Guatemala sees opium poppies as potential revenue-spinners

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Poppy plants used to make heroin are seen at a clandestine plantation during a military operation in Sierra de Culiacan in the state of SinaloaBy William Schomberg LONDON (Reuters) – Guatemala is considering the possibility of earning taxes from the sale of opium poppies to help fund drug prevention programmes and other social spending, the country’s interior minister said on Wednesday. The Central American state is looking at ways to legalize poppy and marijuana production, part of a broader shift in attitudes across Latin America away from the huge financial and social costs of the U.S.-backed war on drugs. \”That is one idea that has been raised,\” said Mauricio Lopez Bonilla, a retired lieutenant colonel who served with Guatemala’s special forces, when asked if the government would tax the sale of poppies if it opted to allow their cultivation for medical purposes. Almost all of Guatemala’s poppy production is concentrated in three municipalities located close to the border with Mexico and has been funded traditionally by Mexican drug gangs.

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