Guatemala Vice President will seek Support for drug legalization in Central America

Guatemala Vice President will seek Support to discuss drug legalization in Central America

Starting next week the Vice-President, Roxana Baldetti, will begin a tour of Central America to present the proposal on drug “depenalization” (generally translated as legalization but probably decriminalization?) made by the Government of Guatemala and to promote a dialogue in the region. This will be in addition to the talks that President Otto Pérez Molina will have with his homologues in Mexico and Colombia.

The Vice-president will be accompanied by Fernando Carrera, secretary of economic planning and vice-minister of external relations, to define who will visit the countries of the Isthmus, starting on Monday, to promote a discussion about drug legalization, a topic that divide Latin America. Panama will be the first country visited, according to the Vice-President.

Pérez Molina hopes that the bilateral meetings will allow wide agreement on the proposal, that will be then jointly presented by the Central American nations to the Summit of the Americas, scheduled on April 14 and 15 in Cartagena, Colombia.

The joint proposal  will have for main objective to promote the dialogue and debate of all heads of state of the Americas and of the world, to look for alternatives to stop the conflict between rival narco-trafficking groups and the deaths it generates.

Intense lobbying

In addition, the Foreign Affairs Minister, Harold Caballeros, discussed the proposal with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during his visit to Washington, during which he reaffirmed Guatemala’s commitment to the fight against narco-trafficking.

Pérez Molina informed that Clinton recognized the importance of the topic, and assured that it will be considered by the US authorities to elaborate a declaration, however the US embassy in Guatemala already expressed its opposition to the initiative.

The President said that he had a phone conversation with President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, who wishes to study the proposal and promised to nominate someone to meet with the Guatemalan authorities and study the guidelines in details.

In the next few days, the president will seek the support of Presidents Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia and Felipe Calderón of México for the submission of a strengthened proposal.

Conflicting views

US ambassador Arnold Chacón reiterated that his country does not share the proposal, but he will remain pending dialogs by the authorities without getting involved.

The tour could attract support, consensus and reservations, affirmed David Martínez Amador, Professor specialist in Organized Crime, where the members of the Northern Triangle, El Salvador and Honduras, could be responsible for providing the approval to the proposal.

There could be some reserve in Costa Rica due to its close relationship to the United States, as well as Nicaragua[1] where the crime situation doesn’t seem to indicate a relation with narco-trafficking.  One of the next steps, according to Amador, would be a clear and timely presentation of the proposal, to determine what kind of drugs should be legalized.


[1] The government of President Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua is widely suspected to work directly with the drug cartels, which is probably why narco-violence is inexistent in Nicaragua. Molina has all reason to suspect that he will oppose drug legalization.

A thinly-veiled call for drug policy reform at the XIII Tuxtla System for Dialogue

Last December 6th, 2011, the countries  from the Tuxtla System for Dialogue met in Merida, Mexico, to discuss, among others, the security situation in the region, focusing on organized crime and narco-trafficking.

The Summit was attended by the presidents of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom; Honduras, Porfirio Lobo; Mexico, Felipe Calderón; Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega; Panama, Ricardo Martinelli; Dominican Republic, Leonel Fernández; and First Vice-President of Costa Rica, Alfio Piva and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Belize, Wilfred Elrington; Colombia, María Ángela Holguín; and El Salvador, Hugo Martínez. On this occasion, President of Chile Sebastián Piñera also attended in his capacity as Special Guest.

They published a one-page joint declaration  that expresses the growing frustration with the global war on drugs within the Central American region, and his the clearest regional call for  drug policy reform to date. (Declaracion conjunta sobre crimen-organizado y narcotrafico) – 

Here, is the key paragraph of the declaration:

“Senalaron que Lo deseable sería una sensible reducción de la demanda de drogas ilegales. Sin embargo, si ello no es posible, como lo demuestra la experiencia reciente, las autoridades de los países consumidores deben entonces explorar todas las alternativas posibles para eliminar las ganancias exorbitantes de los criminales incluyendo opciones regulatorias o de mercado orientadas a ese propósito. Así se evitaría que el trasiego de sustancias siga provocando altos niveles de crimen y violencia en naciones latinoamericanas y caribeñas”.

or in plain English:

“They indicated that What would be desirable, would be a significant reduction in the demand for illegal drugs. Nevertheless, if that is not possible, as recent experience demonstrates, the authorities of the consuming countries ought then to explore the possible alternatives to eliminate the exorbitant profits of the criminals, including regulatory or market oriented options to this end. Thus, the transit of substances that continue provoking high levels of crime and violence in Latin American and Caribbean nations will be avoided.”

The declaration uses almost verbatim previous declarations made by President Calderon and clearly bear his mark. It was largely ignored by the US medias, even though it represents a dramatic shift in attitude within the Central American and Caribbean region. Let’s hope that this new attitude will translate into a deliberate shift toward drug policy reform!

10 goals for controlled re-legalization

10 goals for controlled re-legalization

As the drug policy reform movement gains traction around the world, it is critical that it reaches beyond its activist core and constructively address the legitimate concerns of the general public, as without its support, we are doomed to failure. The burden of proof is clearly on the drug-reformists side, as they need to overcome 100 years of official propaganda, moral panicking, fear mongering and brain washing. It is critical to be well informed, realistic and pragmatic, with clear objectives. This is one of the purposes of “World War-D”.

Therefore, I propose the following hierarchy of goals for controlled re-legalization:

  1. To greatly reduce, dismantle and if possible eliminate the illegal drug market. To reduce the presence and influence of organized crime. To reduce drug-related crime. The dismantling and elimination of the illegal drug market requires the dismantling of the prohibition system that created it in the first place.
  2. To reduce harm to existing users through safe and controlled legal access. To reduce the number of abusers/addicts; to reduce drug related deaths; to improve the health of remaining users/addicts; to improve their social integration.
  3. To reduce or eliminate the financial burden placed on taxpayers by the consequences of drug use and drug prohibition. To achieve taxpayer neutrality.
  4. To reduce initiation, especially among minors. Long-term improvements are predicated on substantially curbing initiation.
  5. To control and greatly minimize access to minors; eliminating access to minors altogether might be a laudable goal, but it is about as realistic as absolute sexual abstinence to reduce teen pregnancy.
  6. To reduce harm caused by problematic users to their proximate environment and to society at large.
  7. To prevent as much as possible moderate, responsible users from becoming problem users.
  8. To place reasonable access restrictions to the most damaging substances for new users and casual users.
  9. To acknowledge the legitimacy of the non-medical use of psychoactive substances and the potential danger of their abuse.
  10. To respect the civil liberties and lifestyle choices of informed, consenting adults as long as these choices do not intentionally endanger others. To end discrimination against users of psychoactive substances.

I believe these are realistic and attainable goals provided that the right policies are put in place. Unlike the fairly rigid prohibitionist model, there should be a lot of flexibility in the application of drug reform to allow for experimentation and adaptation to local realities. It should be obvious by now that those who wish to use psychoactive substances will go to great lengths to satisfy their desire, and it is far more advantageous for society to satisfy their need than to let the black market take care of it. The guiding concern shouldn’t be whether it is moral or immoral to provide psychoactive substances to those consenting adults who which to use them, but what is the least harmful way to do it.

Rant of the day

I personally don’t care one way or another about pot. That’s not my point anyway with “World War-D”. My point is that people will use drugs, whether we like it or not, so leaving organized crime to manage drugs is pretty stupid. Of course, organized governments often behave like organized crime, but that’s another story.

I also think that the medical MJ crap is mostly a scheme. Yes, it benefit a handful of people, but let’s face it, most people using medical MJ do so to get high. I actually don’t see what is wrong with that anyway. Alcohol has some medicinal value, but the vast majority of people drink alcohol for the buzz, whether it is to relax and feel good, or to get totally zonked out.

Not to mention that it seems totally silly to ban an entire industry, from ropes to clothes to shampoo and body lotion, not to mention food and construction materials, just to prevent (without any success whatsoever) pot heads from getting high.