The presidents of Costa Rica and Guatemala rejected Sunday a recommendation from a committee of former Latin American presidents to legalize “soft” drugs in an effort to help mitigate violence caused by organized crime in Central America.
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and her Guatemalan counterpart Álvaro Colom met over the weekend for a brief conference in San José, where they agreed that last week’s proposal by the Commission on Global Drug Policy to decriminalize substances like marijuana would not work.
“It seems very naive to say: legalize marijuana and the profits will fall,” Chinchilla said during a press conference after receiving the Guatemalan president in her office. Both president’s said that the United States and Europe need to take more responsibility in combating drug trafficking and provide more financial support to Central America.
Chinchilla also said that if “soft” drugs were legalized, the markets for harder substances such as cocaine and heroin would expand.
The Global Commission Drug Policy, which includes former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico, César Gaviria of Colombia and Brazil’s Fernando Henrique Cardoso, said during a meeting last Thursday that countries around the world need to explore the possibility of regular marijuana use and create treatment centers for hard drugs similar to the ones in Europe.
The committee added that the war on drugs, based on filling prisons with drug traffickers, has failed and that smarter alternatives are needed to address the problem.
“I think all presidents are tempted to legalize drugs so that once and for all we will be left in peace from all this violence, but do not think that is the right way,” Colom said of the committee’s recommendations, according to Costa Rica’s La Nación.
Colom also added that plans to combat drug trafficking like the Mérida Initiative and Plan Colombia have led to the displacement of criminal groups into Central America, and increased crime and violence in the area.
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Part of the meeting between Chinchilla and Colom’s was spent hashing out details for the Regional Security Conference, which takes place later this month in Guatemala. Colom said the plan includes four programs: attacking drug trafficking operations, violence prevention, social reintegration of drug users and institutional strengthening.
These issues will be worked into 14 specific programs and will include a proposal for funding from large drug-consuming countries like the U.S.
The Central American Integration System (SICA) also presented yesterday to Organization ofAmerican States (OAS) Secretary General José Miguel Insulza a new security strategy to counter drug trafficking, gangs and organized crime in the region.
Photo: Gobierno de Guatemala @ Flickr.