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New voice in drug-war debate: businessmen who are feeling the pinch

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The AACCLA and other business leaders’ entrée into the drug debate represents a dramatic shift in priorities for commercial lobbying organizations that have spent the better part of two decades focusing almost exclusively on promoting free-trade agreements between Latin America and the United States. It reflects the evolving challenges to doing business in a globalized economy, and in a region plagued by violence.

The renewed debate over the legalization of drugs in the Americas is largely a result of Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina.  He met with Salvadorian president Mauricio Funes on Monday, and proposed decriminalizing the drug war in Central America as a way to undercut the viciously violent cartels and gangs that are moving narcotics through the region and leaving high body counts in their wake.

Mr. Funes initially backed Perez’s initiative in Guatemala City, but by the time he returned home that evening he was backpedaling.

“I am not in agreement with decriminalization of production, trafficking or consumption of drugs,” he said in an attempt to “avoid erroneous interpretations.”

Funes’s response is not entirely surprising. The region is still largely dependent on the US, an opponent of legalization, for training and investment in the region’s war on drugs, efforts to strengthen government institutions, and fight impunity.

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