In an effort to create a united bloc to pushback against Guatemalan President Otto Pérez’s sputtering campaign for alternative drug-control policies, the Presidents of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras met Friday to reaffirm their commitment to the U.S.-led war on drugs.
“We reject the decriminalization of drugs as an alternative solution to the problem of drug trafficking,” reads a joint declaration signed March 30 by Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes, Honduran President Pepe Lobo and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega.
Presidents Funes, Lobo and Ortega—the same three who boycotted Pérez’s Central American drug-policy summit in Guatemala on March 24—stressed the need for “a common position” on the drug issue before the Summit of the America in Colombia, on April 14-16.
The message from Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras is that the position taken by Central American neighbors Guatemala and Costa Rica, which are calling for an open debate on drug-war alternatives, is unacceptable.
Perhaps not coincidentally, Friday’s mini-summit came three days after El Salvador’s Foreign Minister Hugo Martínez met in San Salvador with U.S. Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, who coordinates U.S. foreign policy on counter-narcotics efforts across the globe. Otero was the third highly placed official from the U.S. government to visit Central America since Pérez first proposed decriminalization in February. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Vice President Joe Biden also visited Central America in past weeks to discourage further talk of decriminalization.
The U.S.’s lobbying is working. Initially, Presidents Funes and Ortega both appeared willing to at least discuss Guatemala’s proposal for alternative drug policy. But both presidents have since come out strongly against the proposal—without any debate—and defended the drug war with curious fervor.
Peace for the Gulf & war for the narcos
Despite their stalwart and public defense of the drug war, Funes, Lobo and Ortega apparently didn’t want to admit that was the issue that motivated Friday’s hastily organized summit.
Instead, the meeting was presented to the media as a joint effort to declare the Gulf of Fonseca as a zone of peace and dialogue between the three neighboring countries—something the three governments already did in 2007.
Indeed, the three presidents “decreed once again that the Gulf of Fonseca is a zone of peace, development, sustainability and security,” said Nicaragua’s First Lady, Rosario Murillo.
As part of their renewed commitment to the body of water bordering the three countries, the presidents discussed fishing, trade and navigation issues, as well as the importance of joint efforts to protect natural resources and develop eco-tourism. The three presidents also agreed to “favor dialogue and negotiation” to resolve conflicts.
Murillo said, in her tautological and oracular prose, that the “categorical affirmations” in favor of peace and dialogue in the Gulf of Fonseca “coincide with our commitment to work for peace, and work for peace from justice, and work for peace from wellbeing, which we should secure in the lives of our people, from the restituted rights that we should secure in the lives of our people.”
“How important is it that the presidents are reaffirming these commitments by our states to favor dialogue and negotiation and never resort to a military solution?” Murillo said.
Important, yes, Ms. Murillo. But also ironic, given the fact that the primary purpose of Friday’s meeting was not to swear off “military solutions” in the Gulf of Fonseca, rather swear off alternatives to a military solution in the war on drugs.