The Central American region connecting North and South America has traditionally been an area with intensive trafficking routes, of drugs, weapons and people. Drugs trafficking routes over land and sea have existed for decades, transporting mainly cocaine from the Andean region to the United States and Mexico.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina in a recent interview mooted the idea of his country legalizing marijuana next year. Can we really expect bold changes in Guatemalan drug policy in the near future? Speaking to TeleSur, President Perez said that Guatemala was watching Uruguay's experiment with marijuana legalization and would likely take a decision on whether to pursue regulation itself in 2015.
Guatemala will weigh easing punishments for minor narcotics-related offenses as part of a push to liberalize drug policy and explore regulating production of opium poppies and marijuana for medical use, President Otto Perez said. A government-backed commission delivered an interim report on the president's legalization proposal in September and Perez said the final recommendations should be ready by March or the second quarter of next year.
Will Guatemala ever legalize marijuana? Maybe. The country's president, Otto Perez Molina, didn't rule out the possibility of legalizing the drug during an interview with The Washington Post. A former military general, Molina caused a stir last year when he used his annual address at the United Nations General Assembly to credit the states of Colorado and Washington for their "visionary decision" to legalize marijuana. Molina first raised the specter of legalization in 2012, just a few months after taking office.
The Institute of National Problematics of the University of San Carlos in Guatemala recently presented a new publication “Despenalization of drugs: Realities and Perspectives in Guatemala”. The new tendency towards legalization and/or decriminalization in the hemisphere stirred an internal debate about the need to revise drug policies in Guatemala towards policies with an emphasis on prevention and treatment of problematic use of drugs.
Guatemala could present a plan to legalize production of marijuana and opium poppies towards the end of 2014 as it seeks ways to curb the power of organized crime, President Otto Perez said. Perez proposed drug legalization after he took office at the start of 2012, buy has yet to put forward a concrete plan. Instead, a government commission has been studying the proposal, and recommendations are expected around October. Measures could be presented at the end of the year, including an initiative for Congress to legalize drugs, in particular marijuana, and the legalization of the poppy plantations for medicinal ends.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina rose to power in 2011 on the promise of crushing organized crime. The former army general pledged high-security prisons, an increased police force and the deployment of soldiers in the fight against drug gangs, which have transformed Guatemala into one of the most violent places in the world.
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has called last week’s approval by Uruguayan lawmakers in the lower house of the legalization of recreational marijuana an “important step” in the fight against international drug trafficking. Pérez Molina said the initiative – which if passed by the Senate would task the Uruguayan government with the production and sale of marijuana – opens “a new space for discussion” on the merits of legalization of illicit drugs.
Guatemalan PresidentOtto Perez said he is feeling less alone in his drive tore-think the fight against drug-trafficking than a year ago, when heshocked fellow Central American leaders with a proposal to decriminalisedrugs. Perez has proposed what he calls a "third way" inbetween all-out drugs legalisation and complete prohibition. He saysthe latter approach has failed as illegal drug use remains high despitedecades of being outlawed around the world.
This is at the heart of the awakening in Latin America, a feeling that drugs prohibition has allowed rich and powerful cartels to rise to such prominence that they threaten the institutions of the state – the police, the judicial system, the army, the media, and the body politic. In Latin America it is not about rehab and criminality, it is about an existential threat to the state.
Mexico, Colombia and Guatemala face the need to modify their approach to the fight against drug trafficking and are urging the world to do the same. But Mexico and Colombia’s willingness to make the necessary changes is unclear. The three countries are connected by a powerful circuit of trafficking of drugs – whose main market is the United States – weapons and money from illegal activities. But the extent of the problem and the way drug organisations operate in each one of these countries vary.
Colombia, Guatemala, and Mexico – hardly liberal bastions – have taken the matter a step further. The Latin American countries, each threatened by drug violence, sent a clearly worded declaration to the United Nations, inviting member states to undertake a consultation process to come up with more effective drug policy strategies. They urged the UN to “exercise its leadership…. to conduct deep reflection to analyze all available options, including regulatory or market measures, in order to establish a new paradigm,” the declaration states, translated into English by the Guatemala Times.
Colombia, Mexico and Guatemala delivered a landmark declaration to the United Nations Secretary General calling on the organization to lead a debate on alternative approaches to the current war on drugs, though it is likely to fall on deaf ears. The statement, issued to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on October 1, contains 11 points outlining the three countries’ views on the current state of organized crime and counternarcotics policy in the Americas (see declaration in English here, and in Spanish here).
Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina is advocating the international legalization of drugs even as he is moving to fight narcotics cartels with the biggest military buildup in the Central American country since its long and bloody civil war. The president said the traditional war on drugs had failed over the past half century, and that the United States' inability to deal with its drug consumption problem left Central America with no option but to promote legalizing drugs in some way.
Guatemala will not fail to honour any of its international commitments to fighting drug trafficking. But nor are we willing to continue as dumb witnesses to a global self-deceit. We cannot eradicate global drug markets, but we can certainly regulate them as we have done with alcohol and tobacco markets. Drugs should be treated as public health problems, not criminal justice issues. Our children and grandchildren demand from us a more effective drug policy, not a more ideological response. Next weekend, leaders from the Americas will meet in Cartagena. This is an opportunity to start a realistic and responsible intergovernmental dialogue on drug policy.
Political divides in the Central American region around drug control surfaced sharply at the recent regional summit on “New Routes against Drugs Trafficking”, that took place on Saturday 24 March in Guatemala. Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina called for an open debate on the security crisis and on policies to reduce the rampant drug-related violence, stating that current policies have been so ineffective that all options including the ‘depenalisation’ of drugs should be on the table.
A conclave of Central American presidents meeting in Guatemala to discuss a major overhaul of their drug laws — including legalization or decriminalization — failed to arrive at a consensus Saturday and agreed to meet again soon in Honduras. Some sort of policy declaration was expected after the meeting, yet at day's end there was no reason given for its absence. But a disappointing turnout may have been a factor: Panama's Ricardo Martinelli and Costa Rica's Laura Chinchilla attended; the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua stayed home.
Guatemalan President Otto Perez on Saturday set out a raft of proposals to tackle rampant drug-fuelled violence in Central America, including decriminalization of narcotics or establishing a regional court to try traffickers. "The proposal is decriminalization," Perez said at a regional summit to address security throughout the region. "We are talking about creating a legal framework to regulate the production, transit and consumption of drugs."