Friday, March 23, 2012

Nicaragua's President Slams Drug Depenalization

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega recently stated during a public event that drug depenalization “just doesn’t make sense,” reports EFE.

“Depenalization is like saying, we’ve lost,” he said. “It would be legalizing crime, because promoting drug consumption, facilitating drug consumption, is a criminal act.”

This is in marked contrast to other presidents in the region, like Guatemala’s Otto Perez, who is urging that the topic be discussed during Saturday’s meeting between Central American leaders. Since February, Perez has publicly said that he wants to open a discussion the next time that the region’s presidents should meet. Perez initially seemed to find an ally in El Salvador President Mauricio Funes, who said that he was open to “promoting discussion” of Perez’s proposal. Funes then clarified that he was not in support of any dramatic changes to regional drug policy.

Similarly to its neighbors, Nicaragua serves as an important transit point for cocaine shipments heading from South American to the US. But in contrast to Guatemala and El Salvador, Nicaragua hasn’t suffered the same degree of drug-related violence. This could help explain why Ortega has chosen to openly oppose Perez’s proposal in such stark terms. Drug violence has not yet become a serious enough problem in Nicaragua to warrant discussion of more radical solutions, as Perez’s proposal seems to imply.

Nicaragua also enjoys particularly strong relations with the US when it comes to drug control. The State Department has described the Nicaraguan Navy as "one of Central America's most effective agencies in narcotics interdictions.” This could be another reason why Ortega seems to be adhering to the same position expressed by Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to the region in early Mexico. The US has allocated about $5.2 million in military and security aid to Nicaragua in its 2013 budget. Ortega likely kept this in mind when he expressed his views on drug policy.

News Briefs
  • The AP with a look at an exclusive document obtained via the Freedom of Information Act: the federal plan explaining what the US response would be if there were another significant oil spill in Caribbean waters. This has special relevance to the concerns of some US officials who say the beginning of deep sea drilling in Cuban waters could affect US shores if something were to go wrong.
  • After Colombian armed forces reportedly killed 33 FARC rebels in a camp in northeastern Arauca, the head of the air force now says the attack was organized thanks to intelligence gathered from FARC deserters.
  • Foreign Policy with a critique of Vice President Joe Biden’s recent visit to Latin America, and his assertion that the US would never seriously discuss altering its stance against drug legalization. The magazine notes, “Going into the U.S. presidential election season, Biden's message to Latin America was inevitable: The Obama administration isn't about to pick a fight with suburban swing voters more worried about the temptations facing their teenage children than the carnage in Mexico.”
  • The AP on what may happen to the indigenous families squatting near the football stadium meant to host the 2014 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Malia Obama’s recent trip to Mexico, where she reportedly worked at an orphanage in Oaxaca, pleased many of the country’s tourism officials, reports the New York Times.
  • Following the controversial exit of Colombian chief prosecutor Viviane Morales, the Supreme Court has selected lawyer Eduardo Montealegre as her replacement, whom Colombia Reports describesas a former ally of ex-President Alvaro Uribe.

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