Guatemalan president leads drug legalization debate

Martin Jelsma on Latin American countries taking steps to decriminalization
26 March 2012
In the media

"Even if the United States is not willing at this point to go along, there is space for Latin American countries to take certain steps," said Martin Jelsma, a political scientist who specializes in Latin America and international drugs policy at the Transnational Institute. "Of course, politically, that will be one of the questions. How much pressure will the United States put on Latin America to prevent this?"

Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina isn't the first leader to propose that legalizing drugs may help stem drug violence.

(CNN) - On the campaign trail, Otto Perez Molina vowed to rule his country with an iron fist. The retired general said he would send troops into the streets to fight drug violence.

Analysts summed up his political platform with three words: law and order. Now -- just two months after taking office -- the 61-year-old Guatemalan president is pushing a controversial proposal that has come under fire from U.S. officials and earned praise from people who were once his critics.

During a routine speech last month, Perez Molina slipped in a surprise announcement. Last year's law-and-order candidate said he wanted to legalize drugs.

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