Page last updated at 23:15 GMT, Tuesday, 28 April 2009 00:15 UK

Argentina priests in drug protest

By Candace Piette
BBC News, Buenos Aires


Hundreds of priests in Argentina have highlighted their concern after two of their number received death threats.

Some 353 Catholic priests in Buenos Aires signed a document in support of the men, who work with addicts in some of the city's poorest neighbourhoods.

The Church last month published a report highlighting a huge increase in drug addiction and dealing in the city.

The report said hard drugs, like Paco - a kind of crack cocaine - are sold openly and often near schools.

The report added that there was is a lack of political will to deal with the results.

"The drug trade has been like a tsunami breaking over us," said Padre Pepe de Paola, one of the priests who has received death threats.

"Heavy drug trafficking started in 2001 when the Argentine economy crashed and we haven't been able to cope."

One dose of Paco costs around $1.50 (£1) and children as young as 12 are becoming addicts, taking up to 40 doses a day.

The Church says there is a lack of spending on education and decent schooling where children can develop their own way in life.

It adds that Argentina as a whole has a disregard for the problems of the young and poor.

Most of those who are making money from drug trafficking, the document says, do not live in poor neighbourhoods but in rich ones.

Two years ago, government figures said there were 27,000 addicts in greater Buenos Aires, but recent research estimates this figure has doubled.

"It's going to take a long time, and it's not just one government who will need to work on this, it's got to be a long-term approach," said Padre Pepe de Paola.

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