MEXICO CITY Illegal drugs use globally is still rising despite a decades-long battle against organized crime, and producer and consumer nations need to come up with new strategies, Mexico and four Central American countries said on Monday.
Latin Americans are increasingly skeptical about Washington's hard-line prohibitionist approach to drugs, particularly because the United States is a leading market for the narcotics.
That was highlighted last week, when Colorado and Washington became the first U.S. states to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use, in defiance of federal law.
"Revising the international community's focus on drugs ... cannot be delayed," the leaders of Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Belize and Guatemala said in a joint statement. "Consumption of these substances continues to rise on a global level."
They called for strategies "to control the drugs market and prevent the trafficking of illegal substances continuing to cause high levels of crime and violence in the region".
Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who staked his presidency on battling drug cartels, said in September that a "less prohibitionist approach" should be studied.
Calderon, whose presidency ends on December 1, has declined to wade deeper into a growing drug policy liberalization debate, which several former heads of state in the region have joined.
He said on Monday that Mexico and the Central American countries that signed the statement support action by the U.N. General Assembly to address drug policy no later than 2015.
At the U.N. General Assembly in September, the leaders of Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala - historically three of the most reliable U.S. partners on drug interdiction - called on world governments to explore new alternatives to tackle the problem.
Uruguay has gone furthest, proposing a bill this year that would legalize marijuana and have the state distribute it.
Mexico has been particularly hard hit by a flourishing drug trade. More than 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico during Calderon's six-year presidency.
(Reporting by Anahi Rama; Writing by Simon Gardner; Editing by Kieran Murray and Mohammad Zargham)