Violence-Torn Guatemala's Solution: Legalize Drugs?

President Otto Perez Molina to discuss idea with Central American leaders
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 14, 2012 10:10 AM CST
Violence-Torn Guatemala's Solution: Legalize Drugs?
Guatemala's President Otto Perez Molina answers a question during a joint news conference with El Salvador's President Mauricio Funes yesterday.   (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

(Newser) – New Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina came to power promising a "firm hand" against his country's worsening drug trafficking problems. But yesterday, Perez showed his hand, to some surprise: He called for drug legalization, not just in Guatemala but around Central America, reports the LA Times. "We're bringing the issue up for debate," he said at a meeting with El Salvador's president, who, though personally opposed, said he is willing to consider legalization. Colombia's president separately said he'd be open to the idea if the whole world agreed. Perez plans to raise the issue at a March meeting of Central American leaders.

Some observers speculate that Perez's comments are just a way of leveraging additional support from the United States. "This is kind of like a shot across the bow, saying if you don't help us, this is what we can do," one analyst tells the AP. The US, for its part, certainly isn't keen on the idea: Its embassy in Guatemala City has issued the following no-nonsense statement: "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." (Read more Guatemala stories.)

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