Guatemalan president: Pot legalization in Uruguay is ‘an important step’

BUENAVENTURA, Panama – Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina said this Saturday in Panama that Uruguay’s decision to legalize marijuana is “an important step” that could serve as a “pilot plan” to fight drug trafficking in Latin America.

“I think the step Uruguay took is an important one and is a valuable experience,” Pérez Molina said during a summit of the Central American Integration System, held this weekend in Panama.

“It could serve as a pilot plan for all of Latin America, and we hope it will be an experience that eventually all countries can adopt,” he added.

This week, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the production and sale of marijuana, an initiative considered by the government to be an experiment that seeks to confront drug trafficking in a region where repressive anti-drug policies have failed and led to widespread violence by powerful mafias.

In 2012, Pérez Molina presented to the United Nations General Assembly a plan to legalize illicit drugs, alleging that the U.S. strategy to confront drug cartels has failed.

The Guatemalan president also has defended the “visionary” U.S. states of Colorado and Washington, which recently legalized marijuana consumption.

“Regulating [illicit] drugs would eliminate the power that cartels have today, and would provide better state control over their sale and distribution, Pérez Molina, a former top military official, said.

Pérez Molina said he has held several conversations with his Uruguayan counterpart, José Mujica, about the South American country’s new policy.

“I think the policy proposal is advancing, and as we always have said, it’s going to take time,” Pérez Molina said.

The Guatemalan president said he would present a similar proposal during an upcoming forum in Davos, Switzerland.