Guatemala Pushes Drug Legalization Debate, Amid Cautious Responses from Region

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Guatemala is pressing on with a campaign to open a serious dialogue over drug legalization in Central America, but the likelihood of substantial reform to drug laws in the region remains slim.

Guatemalan President Otto Perez made waves when he announced recently that he would attempt to garner support for drug legalization at an upcoming summit of Central American leaders in March, and he appears to be pushing ahead with the effort. On Monday his vice president, Roxana Baldetti (image, above), will begin a tour of the region to explain her government’s position on the topic.

Though Baldetti’s itinerary has not yet been released, Perez has said that she will meet with several Central American governments to discuss “alternative methods of combatting counternarcotics and organized crime.”

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Despite Perez’s best efforts to open a debate on drug policy, it is unlikely that Central American nations will significantly change their drug laws in the near future.

El Salvador‘s lawmakers demonstrated the obstacles standing in the way of reform this week. As El Faro reports, members of the country’s two main parties (the FMLN and ARENA) declared themselves to be opposed to drug decriminalization, following President Mauricio Funes’ statement that he was not opposed to dialogue on the issue.

The heads of state of both Costa Rica and Honduras have also rejected the notion that the legalization of drugs could solve Central America’s citizen security problems. While Costa Rica’s Laura Chinchilla said she remained open to discussing the proposal, Honduran President Lobo rejected it outright, saying it would turn the region into a “paradise” for drug traffickers.

Yesterday Mexico‘s government also joined in the debate, with Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa announcing that the Caderon administration would be willing to join in an international discussion over drug legalization. Like Chinchilla, however, Espinosa cautioned that legalization would not defeat organized crime.

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