Central America fails to agree on new drug strategy

April 15, 2012

Cartagena, Colombia – Central American governments, meeting on the sidelines of the Americas summit Saturday, failed to agree on a Guatemalan proposal to mull alternatives to the failing US-led war on drugs, Honduras’ president said.

“There is no consensus yet. We must make a diagnosis, see what alternative we can find to what is being done,” said Honduran President Porfirio Lobo.

The presidents of Nicaragua and El Salvador, Daniel Ortega and Mauricio Funes, did not attend the meeting.

Lobo and fellow Presidents Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala and Ricardo Martinelli of Panama were trying to find common ground on a proposal by Pérez Molina to consider legalization of the consumption of some street drugs.

Pérez Molina told AFP Friday the US-led regional war against drug trafficking is being lost and requires a change in strategy, including decriminalizing drug consumption.

He suggested that the Americas summit consider opening a high-level dialogue both at the regional and global levels to seek new strategies.

Pérez said his idea remained alive and voiced hope it would be taken up at a private meeting of hemispheric leaders at the summit.

Lobo said Ortega did not travel to Cartagena for reasons he was not aware of.

Funes and Ortega oppose Perez’ proposal while Lobo, Martinelli and Chinchilla are open to the idea of looking into new strategies to combat drug trafficking which is creating havoc across the region.

Lobo said Central American foreign ministers would Saturday look into a proposal by Chinchilla to begin a “complete review” which could be incorporated in Central America’s regional security strategy, approved by the isthmus’ governments last year.

Also attending Saturday’s meeting in a Cartagena hotel were Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon.

Santos and Calderon pledged to raised the issue of the public safety nightmare transnational drug trafficking is causing in Central America before the Cartagena summit.

In March, the presidents of El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras boycotted a summit called by Perez in the Guatemalan city of Antigua to discuss a new drug strategy.

At that meeting, Perez said any new strategy to combat rampant crime from drug trafficking must end the “taboo” against legalizing street drugs.

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