Guatemala says it’s weighing drug legalization

Daily News Article   —   Posted on February 14, 2012

(by Romina Ruiz-Goiriena, GUATEMALA CITY (AP) – Guatemala’s president said Monday that the U.S. inability to deal with its drug consumption problem is leaving Central America with no option but to consider legalizing drugs.

President Otto Perez Molina said he wants a consensus before going forward with the idea for the region, which has become a major transit point for U.S.-bound drugs from South America and has been overrun by organized crime and Mexican drug cartels.

“We’re bringing the issue up for debate. Today’s meeting is intended to strengthen our methods of fighting organized crime. But if drug consumption isn’t reduced, the problem will continue,” Perez Molina said after a security meeting with El Salvador President Mauricio Funes.

Funes said he too is willing to consider drug legalization.

Perez, an ex-general who took office last month promising a crackdown on organized crime, said earlier that his proposal would include legalized consumption and transportation of drugs in Central America.

Washington strongly opposes the idea.

The U.S. Embassy in Guatemala issued a statement Sunday saying that legalizing drugs wouldn’t stop transnational gangs that not only traffic drugs but also people and weapons. “The evidence shows our shared drug problem is a threat to public health and safety,” it said.

Anita Isaacs, a Guatemala expert and professor of political science at Haverford College, said that the sudden turnaround in Perez’s stance on drugs, could be “political gamesmanship” aimed at pushing the U.S. to move quicker on sending military help.

“This is kind of like a shot across the bow, saying if you don’t help us, this is what we can do,” she said from Guatemala.

Eduardo Stein, a former Guatemalan vice president and leader of Perez’s transition team, denied that was the case, saying Guatemala was overwhelmed by drug crime and saw itself as left with only one option.

“It’s evident what the situation is in these countries with small economies, we can’t fight the drug traffickers and cartels with superior resources,” Stein said. “The issue of drug trafficking and consumption is not on the North American political agenda. The issue of drugs in the U.S. is very marginalized while for Guatemala and the rest of Central America it’s very central.”

Perez took office last month and said one of his top priorities of ending a long-standing U.S. ban on military aid imposed over concerns about abuses during the Central American country’s 36-year civil war.

Close advisers say he supports meeting the conditions set by various U.S. congressional appropriations acts for restoring aid that was first eliminated in 1978 halfway through the civil war, including reforming a weak justice system.

Perez has already come out in support of a U.S.- and United Nations-backed international anti-corruption team whose prosecution effort has been criticized by Guatemala’s political elite.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. Visit for the original post.


1.  a) Name the presidents of Guatemala and El Salvador.
b)  What are the capitals of Guatemala and El Salvador?
c)  Where are Guatemala and El Salvador located?

2.  Why are Presidents Molina and Funes considering legalizing drugs in their countries?

3.  What does President Molina want to get before making a definite decision on the issue?

4.  How has the U.S. government responded to President Molina’s announcement?

5.  a) How does Guatemala expert Anita Isaacs view President Molina’s announcement?
b)  How did former Guatemalan vice president Eduardo Stein respond to Ms. Isaacs’ assertion?
c)  Which interpretation of President Molina’s announcement makes more sense to you?  Explain your answer.

6.  Read the information from CNN under “Background” below the questions. 
a) What do you think of President Molina’s decision to possibly legalize drugs?
b) How will his decision affect the U.S.?  How will it affect Guatemala and El Salvador?

Free Answers — Sign-up here to receive a daily email with answers.


from a 9/9/2011 CNN article:

  • Guatemalans tell pollsters and just about anyone else who asks they are plenty worried when it comes to crime and violence in the Central American country, labeled by some observers as one of most dangerous nations in the world.
  • The government reports that 6,500 people met violent deaths in 2009 and nearly 6,000 were slain last year in Guatemala — a nation slightly smaller than Tennessee in size, with a population of about 14 million.
  • Forty-one percent of those deaths were linked to drug trafficking, [former] President Alvaro Colom has said.
  • Top-level politicians, including most of the 10 candidates competing in the presidential election [in September 2011, which Otto Molina won], openly say that corruption pervades all levels of government and police. Colom maintains it exists “in all kinds of structures, not only in the government.”
  • In addition, the U.S. State Department reported this year that more than 96% of all crimes go unpunished.
  • And even when criminals are arrested, they continue their activities inside prison, said Fernando Carrera Castro, director of the Central American Institute for Fiscal Studies in Guatemala City.  “The prisons, in general, are centers of corruption,” Carrera said last year. “From inside prison, they direct kidnappings, extortion, drug trafficking.”
  • The result, said a June 2010 report by the watchdog International Crisis Group, is that Guatemala has become one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
  • “They are really teetering on the brink of becoming a failed state,” said Donald Planty, the U.S. ambassador to Guatemala from 1996-99.
  • Much of the violence is due to the increasing presence of Mexican drug traffickers, particularly the ruthless Zetas cartel.
  • Planty points out that the Zetas and other cartels control the northern third of the country, particularly Peten, a province that borders Mexico.