When Pérez Molina first announced his preference for a regulated drug market, the response was swift. "Within 24 hours, the [US] embassy here in Guatemala made a statement that they had rejected this position. However, some months later we saw at the Summit of the Americas that President Barack Obama said the US was willing to enter into a dialogue, even though they maintained their position of the rejection of regulation or decriminalisation.
"I believe that as he is entering his second term, [Obama] is going to be more open to this debate. In the end, this is the direction we all have to move in. There is going to be a change away from the paradigm of prohibitionism and the war against drugs, to a process that will take us towards regulation. I would expect a more flexible and open position from President Obama in his second term."
Pérez Molina's decision to take the debate to Davos signals a new front is opening up in the debate – namely to engage leaders of the business community. Many already are engaged. The Economist magazine has argued for the legalisation of drugs for more than 20 years. And there is a growing business lobby in the US that wants to shift the drugs market – and profits – from cartels to capitalists. Seven years ago Forbes, America's business bible – listed 500 members of the business community who favoured a regulated drugs market.I was, and remain, sympathetic to OPM's call for decriminalization of marijuana (less so, other drugs). I criticized how he went about starting a discussion in an Al Jazeera piece last year. Going to Davos at the beginning of Obama's second term, rather than in the midst of a US presidential campaign, seems a smarter way of going about attaining his goal.
I do wonder, though, whether instead of playing the innocent victim card, he would be better served by arguing that Guatemala is doing its best under the circumstances. He and his administration, as well as that of his predecessor, have added police, redeployed military units, worked with various regional and US anti-drug organizations, cooperated with CICIG, extradited drug suspects, supported a fearless Attorney General, tackled corruption and increased tax revenue. (I know, the Guatemalan government and organized groups' support for some of these measures have been lukewarm at best.)
While that has helped Guatemala reduce its murder rate from 46 to 34 per 100,000 in just three years, it is going to be much more difficult, if not impossible, to build upon these successes without serious changes to international and domestic drug policies.
(Any one else find it interesting that the successful Colombia had a murder rate of 31 per 100,000 in 2012 while the failing Guatemala checked in with 34 per 100,000?)