War on Drugs — 28 March 2012

The open opposition of the USA to the proposal from the President of Guatemala, Otto Pérez Molina, who suggested the decriminalization of drugs as an alternative to unleashing the military on the drug mafias as proposed by Washington, has resulted in less participation from the presidents in the region to the summit held this Saturday in Guatemala, where they were hoping to put together a common position to be discussed in the Summit of the Americas that will be held April 12, 13, and 14 in Cartagena.

However, the Guatemala president was optimistic at the end of the meeting and has ruled out a conspiracy so far.  “The important thing”, he said, is that 8 countries of SICA were present and they brought along the highest level of functionaries.

As a first concrete result, Perez has announced the commitment of the eight countries to toughen the fight against drug traffickers and explained that his plan includes four distinct stages. The first is that the value of drugs seized in Central America will be sold at market prices to these “consumer nations”, referring to the largest market in the world: United States.

Costa Rica added to this idea to add to that expenditure the value of planted crops.  The Guatemalan President said that a kilo of cocaine costs in Colombia, the largest producer of cocaine, about 1,500 euros.   When it reaches the U.S. southern states the prices ranges between 53,000 and 72,000.  Then it costs 113,000 euros when it reaches in cities like New York.

Based on these estimates, reminiscent of the mythical “accounts of the milk,” Perez Molina said that his plan would permit 50% of these resources to be used to strengthen the fight against the cartels, and 25% would go to hospital programs for the recovering addicts and the remaining 25% for prevention through educational programs.

The plan submitted by Guatemala includes the creation of a regional criminal court with jurisdiction, dedicated exclusively to meet the drug-related crimes such as arms trafficking, money laundering and trafficking. The plan does not rule out the possibility of decriminalizing the drug traffic since, he has said, only 3% of the drug passing throughthe region is for local consumption.

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The drug mafias have significantly altered the lives of the inhabitants of border areas with Mexico. This is the case of San Marcos, one of the poorest provinces in the country. The bishop of that diocese, Alvaro Ramazzini, who has profound knowledge of the problems of his congregants, says the only way to eliminate the drug is to fight poverty and believes that the debate over the drug issue should be “serious, responsible, conscientious in his analysisand forward the future. ”

To Ramazzini, a piecemeal approach would only complicate the situation. “If Guatemala decriminalizes drugs, but Mexico and the U.S. do not do the same, the problem will worse,because the big market is in the U.S.. Guatemala would become a haven for the growers, unable to transport their goods, they would end up flooding the country directly damaging to our youth. ”

On Monday, Central American foreign ministers met in San Salvador, capital of El Salvador, to set the agenda that the president has discussed this Saturday. The intended focus was to study the progress made on security issues within the framework of the Secretariat of Central American Integration (SICA, comprising Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama).

The Guatemala summit included as special guests the former President of Colombia, Cesar Gaviria, who said during his speech that “the U.S. drug policy is no longer functional”; the adviser of substance abuse to the Pan American Health Organization(PAHO), Luis Alfonzo; and Luz del Socorro Ramirez, from the Carter Center, among others.

Date:  25 March 2012

Translated from:  http://internacional.elpais.com/internacional/2012/03/25/actualidad/1332636229_676692.html

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