03 Apr 2012

President calls for narcotics legalisation

President Otto Perez Molina is risking the wrath of Washington by promoting the legalisation of drugs in Guatemala in his current re-election campaign.

Guatemala: legal high

American broadcaster CNN picked up on what it described as a ‘surprise announcement’ made during a routine campaign trail speech. Mr Molina’s policy statement is surprising because it represents a dramatic U-turn from his previous position of being a hard-line law and order politician.

Clever domestic game

CNN maintains the president could be playing a clever game that will appeal to domestic voters. It quotes him as saying: ‘What I have done is put the issue back on the table. I think it is important for us to have other alternatives ... We have to talk about decriminalisation of the production, the transit and, of course, the consumption.’ However, the stance is likely to put him at odds with the Washington establishment, which through successive administrations has staunchly maintained its position that all narcotics should be illegal.

Policy shift

Indeed, the policy shift even caught regional commentators off guard. CNN quoted Martin Rodriguez Pellecer, the director of Guatemala-based Plaza Publica, an investigative journalism and analysis website: ‘Everyone was expecting him to copy the strategy of [Mexican president] Felipe Calderon and involve the military in fighting cartels. Then he made this surprise announcement... without even his foreign minister knowing about it.’

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