LATS in Santiago de Chile
On June 7 and 8, 2000, a seminar on the development of local drug policy was held in Santiago de Chile. This seminar was part of the Latin American Travelling Seminar. The seminar (Seminario internacional ‘Hacia una politica local sobre drogas’) was organised by Cecilia Peñaloza and Juan Leyton.(powerpoint)

The representation was good in terms of quantity and quality: About two hundred organisations were invited and 150 were represented at the seminar. In total about 200 people participated in the seminar, representing various disciplines, expertise and professional levels. Both practical workers as well as policy makers attended the seminar.

In the opening session, presentations were given by the head of CONACE (the state bureau on drugs), a representative of the organisation of Chilean Municipalities, the representative of the mayor of Santiago and a representative of LATS.

In the second session, presentations were given about the drug problem in Chile and Latin America, both with statistics and sociological considerations (speakers: Iban de Rementeria en Mauricio Sepúlveda). These presentations were followed by a debate with the audience

In the third session, experiences with harm-reduction in various parts of the world were presented. It concerned the following experts:

  • Gustavo Hurtado (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
  • Monica Gorgulho (Sao Paulo, Brazil)
  • Martin Arcila (Colombia)
  • Ernst Buning (Amsterdam, Holland)
  • Jurgen Weimer (Frankfurt, Germany)
  • Sandra Batista (Curitiba, Brazil)
  • Patricia Flores (Santiago, Chile)

Sandra Batista also spoke about LATS in Curitiba and Patricia Flores also presented the Latin American Harm Reduction Network (RELARD).

The session with the harm-reduction experiences provided for ample space for debate with the audience.

On the second day of the seminar, attention was given to the specific situation in Chile. Amongst others, presentations were given by representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the police and the health department of the Municipality of Santiago. This session was followed by a session about local drug policy, with representatives of the Chilean association of municipalities, the drug programme of the city of Santiago, a representative of the Chilean Aids programme and various NGO’s. The audience was actively involved in the discussion.

In the afternoon, Santiago Escobar and Iban de Rementeria summarised the presentations and discussions of the seminar and formulated the ingredients for a local drug policy in Santiago de Chile.

The seminar was closed by Juan Leyton, a representative of the Mayor of Santiago and Ernst Buning, representative of LATS.

In the afternoon the creation of the Chilean Harm Reduction Network was announced.

Some short observations:

Compared to Europe and North America, Chile has a ‘moderate’ drug problem. However, the media, which are controlled by conservative forces, use the drug issue to install insecurity and fear in Chilean society and thus making way for the promotion of more repression. Progressive intellectuals, who consists partly of former political refugees, try to create a counter force. The concept of harm-reduction plays an important role in this effort of the progressive intellectuals. They promote the idea of self-control, normalisation and state that total abstinence is not the objective. The slogan which is used in Chile at the moment ‘drugs kill, let’s talk’ was heavily criticised. They strongly recommend the involvement of the community in public policies.

First evaluation

On Friday, June 9, a first evaluation was done between Juan Leyton, Cecilia, Monica Gorgulho and Ernst Buning. The following items were mentioned:

The communication prior to the seminar was not optimal, due to problems with email. This is why the preparation had to be done in a rush. Because of the help of Cecilia from the Municipal Bureau of drugs it was possible for Juan Leyton to get every thing done.

A meeting of URB-AL about 4 weeks prior to this seminar, helped a lot in identifying more persons and organisations to become involved in LATS

The position of Juan Leyton was very ‘solo’ in the beginning. A lot of work was done on a face-to-face basis. The Municipal Drug Bureau realized the value of LATS for strengthening their own position and was willing to give a lot of support to LATS.

The duration of the seminar was two days instead of the three days proposed in the first LATS document. The decision to shorten the seminar was based on the fact that it is difficult for people to stay away from work longer than two days

There was excellent representation (both in quality and quantity)

The discussion about Harm Reduction is now no longer a debate between technicians, but has become an issue for politics as well.

A critical mass has been created to develop a local policy

From LATS side it was mentioned that discussion in working groups did not take place and that the discussions were rather theoretical. They hope to see a ‘translation’ from the theory to the practice in the near future

Harm-reduction is no longer ‘under the table’.

It was important to have presentation from various parts of the world. The presentation from Frankfurt was especially of importance, because Frankfurt is seen as a conservative city (Financial capital of Europe) and if they have a harm reduction approach, it is accepted more easily than the harm reduction policy of Amsterdam (a city already considered as very progressive)

A meeting is scheduled on June 14 to initiate the Chilean Harm Reduction Network

A workgroup will be formed to write a discussion paper about the development of a local drug policy. This paper will be based on the issues presented and discussed during the seminar. After a discussion in a larger group the paper will be finalised.

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Juan Leyton, the organizer of the seminar

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Opening session with the head of CANACE and a representative of the  Organisation of Municipalities, the representative of the Mayor and a representative of LATS

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Ernst Buning (Amsterdam, Holland) explains what LATS is all about

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About 150 people in the audience

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Iban de Rementeria en Mauricio Sepúlveda talking about the present drugs/Aids situation in Chile

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Gustavo Hurtado (Buenos Aires, Argentina) talking about the local drugs and Aids policy in his city

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Monica Gorgulho (Sao Paulo, Brazil) talking about harm reduction in Brazil and putting emphasis on the necessity of early Aids interventions

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Jurgen Weimer (Frankfurt, Germany) talking about the local drug policy in his city and how harm reduction was implemented

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Sandra Batista (Curitiba, Brazil) speaking about the experience of LATS in her city

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Patricia Flores from Chile and member of the executive committee of RELARD  talking about her harm reduction work in Santiago


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Chilean experts giving information about the situation in Santiago