BBC on Guatemala's new drug policy idea

We have previously looked at why Guatemala feels it is a victim in the South America to North America cocaine pipeline and that Guatemala's President has been pretty outspoken about the idea of legalizing drugs in his country as a way to pass the problem on to those who are actively involved: suppliers and users. Most of this has been from the perspective of the President of Guatemala and how the US is opposed to his ideas.

Enter the BBC into the picture. In this short video we get to see some short interviews with prisoners in Guatemala (lots of whom speak English) which provides a better understanding why Guatemala feels a more open approach will work. Note that at the end of the video, the reporter states that the UK is against Guatemala's idea.

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Presidents and (vs.?) the populace

Uruguay has been trying to legalize marijuana for quite a while. The primary stumbling block is that the general populace is not behind the progressive change. After more than a year of “educational” efforts, surveys still find that 63-68% of the population is against the idea. This is less than the populace rejection rate of the idea of broader legalization (not just marijuana), which is over 70%. This rejection of legalization as a solution in S.A. is not unique to Uruguay. This is very similar to the 69 percent of Colombian citizens polled throughout 2012 who rejected the idea of broader drug legalization – Colombia being another country with studies and legislation on the table now. For comparison sake, it is worth looking at other countries. Note the common 3/4 populace rejection of the idea: Ecuador is at 74%, Venezuela 64%, Chile 77%, Paraguay 77%, Argentina 75%, Brazil 77%, Bolivia 83%, and Peru 82%. In Central America, Honduras, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Panama are at 68%, 69%, 68%, 67% - all against. Guatemala, for all the talk of drug legalization, isn’t any different per this 2012 polling, and is actually the only country higher than Nicaragua’s 76%, coming in at 80% against the idea – though these are 2011 numbers, not 2012, as above per S.A. The media focuses on the goals of the president, and article after article appears, yet rarely is there any discussion of what the average citizen believes or wants – or would vote for, assuming his/her vote would actually be counted. Many people assume the drug violence will entail a willingness to legalize those drugs leading to the violence, which is police/trafficker or trafficker/trafficker. But, in Latin America, this has not (yet) been the case; many people associate the deaths with the drugs themselves, not necessarily the fight against them as an illegal substance, and hence they do not favor legalization any more than they did before the drug war started.

My impression is that drugs are considered very low class here

Drug use in the US is common enough among people with money and education. Percentage of US citizens who have smoked pot is higher than Mexico's 1 percent. When I was back in the US this past week, my niece and brother were comparing notes on drug use in their two different communities. Rich young people are still using cocaine and there are lots of middle class pot smokers.

Rebecca Brown

A stray factoid about Guatemala

"In Guatemala, riding a public bus is a risky business. More than 500 bus drivers have been killed in robberies since 2007, leading InSight Crime, which tracks organized crime in the Americas, to call it “the most dangerous profession on the planet.” And when bullets start flying, everyone is vulnerable: in 2010 the onboard tally included 155 drivers, 54 bus assistants, 71 passengers and 14 presumed criminals. Some were killed by the robbers’ bullets and some by gun-carrying passengers." from: NY Times, Jan 5, 2013, More Guns=More Killing, by Elisabeth Rosenthal.

(My apology for not commenting on the general advantages of claiming 'victimhood' w.r.t. topic, but much was posted on Guatemala recently and I missed the relevant spot for this.)

Very stray

This has nothing to do with the drug issue. The "bus driver problem" is the same as what you would expect where a mafia is in control. The killing of bus drivers is primarily an issue in Guatemala City and with a specific type of bus service. For those familiar with transit there, it's the red buses.

It's a real problem -- just like trying to run a business in a mafia-controlled part of New York without paying the protection fees. It is certainly not solved but changes are in process.

The main step is expanding the green bus service. These are buses with fixed, relatively secure, stations. Go to and read "Getting Around" for details.

Bus Marshals ?

Undercover officers with the proper arms, and the proper ammunition (that fragments rather than leaves the perp's body),, and a mandate to eliminate the problem.

Shooting 500 perps would put a worthwhile dent in the problem . .. Why DO we coddle criminals anyway: Perp- "I grew up in a dirt floor shack drinking gaseosa, and now I have to kill bus drivers for a living"; Ms. Rosenthal -"You poor fellow, it's not your fault. That bourgeois bus driver should have handed over the money quicker".

" . . . .Some were killed by the robbers’ bullets and some by gun-carrying passengers." I'd like to see those numbers broken down; I suspect "robbers' bullets" are way ahead of "gun carrying passengers", as are the perps way ahead of the bus drivers.