GUATEMALA CITY – On the first day of a tour of Central America and the Dominican Republic, the president-elect of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, said Tuesday his administration would not promote initiatives to decriminalize illicit drugs, and that the topic should be subject to public debate.
“I don’t think [legalization] is possible in coming years, certainly not during my administration, because it requires a deepening of awareness both substantively and regarding procedures,” Solís said, after meeting with Guatemalan President Otto Pérez Molina in the Guatemalan capital.
“During my administration, we want to focus more on publicly discussing the issue, something that doesn’t necessarily imply the possibility of legalization,” Solís said.
Central America is battling growing violence fueled by drug trafficking, and in 2012, Guatemala’s Pérez Molina – whose country is one of the most affected by drug trafficking in the region – proposed legalization as a means to confront organized crime and violence.
While the Obama administration in the U.S. remains strongly opposed to legalization efforts in Latin America – despite a growing movement in the United States to legalize marijuana – several Latina American countries including Costa Rica have shown a willingness to debate the issue.
And Uruguay went all in on pot legalization last December when it became the first country to not only legalize marijuana, but also to regulate and control its sale. The South American country went further in its efforts to undercut organized crime by offering legal weed at cut-rate prices in an attempt to wipe out the black market for marijuana.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Pérez Molina promised to be the first president to visit Costa Rica after Solís takes office in early May.
Solís, who turns 56 on Friday, became Costa Rica’s 47th president on April 6 during an historic runoff in which he captured a staggering 78 percent of the vote against ruling-party rival Johnny Araya, the longtime former mayor of San José.
Solís personally invited Pérez Molina to his presidential inauguration in the Costa Rican capital on May 8, as he plans to do with other regional leaders this week – except Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega, who Solís snubbed over ongoing border disputes. Ortega, however, is invited, but only via a written invitation sent through the Nicaraguan Embassy in San José.
Solís is no stranger to diplomacy in Guatemala. Almost three decades ago, he was part of an official Costa Rican delegation that negotiated peace accords to bring an end to a bloody era of civil war in Central America, earning then-President Óscar Arias a Nobel Prize for peace.
Solís also will meet with the leaders of El Salvador, Honduras, the Dominican Republic and Panama.