Following a meeting in Mexico City today, Mexican president Felipe Calderón, Belize prime minister Dean Barrow, Costa Rica president Laura Chinchilla, and Honduras president Porfirio Lobo sealed a 10-point declaration in which the leaders, speaking of the need for a much more secure and stable region, called for a more concerted effort in the war against drugs and transnational organized crime through efforts to prevent, sanction and combat the worldwide scourge.

The leaders, who pointed to the need for a hemispheric cooperation program against organized and transnational crimes, said that the best efforts so far have been futile in that the use of these illicit substances continues to increase globally.

Barrow, Calderon, Chinchilla and Lobo called upon the international community to use scientific studies to identify strategies to control the drug market and prevent the transshipment of illicit substances that trigger high levels of crime and violence in Central America and which threaten societies and governments in the region.

The declaration said that the need has arisen for an in-depth analysis of the public policy and health implications emerging out of moves in some countries to allow the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana.

The legalization effort, the leaders indicate, is "a paradigm shift" and they called on the OAS Secretary-General, pursuant to the mandate given at the 6th Summit of the Americas held earlier this year, to review the impact of new policies, such as the legalization of marijuana.

For its part, Belize has recently been discussing the decriminalization of marijuana, which ex-police minister Doug Singh, who chairs the review committee, has said is not the same as legalization. Singh has explained that the proposal is for non-criminal sanctions, such as mandatory drug rehab, to be handed down to persons found with 10 grams of marijuana or less. A special drug court is also proposed for Belize, Singh indicated, noting that over 200 persons have been incarcerated in Belize (with a population of about 330,000) since the start of the year for possession of very small amounts of marijuana - 10 grams or less.

At the Mexico meeting, the leaders reaffirmed their political will to continue to work together for a more secure and stable region, based on cooperation through initiatives such as those that will strengthen national institutions.

They insist, moreover, that the international community adopts pertinent strategies that would effectively cut the flow of resources and arms to criminal transnational organizations. They exhort authorities in the countries to which the illegal drugs are destined to explore every alternative avenue to eliminate the massive profits criminals make from trafficking illicit drugs.

The leaders agreed on promoting the implementation of the Central American Security Strategy (ESCA), driven by the SICA - the Central American Integration System.

The four Central American leaders, in concluding their declaration, expressed solidarity with Guatemala president Otto Pérez Molina, who was unable to attend due to the earthquake that struck his country on November 7.

The Reporter