Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and his Mexican counterpart Felipe Calderon agree at the Tuxtla Summit in Cartagena to strengthen cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking, reports news agency EFE.
The two leaders “agreed to strengthen regional and bilateral cooperation on security, fighting drug trafficking and organized crime, to create a united front against the transnational phenomenon,” according to a statement from the Mexican presidency.
The Tuxtla Mechanism for Dialogue and Agreement summit focuses on a variety of issues affecting Mexico, Central America, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic.
It is the fourth time that President Calderon has met with Juan Manuel Santos since the latter’s inauguration as Colombian president in August, and the two heads of state reiterated their commitment to promoting integration processes in Latin America.
The issue of drugs remains top of the agenda, however, with the looming vote on legalizing marijuana in California proving a contentious issue for regional leaders.
“I wonder if the eighth largest economy in the world [California], so successful in promoting its technology, movies and fine wines, will then allow the importation of marijuana into his flashy market?” asked Santos at the summit.
The president said that the referendum sent the wrong message to the populations of Latin America, who are struggling with surging drug-related violence.
“It’s confusing for our people to see that, as we lose lives and invest resources in the fight against drug trafficking, consuming countries will promote initiatives such as the California referendum to legalize the production, sale and consumption of marijuana,” Santos said.
The Colombian president said that it was time for the world to review the way in which it is handling the fight against the drug trade.
“If we do not act consistently in this matter, if all you’re doing is sending our citizens to prison while elsewhere the market is legalized, then we must ask: is not it time to revise the global strategy against drugs?”
“We have the moral authority to demand a frank discussion,” said Santos.
Following a meeting Monday with Santos, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said that marijuana legalization in California would not affect U.S. drug policy, and that the U.S. federal government does not support legalization.
Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said that drug-related crime has claimed more lives in Central America than the ideological wars of the 1980s.
“Drug trafficking devours the institutions of democracy from the point of view of bullying and corruption, but is also generating a high social cost in human lives,” said Chinchilla.
The president said that the homicide rate and urban crime in Costa Rica was worsening due to “drug dealing” and “the presence of drugs in the country.”
The Costa Rican agreed that more cooperation in the region was needed to combat the growing problem.
“Establishing a Meso-American corridor from Colombia to Mexico would allow us to strengthen all the mechanisms in the exchange of information, improve police cooperation, and better coordinate legal assistance between countries,“ she said.