Message on the occasion of the International Day Against Abuse and Neglect

and Illicit Drug Trafficking


        June 26 is the International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. On this day we want to express our deepest concern, echoing the concerns expressed by the bishops of Latin America and the Caribbean about the reality we live in our countries.

        In 2007 we said in the concluding document of the V Conference in Aparecida: “The drug problem is like an oil stain that invades everything. It recognizes no borders, neither geographical nor human. It attacks rich and poor countries alike, children, young people, adults and the elderly, men and women. The Church cannot remain indifferent to this scourge that is destroying humanity, especially the new generations” (Aparecida Document, 422).

        Today we ratify our assessment of that time, and even point out that the situation has worsened.

        Drug trafficking has demonstrated in many countries in the region its ability to infiltrate and corrupt the branches of government, the police, the armed forces, the media, businesses, in short, all the institutions of democracy. It has been able to find complicities in the financial systems, evading controls and audits, and even finding hiding places such as decentralized finance of cryptocurrencies.

        In its wake, it has consecrated entire territories for its own production, organized its own armies, gangs and violent systems for the control of territories. Millions of young people have closed their lives in the consumption of substances, and entire families have been ruined.

        Drug trafficking is the dissolution of States, the replacement of the rule of law by the establishment of another law, that of the strongest. It is a sign of the collapse of Western civilization; how can we not express our concern on this day?

        We bring the words of Pope Francis in Santa Cruz de la Sierra: And behind so much pain, so much death and destruction, one can smell the stench of what Basil of Caesarea – one of the first theologians of the Church – called “the dung of the devil”, the unbridled ambition of money that governs. That is “the dung of the devil”. Thus, at the root of the drug problem is a culture that neglects life because it is built on the pursuit of profit.

        Unfortunately, at the same time that the problem is growing, defeatist proposals that point out that it is useless to fight, that legalizing the production, consumption and distribution of drugs would solve the problem, are gaining voice. Beyond the fact that it may or may not be convenient to change the legal status of the drug business, we do not believe that this can transform the root of a deeper problem, which has to do with the unbridled ambition for money that governs us, as the Pope pointed out.

        Let us not naturalize the situation, let us not allow our hearts to be filled with fear or our ability to recognize that the present and the future of society are at stake.

        For this reason, we encourage the Church and the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean not to resign themselves, but to continue organizing to care for life. We are convinced that all human life is sacred, and that caring for life is the alternative to the rule of money. In every place where those who suffer are embraced, where conditions for integral human development are generated, where we walk at the pace of the slowest, where the table is enlarged so that all may eat, hope is being born.

        From Celam, two years ago we decided to launch the Latin American Pastoral Ministry of Accompaniment and Prevention of Addictions, to put ourselves once again at the service of life, and to bring together all the spaces in the region that are organized to care for it.

        We raise to the Lord our prayers for the victims of drug trafficking and we ask our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of America, to bless the lives of our peoples and encourage us to find paths of peace that lead us to the fullness of Life.

Presidency of the Latin American Episcopal Council

June 26, 2024