Mar 26, 2012

Guatemala seeks the legalization of drugs

CNN Mexico: "The President of Guatemala urged his Central American counterparts to sign a regional security plan that includes drug legalization.

The head of state, Otto Perez Molina, proposed several options to put a stop to narco-violence in Central America including a regional tribunal that would adjudicate drug related cases and an indemnity on behalf of the United States for drug seizures.

The leaders didn’t arrive at an agreement during the meeting on Saturday in Antigua, Guatemala, but Perez Molina described the summit as a success.

“It was a success, as we hoped it would be. The success lies in the fact that taboos and myths were dismantled, taboos and myths that the region’s leaders had held in terms of talking about or debating these ideas. For a long time these ideas couldn’t be spoken about openly,” said Perez Molina.

The presidents of Panama, Ricardo Martinelli, and of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, attended the meeting which also included representatives from other Central American countries.

Perez Molina affirmed on Saturday that the leaders are looking to start a discussion on the topic in the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, which will take place in May.

The proposal could help lay the path for an important policy change in a region where violence from drug trafficking is a brutal daily reality.

Perez Molina isn’t the first leader to propose that drug legalization could help to slow bloodshed.

In a report in 2009, three ex-presidents from Latin America, Brazilian Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Colombian Cesar Gaviria, and Mexican Ernesto Zedillo, asked that marijuana be legalized for personal use.

Mexican ex-president Vicente Fox has also said that he supports legalization.

Analysts indicate that it’s rare that the fear of political consequences hasn’t prevented these presidents from making these proposals.

“This has been an academic debate and also a scientific debate—a topic that has been studied. Putting it to a political debate is important,” said Perez Molina last month on CNN en Espanol.

The 61-year-old president is a ex-military general that promised to govern Guatemala with an iron fist when he ran for the position in 2011.

His proposal to legalize drugs took many by surprise in April of that year.

“What I have done is put the issue on the table,” Perez Molina said to CNN en Espanol shortly after making the proposal known. “I think that it’s important for us to have alternatives (…) We have to talk about decriminalizing the production, the transit, and, of course, the consumption [of drugs].”

However, some skeptics have suggested that Perez Molina is using the drug legalization debate as a strategy to pressure the United States into sending military aid to Guatemala again.

The aid has been cut for decades following human rights abuses committed during the Central American country’s civil war." Spanish original

Translation: Mikael Rojas, Americas Program

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