President Perez at the World Economic Forum 2013

Guatemala’s president has claimed that reforming prohibitionist drug laws would reduce violence in his country by 50 percent, as he presented his plans for drug policy reform at the World Economic Forum.

Speaking at a press conference in Davos, President Otto Perez Molina stated that 40-50 percent of crime in Guatemala is linked to drugs, and that changing drug laws would cut the violence associated with the trade, reported Prensa Libre. According to the president, his administration is already in the process of reducing the "other 50 percent" of the country’s violence.

Perez repeated his calls for science-based regulatory laws for different drugs, backed by social and education programs. Among other potential changes mentioned by Perez was the possibility of legalizing poppy cultivation in northern Guatemala for legitimate uses, reported elPeriodico.

The president also expressed frustration that current prohibitionist policies in the "war on drugs" diverted funding from social programs.

Perez announced plans to bring together businessmen, political leaders and intellectuals to discuss the issue at an international summit to be held in Tikal, Guatemala, in eight months time, Siglo 21 reported.

A United Nations conference planned for 2014 will also take up the debate over drug policy reform.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Guatemalan president, who recently completed his first year in office, raised the idea of drug decriminalization within the first month of his presidency, and has since continued to advocate for change, with some support from figures like former Mexican President Felipe Calderon and current Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos.

Perez's analysis that much of the region's violent crime is linked to the drug trade is undoubtedly true, although it is unclear what the source of his 50 percent figure is. It is also true that countries such as Guatemala will struggle to control violent crime while the drug trade remains a lucrative source of income for competing criminal groups.

However, as InSight Crime has previously noted, the decriminalization of drugs could actually lead to a short-term increase in violent crime as criminal organizations would be forced to turn to other sources of criminal income and the competition for dwindling resources would increase.