Guatemala's Perez lowers expectations for drug legalization

Regional disagreement means a decriminalization plan won't happen soon. But Guatemala's Otto Perez Molina maintains military response isn't the answer to drug trafficking.

Carlos Jasso/REUTERS
Guatemala's President Otto Perez (L) and his Panamanian counterpart Ricardo Martinelli chat during the 30th Expocomer International Trade Fair opening ceremony at the Atlapa Convention Center in Panama City March 21.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, The views expressed are the author's own.

Some analysts got excited when President Otto Perez Molina announced several weeks ago that the Central American presidents would meet in Guatemala to agree to a decriminalization proposal prior to the Summit of the Americas. It was never going to be that easy.
 Several of the region's leaders, most recently Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, have rejected Perez's proposal outright. Others, like Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, were initially receptive but have backed away after seeing the political and public opinion reaction at home.

Perez is now pushing for this Saturday's meeting to be about a coordinated strategy on drug policy and security issues, but does not believe that the region will agree on a decriminalization proposal given the differences. The expectations are lowered to something a bit less radical and a bit more realistic. Hopefully the region's presidents can deliver on that agenda and not disappoint.
 That said, Guatemala's president continues to push for other alternatives. He met with the business community in his country yesterday and asked them to think of alternatives because a pure military strategy doesn't bring the necessary results. Again, it's good to hear the former military leader acknowledge that the military isn't the solution.
 Perez still isn't even 100 days into his term in office. Once the "shock and awe" of his decriminalization suggestion wears off, it will be important to see whether he can sustain the dialogue for some policy changes over the coming years and accept realistic compromises that still move the ball forward.

– James Bosworth is a freelance writer and consultant who runs Bloggings by Boz.

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