Baby steps towards drug legalization in Central America?
Central American leaders continued dialogue around alternatives to the drug war on March 23 at a summit in Antigua, Guatemala. Though the summit failed to produce a joint statement, President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala, the strongest voice in favor of a revised approach to the drug war, said the meeting was a success in that it challenged taboos against alternatives to the current failed policies. Consequently, several US officials - from Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano to Vice President Joe Biden - have reiterated plans to stay the course on the drug war during recent visits to El Salvador and other countries. Biden, during his visit to Honduras, promised Central American countries $100 million in funding under the Central American Regional Security Initiative, which first grew out of the Mérida Iniative (also known as Plan Mexico). Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs William Brownfield is currently in Honduras, where he has been signing additional security grants, and will travel tomorrow to Guatemala. The swift and complete rejection of any discussion of alternatives to the drug war by the US government may have had an impact on the summit in Guatemala. Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega and Porfirio Lobo of Honduras all canceled plans to attend at the last minute. But this round of the drug war debate is not over. Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos set decriminalization and legalization as an agenda item for next month's Summit of the Americas in Cartagena. Presidents Perez Molina and Santos are signalling what social movements have expressed for years – that current drug war strategies aren't working to reduce violence, drug trafficking or drug consumption and that a change is desperately needed.