Vice President Joe Biden recently met with a number of leaders of Central American countries in the hopes of defeating drug traffickers. The talks occurred after Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina made public his country’s consideration of legalizing drugs. Molina said in a statement a few weeks ago that because of the United States’ high demand for illegal drugs, his country is also suffering and they may have no choice but to allow the transport and sale of drugs.
Divided over decriminalization
The Americas are divided on the issue of legalization. Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia have all said that they are open to discussions about legalization, but Panama’s leaders say they do not agree with decriminalization and will not consider it at this point. The United States has also made it clear that it is not going to back down and legalize drugs.
“In every country that has experimented with the legalization or decriminalization of drug consumption, the part of the population that consumes illegal substances grows,” Biden said. (1) “It impacts on a country’s productivity. It impacts on the health costs of that country. It impacts on mortality rates. It’s worth discussing. But there is no possibility that the Obama-Biden administration will change its policy on legalization.” (2) Dan Restrepo, the top Latin America official in the White House, agrees. “The Obama administration has been quite clear in our opposition to decriminalization or legalization of illicit drugs,” he said. (3)
Biden opens the discussion
Biden, however, said that this doesn’t mean the topic shouldn’t be addressed and discussed. The United States government has vowed to help Central and South American countries in their efforts to stem drug trafficking and corruption. The talks this past month were beneficial to developing a working plan to combat drug trafficking. “What I’ve done is put the topic back on the table. I think it is important for us to have other alternatives and to talk about decriminalization. … We need to talk about decriminalization of the production, the transportation and, of course, consumption,” Molina said. (1) Biden agreed and said that he was “in favor of an open and genuine debate about the decriminalization of drugs as long as the procedures and possible results are analyzed,” according to a Honduran government statement. (1) “It warrants a discussion. It’s totally legitimate for this to be raised,” Biden said. (2)
The U.S. does want to have a part in ending the war on drugs, and is willing to help other countries. These talks are a first step in developing an effective plan.