How Latin America May Lead the World in Decriminalizing Drug Use
Even as Latin American countries are at the forefront of the war against narcotraffickers, they are also pushing alternative strategies — including the legalization of drugs, particularly marijuana
Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina has never been soft on crime. The 30-year military veteran rose to power last year on the wings of his law-and-order platform, crystallized in his campaign slogan: “Iron fist, head and heart.” And he recently approved the creation of two military bases, outfitted with 2,500 soldiers, to guard against the growing presence of drug cartels that have turned Guatemala into a trafficking corridor and fueled some of the world’s highest murder rates.
Since February, though, Pérez has coupled his tough talk on crime with calls for a drastic change in crime-fighting tactics centered on the legalization and decriminalization of drugs. Legalization, he insists, should supplement military buildup to stem drug-related violence in Latin America. In September, Pérez proposed drug legalization at the U.N. General Assembly. The move angered Washington but was championed by the Presidents of Mexico and Colombia, who appealed to the General Assembly with a similar message. And last week, Pérez repeated calls for a shift in the global war on drugs during a U.N.-sponsored gathering of regional leaders in Antigua, Guatemala. “The current plan,” he told the press, “is not going to give us results.”