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Pot Legalization Concerns Latin American Leaders

Aired 11/13/12 on KPBS News.

The vote to legalize marijuana in Colorado and Washington State is making waves beyond U.S. borders as Latin American leaders call for a re-evaluation of drug control strategy.

On Monday, Latin American leaders upped their drumbeat for a re-evaluation of the U.S.-led war on drugs after two states voted to legalize recreational use of marijuana.

Mexican President Felipe Calderón and the leaders of four Central American nations called on the Organization of American States to study the potential impact on their countries of marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington state.

They also want the United Nations to hold a special session to evaluate current policies designed to combat international drug trafficking and production.

The call Monday by Calderón and the presidents of Belize, Costa Rica, Honduras and Guatemala is the most significant Latin American reaction yet to the Nov. 6 decisions by voters in Colorado and Washington. The Mexican administration, headed by Enrique Peña Nieto, that takes office from Calderón on Dec. 1 has already questioned how it will enforce a ban on growing and smuggling a drug legal under some state laws.

Mexico is the primary supplier of marijuana to the U.S., while Honduras, Guatemala and Belize are important stops on the northward passage of cocaine from South America. Costa Rica is seeing increasing use of its territory by drug traffickers.

Over the past year, Latin American leaders have made several calls to revisit what they see as a failed international drug control strategy, and some have suggested drugs be legalized throughout the hemisphere.

Mexican President Calderón’s battle against drug traffickers has cost 60 thousand or more lives in that country over the past six years.

Mexico’s incoming president, Peña Nieto, has promised to focus on preventing violence against ordinary citizens. He says he’s against drug legalization and will continue to combat the cartels.

However, Mexican leaders close to Peña Nieto have recently indicated that the votes in Colorado and Washington could force the country to change its drug strategy.

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