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LatAm losing fear of legalizing drugs: Ecuador president

© AFP | Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa waves in Guatemala City on August 19, 2014Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa waves in Guatemala City on August 19, 2014

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said Tuesday that Latin America is "losing fear" of legalizing drugs after decades of fighting traffickers with ample US prodding but limited success.

The region's governments have opened talks toward developing a shared stance on legalization, and the topic is no longer off-limits, the leftist leader told a forum on economic development in Guatemala City.

"There's not a common position in Latin America, (but) that's under discussion now. People are losing that fear, getting over their taboos," he told a press conference.

Correa, an economist by training, called for an open debate on which drugs can be legalized and what the health impact would be, with the goal of reducing the violence the war on drugs has unleashed in the region.

He said Latin American leaders should not be stigmatized for discussing legalization.

"American senators have the right to present ideas, for example on legalizing drugs, but if a South American president dares to do it, he's a drug trafficker," Correa argued.

During his trip Correa will also meet Guatemalan President Otto Perez, a leading proponent of decriminalizing drugs, to discuss preparations for a special meeting of the Organization of American States on the issue of drugs next month in Guatemala.

The United States has spent an estimated $1 trillion on the war on drugs since 1971, billions of it helping Latin American police and militaries fight drug traffickers.

But critics say the policy has fueled violence and done little to stop the flow of narcotics.

In May, the US ended more than 30 years of anti-drug trafficking assistance to Ecuador, amid tensions over Correa's links to Iran and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.