CARTAGENA, Colombia — President Obama will highlight trade and business opportunities in Latin America at a regional summit in Colombia this weekend, but other leaders may upstage him by pushing to legalize marijuana and other illicit drugs in a bid to stem rampant trafficking.
Obama, who opposes decriminalization, is expected to face a rocky reception in this Caribbean resort city, which otherwise forms a friendly backdrop for a U.S. president courting Latino voters in an election year. But the American demand for illegal drugs has caused fierce bloodshed, plus political and economic turmoil, across much of the region.
Colombia's president, Juan Manuel Santos, wants the 33 leaders at the Summit of the Americas to consider whether the solution should include regulating marijuana, and perhaps cocaine, the way alcohol and tobacco are. Other member states also are calling for that dialogue despite the political discomfort it may cause Obama back home.
Shorter version: President Obama and a bunch of Latin American leaders walk into a bar. The Latin American leaders say: "Your country's unstoppable hunger for our drugs, coupled with your country's inability to deal with that fact in a rational way, is tearing our countries apart." And Obama says: "Shhhh. I'm in the middle of an election. I basically agree, but I can't say that in public. Just wait a couple of months. Then we'll talk."