Guatemalan President Proposes Drug Legalization
Tuesday, 14 February 2012 06:27
Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina on Monday said that the war on drugs and all the money and technology received from the United States to conduct it has failed to reduce illegal drug trafficking in Central America and that he will submit a proposal for decriminalizing drugs at an upcoming meeting of the presidents of Central America. President Perez, a right-wing former army general who based his presidential campaign on adopting a "firm hand" against drug traffickers and other criminals, noted he wanted to provide an opportunity to debate the isuse before seeking a consensus among regional leaders. President Molina won support yesterday from the President of El Salvador, Mario Funes, who said he also favored legalization. “Imagine what it would mean,” said President Funes. “Producing drugs would no longer be a crime, trafficking drugs would no longer be a crime and consuming drugs would no longer be a crime, so we would be converting the region in a paradise for drug consumption. I personally don’t agree with it and I told President Otto Perez so.”
The United States opposes drug legalization. The US embassy in Guatemala on Sunday released a statement criticizing the proposal. "If the trafficking and use of illegal drugs were decriminalized tomorrow in Central America, transnational criminal organizations and gangs would continue to engage in illicit activity, including trafficking in persons and illegal arms, extortion and kidnapping, bank robbery, theft of intellectual property, and money laundering."
Mr. Perez's proposal comes as drug cartels are increasingly controlling large areas of Guatemala and other Central American countries and infiltrating government institutions, especially in Honduras and El Salvador. The trend has fueled some of the highest murder rates in the world. In May 2011, the US Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report stating that 95 percent of all the cocaine that enters the US is transported through Mexico, with 60 percent flowing first through Central America, primarily Honduras' eastern coast.
Several other Latin American presidents, including Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Felipe Calderón of Mexico have expressed their support for drug legalization. (2/14/12) (photo of Otto Perez Molina courtesy AP)