This week’s vote in Colorado and Washington state approving the recreational use of marijuana sent a salvo from the ballot box that will ricochet around Latin America, a region that's faced decades of bloodshed from the U.S.-led war on drugs, McClatchy Newspapers report. Experts said the moves were likely to give momentum to countries like Uruguay that are marching toward legalization, to undercut Mexican criminal gangs, and to embolden those who demand greater debate about how to combat illegal substances. “The trend is toward legalization,” said Jorge Castaneda, a former Mexican foreign minister who's an advocate for decriminalization.
U.S. diplomats in Latin America said President Barack Obama would hold firm against efforts to soften drug laws. “The government of my president is totally against any initiative that weakens rules or laws on the sale or offering of illegal drugs,” P. Michael McKinley, U.S. ambassador to Colombia, told Caracol Radio there. “Politically and symbolically, this is really powerful. My guess is that this will accelerate some countries' efforts to have a legal marijuana regime,” said Alejandro Hope, a former official in Mexico's civilian intelligence service who studies the economic impact of marijuana smuggling in Mexico. Uruguay, a small South American nation led by a former leftist guerrilla, has moved ahead since August on a proposal to legalize marijuana under a government monopoly. “Chile also has a bill before its Congress. I'm guessing that Argentina may also follow suit. This will go from south to north,” Hope said.