Monday, March 26, 2012

No Game-Changers in Guatemala Drug Summit

Guatemalan President Otto Perez held a controversial regional summit in Antigua, Guatemala on Saturday to discuss drug legalization and other potential alternatives to the U.S.-led “war on drugs.”  While the meeting was attended by the leaders of Panama and Costa Rica, the presidents of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua were absent, reflecting their disapproval of Perez’s stance on drug legalization.

Perez, for his part, has attempted to frame the meeting as a success, pointedly telling local media that the even the countries who didn’t send heads of state to the summit sent delegates in their place.  The Guatemalan president offered several unique proposals at the summit, including the endorsement of a regional court designed to prosecute organized crime groups and the suggestion that the US compensate Central American countries for every kilo of illicit substance they seize.

As if these propositions were not radical enough, AP notes that the Guatemalan president also argued that legalization should be accompanied by government regulation of drug production and distribution. He proposed that Central American nations establish controlled corridors for drug shipments, complete with checkpoints which could be monitored by border officials.

However, the conference did not result in any kind of joint statement regarding drug policy, and it is unlikely that the Central American nations will be able to present a unified front on the issue at the upcoming Summit of the Americas.

News Briefs

·         Meanwhile, William Brownfield, Assistant Secretary of State for narcotics and law enforcement, is currently in Honduras to discuss drug policy with President Porfirio Lobo. Brownfield is also scheduled to stop in Guatemala on the 27th, where he will doubtlessly voice concerns about Perez’s views on drug decriminalization.

·         Pope Benedict XVI leaves Mexico for Cuba today, a country which has seen tremendous changes in religious in the 14 years since the last papal visit, as noted in the LA Times. Despite this, the New York Times reports that Pentecostal and evangelical churches are growing faster than the Catholic church in the country. To combat this, the pope is likely hoping that the Cuba visit will be as successful as his time in Mexico, where he charmed crowds by donning a sombrero and calling for an embrace of Catholic values in the face of drug violence.

·         The Wall Street Journal profiles the different strategies of two Catholic priests in Cuba as they press for more reforms on the island.

·         Representatives from El Salvador's two largest street gangs (Mara Salvatrucha and Barrio 18) have confirmed reports that they have reached a truce in an effort to lower the country's homicide rate, which they allegedly negotiated with the help of the Church. Former congressman Raul Mijango has also claimed to have acted as a mediator in the talks, and presented a joint statement he claims was written by gang representatives to the Salvadoran press last Thursday. More from InSight Crime.

·         Colombia’s largest rebel army, the FARC, has announced they will push back the scheduled release date of its last ten hostages by two days, from March 3st1 to April 2nd. The government has accepted the change.

·         Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has declassified a highly critical internal analysis of the military’s mistakes during the 1982 Falklands War. It documents extremely poor planning on the part of the military junta governing the country at the time, which apparently thought that Britain would respond to the Argentine invasion of the islands diplomatically.

·         Mercopress with a look at souring US-Argentina relations, with Congress considering ending special trade benefits with the Argentines.

·         A Mexican human rights NGO has filed an official complaint with the National Human Rights Commission, alleging that the remains of some 10,000 victims of the country’s drug war have still not been identified.

·         Peruvian President Ollanta Humala denies reports that relations between his country and the UK have chilled after Peru canceled a visit by a British navy frigate.

·         AP reports that a magnitude 7.2 earthquake struck central Chile last night. While several people were left without power, there were no reports of casualties.

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