Guatemala Destroys 80 Million Poppies

By Dialogo
May 29, 2012

Guatemalan security forces have eradicated more than 80 million poppy plants near the border with Mexico in a blow to regional drug traffickers, authorities said.

Some 800 narcotics investigators and police took part in the operation, which also destroyed some 245 million poppy bulbs and thousands of marijuana plants, according to a statement issued late on May 23.

Deputy anti-drug minister Eunice Mendizabal said in a statement that farmers were using drip irrigation on the sprawling plantation in order to improve the quality of the plants, with men, women and children helping with the farming.

Mexico and much of Central America has been hit by a massive crime wave in recent years linked to the lucrative cross-border drug trade.

In April, Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina said that the U.S.-led regional war against drug trafficking is being lost and requires a change in strategy, including decriminalizing drug consumption.

Given his experience in combating drugs as Guatemala’s intelligence chief 18 years ago, Perez’s announcement took everybody by surprise, including Washington, which has rejected the legalization of drugs.

U.S. aid for Central America’s drug fight is being cut from the current $100 million to $86 million in fiscal year 2013.

Although some experts have said the decriminalization of drugs would end the financial incentives for organized crime, the idea has been firmly rejected by political leaders in the United States, Britain, Latin America and elsewhere.