Guatemalan VP to talk decriminalization of illicit drugs on regional tour

February 28, 2012

Guatemala’s vice president, Roxana Baldetti, will tour Central American countries this week to start discussions about the legalization of illicit drugs in the region – an idea floated by Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina Feb. 13, after meeting with the president of El Salvador.

Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, a region known as the Northern Triangle, have seen skyrocketing violence and criminality in recent years often due to fighting between criminal gangs involved in drug trafficking.

Baldetti’s trip will kick off the same week that U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano will visit the region to discuss increasing trade and travel between the United States and Central America. The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala has already rejected Pérez Molina’s idea.

Baldetti’s first stop will be in Panama on Wednesday. Panamanian Foreign Affairs Minister Roberto Henríquez also rejected Perez Molina’s suggestion to even discuss possible decriminalization of the use and possession of illicit drugs. The Guatemalan president suggested discussing decriminalization in the region in order to reduce strain on prison systems from overcrowding due, in part, to the incarceration of small-time drug consumers, as well as to strike an economic blow at powerful drug cartels.

After visiting Panama, Baldetti will fly to Costa Rica and hold similar discussions with President Laura Chinchilla.

Costa Rican Public Security Minister Mario Zamora had this to say when asked about the issue: “When a Costa Rican family pays ₡500,000 [$980] or ₡600,000 [$1,200] per month so that a family member can detox from drugs, it’s extremely expensive. Unfortunately, a family can’t do that. So, when talking about the legalization of illicit drugs, I would mention the options for detoxification and rehabilitation that break the horror of slavery [that exists] between the person and the drug, [and] that dominates him through addiction.”

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