Facing Influx of Cartels, New Guatemalan President Dumps His ‘Iron Fist’ Drug Strategy Position to Advocate for Reform Instead

Newly installed Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina has called for talks about a regional drug strategy, including drug decriminalization. Perez Molina made the remarks in an interview with the Mexican TV network Televisa, Miami’s El Nuevo Herald reported.

"I believe that the decriminalization of drugs would have to be a strategy in which all the region agreed," said the retired army general who took office January 14. "We’re talking here from the south, where it is produced, through all the countries, like Guatemala, through which it passes, to Mexico and the United States. I think that if this is not the path, then when have to find another, but it has to be a regional strategy in which we are all disposed to make the same effort."

While praising Mexican President Felipe Calderon for making "a very great effort" in his fight against drug traffickers, Perez Molina complained that that effort "has not been matched by the United States, which is its neighbor and largest [drug]market."

Perez Molina’s remarks on decriminalization come as something of a surprise. He said nothing like that during his election campaign, in which he vowed to use "an iron fist" against encroaching Mexican cartels. In one of his first acts in office, he emulated Calderon by calling out the armed forces to fight the cartels.

Both the Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel are reported to be operating in Guatemala, which borders Mexico to the north. The drug gangs are blamed for an increasing number of killings in the Central American country, the bloodiest being the May 2011 massacre of 27 farm workers whose boss had been targeted by the Zetas.

– Article originally from AlterNet.