Kerry Begins First Latin America Trip

Kerry Begins First Latin America Trip

US Secretary of State John Kerry began his first trip to Latin America for talks with his regional counterparts expected to focus on drugs and security.

Kerry will likely say that there has been no change in the US anti-drug policy, even as the Organization of American States weighs whether to begin legalizing marijuana.

A recent OAS report suggested that the issue should be given a closer look. Some regional politicians, desperate for measures to control the bloodshed, are now open to legalization.

But while a few US states have decriminalized possession of pot for recreational use within state borders, it is far from being federal law.

Kerry, who took up his post on February 1, will spend two days in Guatemala, and was expected to speak with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua on the sidelines of the meeting, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said.

Washington and the leftist Venezuelan government have had testy relations for years. Ties have been especially touchy since mid-April, when Maduro was elected to office by a razor-thin margin in a controversial election.

The US side was more circumspect about the meeting.

Kerry “will probably speak briefly with the Venezuelan foreign minister,” a US official said earlier, speaking on condition of anonymity. It would be the the first such encounter since the death of Maduro’s predecessor, fiery leftist leader Hugo Chavez.

Kerry’s visit follows a regional trip by US Vice President Joe Biden, who pressed for increased trade and investment between the United States and its neighbors to the south.

Kerry’s talks with the OAS leaders will not be without a certain irony, as in 2010 he shepherded a joint bi-partisan bill through Senate to strengthen the regional bloc, having accused it of being ineffectual and lacking transparency.