A group of Latin American leaders declared Monday that votes by two US states to legalize marijuana have important implications for efforts to quash drug smuggling, offering the first government reaction from a region increasingly frustrated with the US-backed war on drugs.
The declaration by the leaders of Mexico, Belize, Honduras, and Costa Rica did not explicitly say they were considering weakening their governments’ efforts against marijuana smuggling, but it strongly implied the votes last week in Colorado and Washington would make enforcement of marijuana bans more difficult.
The four called for the Organization of American States to study the impact of the Colorado and Washington votes and said the United Nations’ General Assembly should hold a special session on the prohibition of drugs by 2015 at the latest.
Last week, the most influential adviser to Mexico’s president-elect, who takes office Dec. 1, questioned how the country will enforce a ban on growing and smuggling a drug that is now legal under some US state laws.
The Obama administration has yet to make clear how strongly it will enforce a federal ban on marijuana that is not affected by the Colorado and Washington votes.
‘‘It has become necessary to analyze in depth the implications for public policy and health in our nations emerging from the state and local moves to allow the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana in some countries of our continent,’’ President Felipe Calderon of Mexico said Monday after a meeting with President Porfirio Lobo of Honduras, President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, and Prime Minister Dean Barrow of Belize.
Marijuana legalization by US states is ‘‘a paradigm change on the part of those entities in respect to the current international system,’’ Calderon said.
Mexico has seen tens of thousands of people killed over the last six years during a militarized government campaign against the country’s drug cartels.
President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto has promised to shift Mexico’s focus to preventing violence against ordinary citizens, although he says he intends to keep battling cartels and is opposed to drug legalization. Guatemala’s president has advocated the international legalization of drugs.
Monday’s statement by the four leaders ‘‘is an important indicator of the desire to engage in a more robust discussion of policy,’’ said Eric Olson, associate director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
The call by the four presidents was welcomed by marijuana activists in the United States.
‘‘Marijuana prohibition in this country has been detrimental — but it’s been absolutely catastrophic to our southern neighbors,’’ said Dan Riffle, an analyst and lobbying for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington advocacy group that largely financed the two campaigns.
Mexico is one of the primary suppliers of marijuana to the United States, while Honduras and Belize are important stops on the northward passage of cocaine from South America. Costa Rica is seeing increasing use of its territory by drug traffickers.
Luis Videgaray, head of Peña Nieto’s transition team, told Radio Formula on Wednesday that the votes in the two states complicated Mexico’s commitment to stopping the growing and smuggling of marijuana. - ASSOCIATED PRESS
Catholic bishops stay course on gay marriage strategy
A subdued US Conference of Catholic Bishops acknowledged Monday that voters rejected the stands they took against gay marriage and birth control, but church leaders gave no sign they would change their strategy ahead.
Same-sex marriage backers made a four-state sweep of ballot measures last week, despite intensive advocacy by Roman Catholic bishops in favor of traditional marriage. Bishops also spoke out sharply against President Obama’s mandate that most employers provide health insurance that covers artificial contraception. Critics accused the bishops of going so far they appeared to be backing the GOP’s Mitt Romney.
The bishops insist their complaints were not partisan. Still, they now face four more years with an administration many of them characterized as a threat to the church.
‘‘We’ve always maintained our openness to dialogue, and that will continue,’’ said Baltimore Archbishop William Lori, who leads the bishops’ committee on religious liberty. Regarding the birth-control mandate, Lori said, ‘‘As this evolves, as rule-making gets a little more clear, then our range of options will be clearer.’’
None of the bishops who spoke Monday directly mentioned Obama. Lori only said that ‘‘the political landscape is the same.’’ The bishops instead reviewed plans they developed well before Election Day to expand outreach to Latino Catholics on traditional marriage and organize events on the importance of religious freedom.
Last week, Maine, Maryland, and Washington became the first states to approve same-sex marriage by popular vote. In Minnesota, voters rejected a plan to place a ban on gay marriage in the state constitution, a step taken by 30 other states in past elections.
Advocates for same-sex marriage have said they plan to step up their drive to change marriage laws in other states, campaigning for legalization in state legislatures and in federal courts.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone, the newly installed leader of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said gay marriage opponents were outspent by gay rights groups, and bishops are grappling with how they can be more persuasive. - ASSOCIATED PRESS