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Central American Presidents Hold Drug Legalization Summit [FEATURE]

In a historic meeting in Antigua, Guatemala, Saturday, three Central American heads of state attended a regional summit to discuss alternatives to the current drug prohibition regime, which has left their countries wracked by violence. No consensus was reached and three other regional leaders failed to attend, but for the first time, regional heads of state have met explicitly to discuss ending the war on drugs as we know it.

Otto Perez Molina on the campaign trail (photo courtesy Surizar, flickr.com/photos/puchica/)
"We have realized that the strategy in the fight against drug trafficking in the past 40 years has failed. We have to look for new alternatives," said the host, Guatemalan President Oscar Pérez Molina, a former army general who first called for such a meeting last month, shortly after taking office. "We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, debate it."

According to the Associated Press, Pérez Molina said that drug use, production, and sales should be legalized and regulated. He suggested that the region jointly regulate the drug trade, perhaps by establishing transit corridors through which regulated drug shipments could pass.

Also in attendance were Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla and Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli. Former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria, a harsh critic of US-style drug policies and a member of the Global Commission on Drug Policy was an invited guest and addressed the summit. Outside of Central America, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Mexican President Felipe Calderon have expressed support for the meeting.

Not attending were Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega. While Funes initially expressed support for the summit, he has since backed away. Lobo and Ortega have opposed the idea from the beginning. Funes and Ortega did send lower ranking members of the governments to the meeting, and the Salvadoran delegation called for a future meeting on the subject, saying it remained a topic of great interest and import in the region.

Some leaders are pushing for a discussion on alternatives to the drug war to be on the agenda at next month's Organization of American States (OAS) summit in Cartagena, Colombia, where President Santos has also been signaling an openness to debate on the issue. US President Barack Obama is expected to attend that summit, setting the stage for a particularly sticky diplomatic dance, given US opposition to changes in regional drug policies.

But US-backed drug policies have in recent years brought a wave of violence to the region, which is used as a springboard for Colombian cocaine headed north to the US and Canada, either direct or via Mexico. Mexican drug cartels have expanded their operations in Central America in the past few year, perhaps in response to the pressures they face at home.

High levels of poverty and the strong presence of criminal gangs, particularly in El Salvador and Honduras, have combined with the cartel presence to make the region one of the world's deadliest. El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates.

In its most recent annual report, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said violence linked to the drug wars has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in the region. It also noted that El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, along with Jamaica, have the world's highest murder rates.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" asked Chinchilla. "Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

Pérez Molina suggested that, barring legalization and a regulated drug trade, consumer countries should be taxed for the drugs seized in the region on their behalf.

"For every kilo of cocaine that is seized, we want to be compensated 50% by the consumer countries, he said, adding that the United States has a "responsibility" because of its high rates of drug use.

While Saturday's summit produced no common platform or manifesto, it is an important step in the fight for a more sensible, effective, and humane response to drug use and the regional drug trade. Leading US drug reformer Ethan Nadelmann, head of the Drug Policy Alliance lauded its occurrence as "significant" and "remarkable."

"The rapid evolution of this debate is nothing short of remarkable," he said. "It has progressed in just a few years from the advocacy of activists and intellectuals, to distinguished former presidents, and now to current presidents demanding that all options, including decriminalization and legalization, be seriously evaluated and debated," he noted.

"The significance of this meeting cannot be overestimated, notwithstanding the fact that no one expects a consensus to emerge from this meeting on alternative drug policies," Nadelmann continued. "Virtually no one would have predicted" that such a meeting could take place "with the support of presidents in Mexico and Colombia, to discuss drug policy options including decriminalization and legalization. What was once taboo is no longer. The discussion will continue next month at the Summit of the Americas -- in Cartagena, Colombia -- with President Barack Obama and virtually all other heads of state from the region in attendance. At this point it is no longer possible to put this genie back in the bottle."

But that doesn't mean the US won't try, Nadelmann said.

"Unfortunately the biggest obstacle right now to informed debate is the head-in-the-sand resistance within the Obama administration and Congress to any real discussion of alternative drug policy options" because of fears of attack by political foes. "One result is that US government officials will be increasingly handicapped in the international drug policy discussions at Cartagena and elsewhere, armed only with defenses of failed US policies but bereft of any in-depth analysis of the options that other governments are putting on the table."

Antigua
Guatemala
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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Scum-Suckers & Bottom-Dwellers

If you're a bottom-dwelling, scum-sucking prohibitionist who's career has entailed subjecting the rest of us to off-the-scale corruption and lawlessness, then maybe you should consider moving to somewhere that won't extradite you to a future national or international drug-war tribunal for your crimes against humanity. 

Prohibition has finally run its course; the lives and livelihoods of hundred's of millions of people worldwide have been destroyed or severely disrupted; many countries that were once shining beacons of liberty and prosperity have become toxic, repressive, smoldering heaps of hypocrisy, and a gross affront to fundamental human decency. It is now the duty of every last one of us to insure that the people who are responsible for this shameful situation are not simply left in peace to enjoy the wealth and status that their despicable actions have, until now, afforded them. Former and present Prohibitionists must not be allowed to remain untainted and untouched from the unconscionable acts that they have viciously committed on their fellow human beings. - They have provided us with neither safe communities nor safe streets; we will provide them with neither a safe haven to enjoy their ill-gotten gains nor the liberty to repeat such a similar atrocity! 

Very soon, we'll have hundreds of thousands of empty prison cells to fill, millions of aggrieved citizens, and our streets will be full of hungry lawyers looking for any possible work.

Prohibition has evolved local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, helping them control vast swaths of territory while gifting them with significant social and military resources. 

Those responsible for the shameful policy of prohibition shall not go unpunished! 

Oye men, Que Fuerte??

 

Fuerticimo!! I am surprise that all of these Latin American countries who have had extremely ultra conservative 

governments in the past have taken such a leap.  This have been in the making for several decades.

I am glad, certainly Latin American countries have suffer sufficiently this War on Drug mentality. Not

that US citizens haven't suffer any better.  It just surprises me that such move comes from our 

friends to the south. We have been real wacky in the United States. This news should impact the

Drug Treatment Industry which is none for violating patients rights, intimidation and coercive tactics.

Specially if you were sent to treatment by some kind of "Drug Court".  When treatment center have

patients by the balls they have had a history of abusing treatment protocols which does not meet

criteria of fidelity.  In fact the most dominant most cherished treatment approach is the one with the least

evidence of safety and effectiveness.   Although I became surprised when I learn that North Carolina Veterans

Administration and Miami VA Hospital have been taking more of a harm reduction approach than the every

one should abstain from alcohol or drugs.  The latter not being very successful and have a high rate of relapse.

Panetta Insurgency

Secretary of Defense , [mouthpiece] Panetta , claims that the U.S. military [ D.O.D. ] will receive additional funding for Caribbean drug interdiction activity this year . A unified front between Canada , U.S.A. and Mexico . Claims that the Cartels have become too big for just 1 country to handle . What created these Cartels ? Could it be " drug prohibition " ? Seems that Washington is doubling down . They have to know that this sham of a drug war is about to blow up in their face . The writing is on the wall . The same thing that happened with Libya , will happen to the drug war . The government will cling to it until it is ripped away from them . Then they will flip - flop and  confess that it was wrong all along . That Big Green Tsunami ...........

amen

amen

The places that legalize

The places that legalize drugs and offer a free market will have an economic boom over the markets that offer a prohibition police state.

Economics 101

The basic economics of any kind of prohibition are that it keeps the prohibited item (whether drugs, alcohol or dirty pictures) profitable while creating and perpetuating an entire economic strata for those who are "at war" with the "problem".  Where would Elliott Ness' paycheck have come from in the absence of Al Capone?  What would the DEA do for airplanes and speedboats without drug runners?

 

If drugs were suddenly and precipitously legalized, the infrastructure that currently supplies them would have to be run as efficient, nonviolent businesses but would stand some chance of survival and create legitimate jobs.  The law enforcement side would immediately be almost without justification and would either have to have a marginal presence in tax inspection, or would have to create another crisis to keep themselves in business as they so adequately do at every opportunity.



The real expense isn't the loss to communities from drug-related activities, it is in the huge tax expense that weighs down a struggling economy, the loss of economic vitality in many areas because of the violence among profiteering criminals (Ciudad Juarez, an otherwise vital manufacturing area, is a good example of this), and the ongoing corruption caused by the lobbying by contractors in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

This is all true

 How do we get the people representing us to even say the words ? The republican nominee's are so dumb it's hard to believe they aren't trying to throw this election. I mean singing the Daniel Boone song , Come on Ron Paul is the only one the has  a clue . and he won't get the nomination . They have got a bunch of rich fat cats pandering to the superstitious brain washed public and it would be funny if it wasn't ruining more and more lives every day  . This economy needs fixed and the smartest most humane thing we could do is to legalize drugs and stop forcing our ways the rest of the world.

No wonder they hate us !

Economics 101

The basic economics of any kind of prohibition are that it keeps the prohibited item (whether drugs, alcohol or dirty pictures) profitable while creating and perpetuating an entire economic strata for those who are "at war" with the "problem".  Where would Elliott Ness' paycheck have come from in the absence of Al Capone?  What would the DEA do for airplanes and speedboats without drug runners?

 

If drugs were suddenly and precipitously legalized, the infrastructure that currently supplies them would have to be run as efficient, nonviolent businesses but would stand some chance of survival and create legitimate jobs.  The law enforcement side would immediately be almost without justification and would either have to have a marginal presence in tax inspection, or would have to create another crisis to keep themselves in business as they so adequately do at every opportunity.



The real expense isn't the loss to communities from drug-related activities, it is in the huge tax expense that weighs down a struggling economy, the loss of economic vitality in many areas because of the violence among profiteering criminals (Ciudad Juarez, an otherwise vital manufacturing area, is a good example of this), and the ongoing corruption caused by the lobbying by contractors in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

I SOLD CALIFORNIA COPS SOULS TO THE MEXICAN CARTELS

CAN YOU PLEASE COME AND COLLECT .......................................USAULLY THERE IN UR COUNTRY IN UR BUISNESS NOT SO MUCH ANYMORE.......EVEN THE DEA (WORK OR DIE ) WENT TO AFRICA WHEN MEXICO WAS SITTING ON 14 TONS ...................SAN POLICE ACCIDENTLY UNCOVERED ADRUG LAB IN APARTMENTS OF ALL PLACES THREE WERE ARRESTED............ANYWAYS EVERYDAY I PRAY TO SATAN THAT YOU WILL COME AND GET THERE SOULS AND HEADS ......LOVE SUM CRAZY WHITE CHICK AKA CARLA

This is a great, well-written

This is a great, well-written article that explains exactly how I feel about the war on drugs.

 

But there's an error, or what appears to be an error - no where in the UNODC 2010 annual report could I find a statement on there being "alarming and unprecedented" violence anywhere. The word alarming isn't even in  the document according to the find function built into google chrome.

Though I certainly agree with the statement that the drug war caused, causes, and will continue to cause alarming amounts of violence.

 

It wouldnt be the first time that chrome has flubbed on me, but if it's not there, well, then it's not there. 

stay

you might like to know more and more states are passing pro cannabis laws. cannabis is here to stay. mary

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