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.
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