PANAMA CITY, April 2 Guatemala could present a
plan to legalize production of marijuana and opium poppies
towards the end of 2014 as it seeks ways to curb the power of
organized crime, President Otto Perez said on Wednesday.
Perez, a conservative retired general who broke ranks with
the United States by proposing drug legalization shortly after
he took office at the start of 2012, has yet to put forward a
concrete plan on how it could be done.
Instead, a government commission has been studying the
proposal, and Perez told Reuters in an interview that he
expected the recommendations to be published around October and
that measures could be presented at the end of the year.
Those measures could include an initiative for Congress to
legalize drugs, in particular marijuana, he said.
"The other thing we're exploring ... is the legalization of
the poppy plantations on the border with Mexico, so they're
controlled and sold for medicinal ends," Perez said. "These two
things could be steps taken on a legal basis."
Opium poppies are used to make opium, heroin and
pharmaceutical drugs such as morphine and codeine.
Guatemala, a major coffee producer which is one of the most
violent countries in the Americas, has suffered from incursions
by violent Mexican drug cartels in recent years.
The drug gangs have been under sustained pressure at home
since the Mexican government launched a military-led offensive
on organized crime at the end of 2006. More than 85,000 people
have since died in Mexico in cartel-related violence.
Mexico, which made possession of tiny amounts of narcotics
legal in 2009, has so far been hesitant to go further on
liberalizing drug laws, though pressure is growing.
The Party of the Democratic Revolution, a leftist group that
runs the local government of Mexico City, is pushing a number of
initiatives to decriminalize marijuana.
(Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by Eric Walsh)