by Zoë Pollock
Guatemalan president Otto Pérez Molina has initiated the discussion:
In a poor and stratified country further devastated by a decade-long war, Pérez Molina watched social structures and institutions crumble under the impact of the drug trade. The homicide rate raced upwards from an already high 24 per 100,000 in 1999 to a staggering 41 in 2010. (By comparison, the overall rate in Mexico, whose violence receives far more international press, was 18 last year; in the US it was about 5.)
The Summit of the Americas meets this weekend in Cartagena to discuss. Molina explained his position in a recent op-ed:
Guatemala will not fail to honour any of its international commitments to fighting drug trafficking. But nor are we willing to continue as dumb witnesses to a global self-deceit. We cannot eradicate global drug markets, but we can certainly regulate them as we have done with alcohol and tobacco markets. Drug abuse, alcoholism and tobacco should be treated as public health problems, not criminal justice issues. Our children and grandchildren demand from us a more effective drug policy, not a more ideological response.
(Photo: A man smokes marijuana during a march calling for the decriminalization of marijuana on March 23,2012 in Guatemala City, a day before that the presidents of Central America debate alternatives to combat drug trafficking. By Johan Ordonez/AFP/Getty Images.)