Leaders of central American nations agreed to debate alternatives to fight drug trafficking given in the proposal to decriminalize drug trafficking put forth by Guatemala. This coincided with a visit to the region by US Vice President Joe Biden on Tuesday.
The vice president of Guatemala, Roxana baldetti, met two days ago with the Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli; Laura Chiniclla, the president of Costa Rica; Porfirio Lobo, the president of Honduras; and Daniel Ortega, the president of Nicaragua to outline President Otto Perez Molina’s proposal to “the debate the pro and cons”.
These leaders agreed to join the debate, which would discuss the decriminalization of drug trafficking, a business which generated $400 billion USD to the cartels since the year 2000.
Regarding Washington’s support of the idea, the USA reiterated a firm posture against that saying, “[drugs] impacts the productivity of whatever country, impacts health costs, impacts mortality rates,” said Biden During his stay in Mexico.
The USA, the consumer of 37% of the worldwide production of cocaine, “doesn’t consider decriminalization viable, does not consider this to be the best way to fight drug trafficking”, said department of homeland secretary Janet Napolitano last week after a meeting with the president of Guatemala.
Biden had lunch Tuesday with various central American leaders, including President Perez Molina, during his official visit to Honduras, part of the Summit of the Americas, which will open in Colombia in April and where Molina will formally put forth his proposal.
The Guatemala president seeks to distance himself from the war on drugs that in central America is the cause of 60% of the violent deaths there according to the United Nations. Mexico is one of the countries most affected, but the violence there is less than in the central American nations according to a study. The study shows that in 2008 there were 12 killings per each 100,000 people in Mexico, while there were 61 in Honduras, 52 in El Salvador, and 49 in Guatemala. The governments of Mexico admits the need to debate this idea “at an international level”, explained Patricia Espinoza, the foreign minister.
From Colombia, another of the countries most affected by the drug trafficking violence, in November the Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos put forth a proposal to legalize marijuana and cocaine if an international consensus could be reached.
The president’s proposal
“We need to put this item onto the agenda for discussion,” former Colombian vice president and former president of the Organization of American States Cesar Gaviria told CNN Mexico. He is a member of the World Drug Law Congress who also includes as members Ernest Zedillo, former president of Mexico; Fernando Henrique Cardozo, former president of Brazil; and the writer Carlos Fuentes among others.
“Prohibition in the USA has created devastating consequences in terms of violence and corruption in Latin America”, said Gaviria. “The USA has recognized that the war on drugs has not worked. You can see that in the change of the language from calling it a “war” and putting emphasis on the word “consumption”, said Gaviria. According to the former president the debate must challenge the accepted conventional wisdom that “it is not possible to live in a world without drugs” and that prohibition has not worked for decades.
Guatemala is facing a “long and complicated” process, Dejuan Mihailovic, Professor of Social Studies and International Relations at Monterrech Tech told CNN Mexico, “Leaders do not normally not mention this subject. For the first time we have a leader in power who realizes that current strategies are not the best”, said Mihailovic.
If Guatemala were to reach a multilateral regional agreements, “The United States would have to question if their current strategy is the correct one and change it”, said Mihailovic, stressing the need to involve all affected parties.
Date: 6 March 2012