "all kinds of restrictions and limitations on the production, trade, advertising and consumption of a given substance in order to de-glamorize, discourage and control its use."
"Drug abusers may harm themselves and their families, but locking them up is not going to help them," he argued.