President continues push for U.N. drug consideration

Casa Presidencial photo Ms. Chinchilla is flanked by Juan Manuel Santos, Colombia's president, and his wife.

President Laura Chinchilla called for the United Nations and its Security Council to put drug trafficking in Central America on its agenda.

The president repeated this view when she spoke at the VI Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. She said that drugs and drug use should be viewed from four perspectives: public health for drug users, prevention at the educational level, as a challenge for transparency and the integrity of the institution of nations and as a matter strongly supervised by the state.

When she arrived home Sunday night, the president said that the situation required profound revisions.

The president and her advisers are worried about the possible spread of violence in Costa Rica of the degree that can be found in the countries in northern Central America.

However, Mrs. Chinchilla has stopped short of promoting decriminalization of drugs, something that the United States strongly opposed. Otto Pérez Molina, the Guatemalan president, has called for this.

U.S. President Barack Obama had informal talks with the presidents of El Salvador and Guatemala on the topic of drugs and violence. A senior administration official said Obama also spoke with Peru’s president, Ollanta Humala. The U.S. is to send a delegation to a drug policy meeting Peru is hosting in June.

President Obama also met with leaders from Caribbean nations. President Obama and U.S. officials have underscored Washington’s support for the region under a $200 million Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

The issue of Cuba’s exclusion from the summits, which occur every three years, blocked a final consensus declaration.

In a news conference, Obama and Colombia’s president, Juan Manuel Santos, sought to stress areas of agreement from a gathering whose formal focus was on expanding economic integration, trade and investment, and regional security. However, in the end, it was the issue of Cuba’s exclusion from the summits that grabbed the top headline.

Though Cuba is not democratic, a majority of nations in the hemisphere support its participation in future summits. The U.S. and Canada oppose this, saying Cuba needs to undergo political and human rights reforms.

Earlier, Obama and Santos held formal talks, discussing Colombia’s economic and security progress after years of battling narco-traffickers and leftist guerrillas.

They also announced that a U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement will become effective May 15. Initiated under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, it will greatly expand duty free treatment for U.S. manufactured and agricultural exports to Colombia.

Though it has business community support, the accord is still opposed by some U.S. labor unions, which say Colombia has still not done enough to eliminate violence against unionists and ensure investigation of past crimes.

U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk, in Cartagena with the president, said Colombia has taken necessary steps to more robustly support its labor laws. “In particular, the rights of workers to organize and a number of important steps and procedures that have been in place to prosecute past cases of violence against union organizers as well as providing protection for them,” he said.

Before leaving Cartagena, President Obama joined President Santos in a ceremony marking the Colombian government’s program to return land to people displaced by paramilitary militias, Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia guerrillas and narcotraffickers.

Attendance by the first African-American U.S. president was seen as highly significant in Colombia, which has the second largest black population in South America after Brazil. An estimated 20 percent of Colombia’s 45 million people have African ancestry.

Obama’s attendance at the summit, and the economic and other issues on the agenda, were to some degree overshadowed by a scandal involving allegations of misconduct by U.S. Secret Service and military personnel involving prostitutes in Cartagena.

Asked about the controversy, President Obama said he expects a rigorous and thorough investigation. But he said he would be angry if the allegations are confirmed, adding he expects those representing the United States to conduct themselves with the “utmost dignity.”

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