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26/03/2012 | Drug War - Guatemala leader calls for new drug war strategy

A.F.P.

ANTIGUA, Guatemala - Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina told a regional summit Saturday that any new strategy to combat rampant crime from drug trafficking must end the "taboo" against decriminalization.

 

"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 Perez, inaugurating the summit attended by three of the six presidents in Central America.

"We must end the myths, the taboos, and tell people you have to discuss it, discuss it, debate it," said Perez, who hosted Presidents Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica and Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, and delegates from El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Decriminalization, the Guatemalan leader said, "is not the only way, but should be on the table of debate and discussion."

Perez Molina said his country is caught in a cycle of violence as a transit point between the drug-producing nations in South America and the main consuming country, the United States.

"We do not produce (drugs) and consumption is very low, but ... our country is (a transit point) for tons of cocaine," he said.

Although some experts have said decriminalization would end the financial incentives for criminals and drug trafficking, the idea has been firmly rejected by political leaders in the United States, Britain and elsewhere.

Another option, the president said, would be for the consuming countries to contribute to the security forces and to improve education and health in the affected regions.

Saturday's meeting was convened by Perez to discuss new ways to combat drug trafficking, which is at the root of a war against criminal gangs that has left tens of thousands dead in the region.

Some hope to bring the issue of decriminalization of illicit drugs to the Summit of the Americas next month in Cartagena, Colombia.

Saturday's gathering in the former colonial capital Antigua included experts such as former Colombian president Cesar Gaviria, a fierce critic of US drug policy and who is in favor of decriminalization of many drugs.

But the Guatemalan effort appeared to be dealt a setback with three of the region's leaders absent: Presidents Mauricio Funes of El Salvador, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua and Porfirio Lobo of Honduras.

Chinchilla said the problem of drug violence should be brought to the UN Security Council so that sanctions can be imposed on drug traffickers and those dealing with them.

"How much have we paid here in Central America in deaths, kidnappings, extortion?" she said.

"Central America has to ask whether it is time that we raise this issue at the Security Council of United Nations."

Drug-related violence has reached "alarming and unprecedented" levels in Central America as Mexican drug cartels have shifted their operations, according to a recent UN report.

El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, together with Jamaica, currently have the world's highest homicide rates, the report said.

ABS-CBN (Filipinas)

 


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