Monday, February 13, 2012

US Embassy Responds to Decriminalization of Drugs in Guatemala

The US Embassy in Guatemala responded to President Otto Perez Molina's suggestion that the Central American nations should consider decriminalizing drugs so as to reduce violence in the region with what I consider a polite, but emphatic no.

I can't say that I agree with everything that is said (especially the we need to keep drugs illegal so that drug traffickers don't become more involved in other illegal activities and potentially make things worse argument) but it strikes the right tone.

Here's the translation (I hope they don't mind):
"The idea of ​​decriminalizing drug use has been debated in various jurisdictions, including Colombia, Mexico, California and several forums Central America.
The Government of the United States continues to oppose these measures because the evidence shows that our drug problem shared is a major threat to public health and safety. In the United States, drugs are present in about half of those who commit crimes ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. Scientific research shows, however, that drug addiction is a disease that can be prevented and treated successfully.
In the past fiscal year (2011), the United States government spent over 10 billion dollars to support programs to reduce demand for drugs, compared with 2.4 billion dollars to the international programs of control the drug. Although still very high, the rate of overall drug use in the United States has declined by about one third over the past three decades. More recently, the use of cocaine has dropped by 43 percent and use of methamphetamine in the United States has been halved.
As these programs have shown that we can succeed in reducing demand for illegal drugs, the case of Colombia shows that a strong multilateral commitment to combat drug trafficking and transnational criminal activity can succeed. Violent deaths in Colombia halved between 2002 and 2011. The Colombian government regained control both its territory, as well the confidence of its citizens. With a similar political will, other governments may have the same success.
If illegal drugs were decriminalized tomorrow in Central America, transnational criminal organizations and gangs would continue engaging in illegal activities, including human trafficking and illegal arms trafficking, extortion and kidnapping, bank robbery, theft intellectual property and money laundering. Corruption and murder in Central America are certainly exacerbated by the transit of illegal drugs, but with the increase in the cultivation and consumption of decriminalized drugs, crime in Central America could well increase as the drug cartels change their approach to these other forms of illegal activities.
Respect for the law and strong institutions of the justice sector are essential to combat all types of crime. The United States Government's assistance to Central American governments to strengthen the rule of law through capacity building for law enforcement and justice institutions, and supporting community policing, gang prevention and economic and social alternatives for youth and communities affected by crime, as well as providing assistance to the Central American governments on improving border security and the dismantling of the infrastructure, roads and criminal networks.
The solutions to the difficult situation facing Guatemala today include the fight against poverty and malnutrition, strengthening institutions and respect for the rule of law and the restoration of an effective state presence in all areas of the country. The assistance of the Government of the United States to Guatemala (estimated at 220 million dollars in last fiscal year) is focused exactly on these objectives.
The United States Government is committed to working with Guatemala and with all our partners in Central America so that together we can succeed and end the cycle of fear and violence which has plagued the region for too long."


  1. In my opinion, as said in the Embassy's statement, the reasoning for opposing drug legalization is for the safety and health of the nation. If drugs were legalized, I do not believe there would be less drug related crimes. Yes, an attempt is made to eliminate the black market, but with regulations that would be set in place by the U.S. and other involved nations, success would be unlikely. The safer plan, as shown by its gradual success, is to continue to make an effort in reducing drug demand.

  2. These are outdated attitudes and the so called Science that the US uses to back up it's policies has been discredited.
    Due to the decriminalization in California, and even the highly successful heroine programs in the UK, the US is advising them do drop it in favor of punitive prison sentences.
    You can have prisons or you can have decriminalization and treatment programs. The US doesn't have them, except for 12 step AA based on religion.
    Its a continuation of just say no, and echos christian abstinence programs instead of knowledge and birth/disease control.

    What goes unspoken is the amount of money that goes to politicians to keep drugs illegal, from privatized prison industries- who are also making money from cheap prison labor, donations and lobbying from the cops and prison guards, lobbying money from pharmaceutical industry, the beer and liquor industry, and even the wood and paper industry. Hemp would compete for profits. Even the drug cartels want the drugs to remain illegal.The US is still regulating the black market, providing weapons to the Mexican cartels through the Gun Walker program, and the banks launder the cash with impunity.
    What is to be done? The old methods, the ones you are agreeing with have failed for years.
    Are you aware that it was the CIA that introduced crack cocaine to the black neighborhoods in LA, and also distributed LSD to the hippies in the 60's?

    This reminds me of a sign on Ron Paul's desk. It says "Don't Steal! The Government doesn't like competition."

    I'd like to make clear that I am in my late 40's and haven't used drugs for more that a decade.