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President of Guatemala calls Costa Rica’s Solís a ‘strategic partner’ to change drug debate

Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís hosted President Otto Pérez Molina of Guatemala Friday as his first official state visit since the Costa Rican leader took office May 8.

During the brief meeting between both leaders at the Casa Presidencial in Zapote, in southeastern San José, Pérez Molina called Solís a “strategic partner” in the search for alternatives to the region’s militarized, prohibitionist approach to the drug conflict.

“We feel that Costa Rica is a partner that brings an important vision in this battle to change the drug policy that is today based on prohibition,” Pérez Molina said during a press conference after the bilateral meeting.

Pérez Molina famously floated a proposal to legalize drugs in Guatemala in an attempt to curb the country’s epidemic drug-related violence. Drugs, gangs, firearms and weak governments have long been blamed for fueling the persistent levels of violence in the region, especially in the “Northern Triangle” region of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Guatemala had the fifth highest homicide rate in Latin America in 2012.

Solís reiterated his previous position that he does not support illicit drug legalization, but the Costa Rican leader expressed interest in further “decriminalizing” drug use in Costa Rica.

Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times
Lindsay Fendt/The Tico Times

“Legalization is a matter that we are not going to take up at this time, but it’s a debate that should take place recognizing the disasters caused by many policies to fight drugs,” Solís said.

Both leaders added that they want to “harmonize” laws governing the prosecution and punishment for organized crime in Central America.

The two presidents also spoke about their desire to further improve business relations between both countries. Costa Rican exports to Guatemala have grown 43 percent between 2003 and 2013, when they exceeded $450 million, according to figures from the Foreign Trade Ministry. Environmental protection, climate change and international disarmament were among the other topics touched on during the bilateral meeting.

Pérez Molina said that he respected a Swiss court’s decision to issue a life sentence against former police chief Erwin Sperisen Friday for the murder of seven people. The Guatemalan president said that it was lamentable that a former security minister was also facing trial in Spain, and several officials during the same 2004-2008 term were also facing trial in the Central American country.

Pérez Molina attended Solís’ inauguration on May 8 in San José. The Guatemalan president said that he would attend the meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States in San José that Costa Rica will host next January as president pro tempore of the pan-Latin American organization.

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