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Obama: Legalization not the answer to drug war

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Summit of the Americas

Obama: Legalization not the answer to drug war

Bombs rock Colombia; Secret Service agents accused of hiring prostitutes

  • President Obama with Mexican President Felipe Calderón (right) and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on April 2 at the White House. Obama and Calderón are in Cartagena, Colombia, this weekend for the Summit of the Americas.
    Chuck Kennedy/White HousePresident Obama with Mexican President Felipe Calderón (right) and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on April 2 at the White House. Obama and Calderón are in Cartagena, Colombia, this weekend for the Summit of the Americas.

Speaking in a country that has been ravaged by the narcotics trade for decades, President Barack Obama on Saturday told a forum of leaders from the Americas that legalization was not the answer to the drug war, according to The Associated Press.

Obama was participating in the meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, and the news agency says Latin America has seen growing calls for decriminalization as a way of ending the violence of the drug trade.

Mexican authorities revealed in January that nearly 50,000 people had died as a result of the drug war in that country since the government enlisted the army to combat narcotics cartels in 2006.

According to the AP, Obama said he was not opposed to the discussion of legalization but that he doubted any agreement could be reached to make this a reality.

Instead, Obama reportedly said his preferred answer to drug crime was economic growth, strengthened rule of law and sound law enforcement, according to the news agency.

The Los Angeles Times reported Friday that Obama was likely to face a rocky reception in Cartagena as many were under pressure to find a way to stop the killing.

According to The Times, Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos was to ask the 33 leaders present at the summit to consider a regulatory scheme that would control the sale, use and possession of marijuana and perhaps even cocaine just as tobacco and alcohol are regulated.

"You haven't had this pressure from the region before," Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a think tank in Washington, was quoted by The times as saying. "I think the [Obama] administration is willing to entertain the discussion, but hoping it doesn't turn into a critique of the U.S. and put the U.S. on the defensive."

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

Bombs and a Secret Service scandal

Two bombs exploded in the Colombian resort city of Cartagena on Saturday, just hours before President Barack Obama was to open summit talks with fellow leaders of the Americas.

Two other small blasts, caused by crude devices according to Agence France-Presse, went off near the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, the Colombian capital.

Separately, a scandal involving the Secret Service also overshadowed the start of the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena.

A group of Secret Service agents sent to Colombia ahead of President Barack Obama were relieved of their duties and sent home amid allegations of misconduct that involved prostitution, according to CNN.

About a dozen Secret Service members, including at least one supervisor, are being investigated over findings that they allegedly brought back several prostitutes to a hotel in Cartagena. None of the agents were part of Obama's personal protective detail.

The supervisor involved is allegedly from the Counter Terror Assault Team (CAT). A former Secret Service agent told CBS News about a "culture clash" between the president's protective detail and the CAT. CAT members have a history of "working hard and playing hard" while the protective services "are the most disciplined group of people."

There was an argument between at least one Secret Service member and a woman he brought back to Hotel Caribe — home base to agents and international press during the Summit of the Americas — over payment for her services, reported CBS News. The woman complained to local police, and the incident was filed with the U.S. Embassy. 

Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovon said the matter was being turned over to the agency's internal affairs unit.

Soliciting prostitution is legal in Colombia, but it is considered a breach of the Secret Service's code of conduct. High-level officials in the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security were outraged over the incident, according to CNN. President Obama is not staying at that hotel, and there was no threat to him because of the agents' misconduct.

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