Interview: Otto Perez Molina Will Insist on Debating Combating Drug Trafficking

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April 4, 2012
Siglo 21, Guatemala

English Translation

President Otto Perez Molina affirms that decriminalization is a compelling topic in the fight against drug trafficking. While he remembers his work as the director of Intelligence and his experience with various US antidrug agencies, Perez Molina signaled that, 20 years later, there has been a significant expansion in drug trafficking and for that reason he hopes to bring “the seed” of the debate to the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.

During an exclusive interview with Siglo.21, the president confirms that this is one of his concerns since Central America is the region that has supplied the deaths over the last 40 years.

Will you use your speech at the Summit of the Americas to propose new ways of combating drug trafficking? What position will Guatemala bring?
Actually the proposal that I will bring to the Summit of the Americas is to invite the presidents to a debate, to a dialogue on the way in which we have been combating drug trafficking for the past 40 years, which has demonstrated that it has failed. In the past 20 years the cartels in Guatemala have grown, as have corruption and deaths, and of course the crimes associated with drug trafficking.

If we can make comparisons of what we have done, in the past 20 years, the situation has not improved. Therefore what we must do is find new routes and different alternatives to combat drug trafficking.

It is possible to say two things: while consumption remains at the levels it is at, the supply will exist and, furthermore, it is a million dollar trade. There is the necessity of discussing alternatives and among those we cannot disqualify the regulation of production, transit, and consumption.

We have made proposals from continuing the fight against drug trafficking, for which resources are needed, to the US, the consumption country, compensating us for each seizure of drugs made in our countries.

Has the fight against drugs strengthened?
In these first 70 days we have been successful in the results but more than that, we are not saying that we do not want to be in this fight anymore, we want to continue it, but we want to improve it.

We seized 1,200 kilos of cocaine. We destroyed poppy worth the equivalent of US$1 billion and we burned marijuana worth US$50 million. In that way, we could have resources for a more efficient fight that would help the health and prevention programs, education, and all that has to do with drug trafficking.

The creation of a criminal court with regional jurisdiction which would allow the justice systems in our countries to unload, to breathe, is another proposal. We would have an entity that would be directly in charge of this and the other proposals are regulation and decriminalization. This I will bring to the Summit, it will be part of the bilateral meetings that I may have with some presidents and leaders of the region.

With which presidents are you planning to speak?
We are seeking these meetings, we already requested them and we are hoping that they will be confirmed this week. We are interested in the presidents of Colombia and Costa Rica, who are affected by this situation, of Ecuador, if it confirms its attendance, of Bolivia and Peru. It is always important because in one way or another, they are in involved in the production of these substances. In addition to the plenary sessions that will be held, we will use the free spaces to have these bilateral meetings and raise the positions of each of us so that the dialogue can continue.

After the boycott of the summit in Antigua Guatemala, do you think your proposal fizzled?
I would say no. The fight against drug trafficking is not only a regional issue, it’s a global issue, so the discussion is not exhausted or weakened here in Central America. The issue has gained importance in all of Latin America, in all of America, and at a global level.

Next week, I will receive a representative from England who sent us a letter of support, which was signed by 70 British parliamentarians, and he is coming to Guatemala to talk about the issue and to tell us how good it is that it has been put on the table.

Has the region been divided after the non-attendance of the three presidents of the region at the event in Antigua Guatemala?
There is a possibility that there are different positions on the issue but this goes beyond decriminalization. As Central Americans, we must talk about new alternative routes that would allow us to unify on the matter. That there are differences on the issue of decriminalization, we are fine with and not only in Central America, I think that this also divides the world, but we have to be able to find different, innovative, and more efficient options.

Have you thought of decriminalizing the consumption of marijuana such as in Costa Rica?
We cannot leave it out of the debate and I will give an example: now that we have destroyed the poppy in San Marcos, we almost took a step in the line of decriminalization because we did not make captures. And we did not do it because in order to make captures, we would have had to capture the entire village. It was found that poppy was being grown even in the school patios, in backyards, and in sites surrounding the villages.

These are steps that we are taking in favor of decriminalization because what we did not do was to punish the people who were growing. These are steps that we will necessarily have to take later.

View the interview in Spanish.

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