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Mexican Presidents Talk Drug Legalization

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #644)
Politics & Advocacy

Vicente Fox
Last Tuesday, Mexican President Felipe Calderon briefly opened the door to drug legalization, saying it was something that needed to be discussed, only to clarify in a press release hours later that he remained opposed to legalization. Now, Calderon's predecessor, former President Vicente Fox, has stepped up to call forthrightly for legalization, and just two days ago Calderon again expressed a willingness to rethink his aggressive anti-drug campaign.

The discussion comes as Mexico staggers through the fourth year of Calderon's war on the so-called drug cartels. Despite deploying nearly 50,000 soldiers and federal police in the fight, violence has only increased, with the death toll rising year after year. And the drug trade goes on, seemingly unimpeded by the campaign.

Fox's call came in a Saturday blog post in which the ex-president cited the "enormous cost" of fighting organized crime, beginning with the more than 28,000 people the government admitted last week had been killed in prohibition-related violence since Calderon came to power in December 2006. He also cited the cost of corruption among law enforcement and public officials, the loss of tourism, and the threat to foreign investment.

Felipe Calderon attending security conference
"We should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs," wrote Fox, like Calderon, a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN). "Radical prohibition strategies have never worked. Legalizing in this sense does not mean drugs are good and don't harm those who consume them," he wrote. "Rather we should look at it as a strategy to strike at and break the economic structure that allows gangs to generate huge profits in their trade, which feeds corruption and increases their areas of power."

Fox also called for the "rapid return of the national army to its bases," saying it was "neither conceived for nor is prepared for police work." The military's role in Calderon's campaign has tarnished its image and led to "more and more" human rights violations, he added. The military's role should be taken over by a new national police force and there should be direct election of police chiefs and high commanders, Fox wrote.

On Tuesday, Calderon underwent his second session of talks on the drug war that he began last week, this time mostly with opposition legislators. Calderon wasn't ready to jump on Fox's legalization bandwagon, claiming that it would lead to increased drug use and wouldn't reduce drug traffickers' income. But he did signal an increasing awareness of the disastrous impact of his policies. "I know that the strategy has been questioned, and my administration is more than willing to revise, strengthen or change it if needed," Calderon said at the meeting. "What I ask, simply, is for clear ideas and precise proposals on how to improve this strategy."

Under the 70-year rule of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), Mexican drug trafficking organizations were not so much suppressed as managed, but with the election of Fox, the modus vivendi between traffickers and the state was shattered. Midway through his term, Fox declared war on the cartels and went after their leaders. That led to intramural fighting within and among the cartels and to increased confrontations between traffickers and police, a situation that has only continued to escalate under Calderon.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


dahszil (not verified)

This is the comment I put on the comment section under an article about former president Vincente Fox's leaning towards legalization on



from usa
Long overdue. It's about time we in the minority had a majority figure on our side against this war on drugs insanity. The weight has finally been lifted just a little off our shoulders and we can breath a bit easier for the moment. But of course any day some hypocritical war on drugs maniac will stir up the already over burdened by totalitarian capitalism massess to rekindle the demonization of drugs(which in and of them selves are not causing the violence and astronomical profits for more than a few of these lilly white front war on drugs preachers who get millions through the back door by keeping the drug war going: keeping the supply low and the demand high, keeping violence as the main tool for gaining market share, etc, and thus the making of astronomical profits from demonized drugs relagation to the illegal market and its dangerous mechanisms). 

And any day a war on drugs "preacher" is going to think he/she appeals to your reason by saying that everyone will now become addicted, everyone stays home watching looney toons, and the society, infrastructure, and economy will go to hell. Bull sh!t. It's a slimy, "straw man" argument
Tue, 08/10/2010 - 4:52am Permalink
dahszil (not verified)

In reply to by dahszil (not verified)

What I meant to write is that finally a major political figure, leader, president is on our side.  Indeed we have had some courageous enlightened police chiefs, elected and appointed officials, even some American judges(e.g.federal judge Sweet(sp?) in NYC), and many public figures not involved in governance like movie stars, television personalities, etc.  Maybe I'm not that well informed but the last president I remember speaking on camera, in print, radio etc, about the possibility of legalizing cannabis was Jimmy Carter while he was serving as commander and chief, i.e. when he was serving as acting president between 1976-1980.  Carter and his words were captured on news camera outside his modest home in Georgia.  The reaction was predictable.  The corrupt(and of course still so in the 21st c) late 20th century temperance movement(i.e. the war on drugs) used the death of an upper middle class youth at the usual youthful American overindulgence in alcohol private "party" to effectively shut up one of our least corrupt and decent presidents since FDR.  Although this late teens/early twenties adolescent had died by consuming large amounts of alcohol, they used the tiny trace of "weed" in the autopsy report as the major cause of death.

Fri, 08/20/2010 - 4:01am Permalink
Bryan Knight (not verified)

As a movement, we've had many famous figures on our side before but with no noticeable change. Recentley, I've become more and more pessimistic about seing any significant change in policy. There are simply to many people making to much money of this current system. Sadly, I feel the only way things will change is if there is an all out collapse of governance.
Tue, 08/10/2010 - 12:42pm Permalink
maxw22d (not verified)

As a knowing minority often says, the dose makes the drug.

I hate to criticize Sr. Fox but it appears from the translation above that he continues the slander of grouping cannabis with "drugs".   Cannabis is an herb.  Hot burning overdose joints or blunts, which can reach 1000F when bogarted on insistently, are a drug.  I agree with those who have suggested the 2-layered approach of legalizing cannabis and decriminalizing "drugs" which will solve Mexico's problem. 

The tobackgo industry invented the hot burning overdose $igarette to make money off suckers who were lured into it because it looked "kool" alias defiant or because it was more "convenient" to have a day's tokes all within 10 minutes.  Every $igarette is a "drug" and the same is true for every "joint" or "blunt". 

The original "drug war" really started about 1853 when British military perpetrating the "Crimean War" noticed an alleged "Turkish" method of smoking via hot burning overdose paper tubes and it hit the London papers.  At first impoverished gypsy sweatshop laborers in places like Sevilla handrolled the $igarettes for high style rich folks as documented in the hit tragedy, "Carmen", at the Paris Opera in 1875; a year later modern "rolling machines" were invented and the tobackgo industry never looked "back".  Over the succeeding 1-1/2 century they spent nearly a $trillion just advertising this "format"-- over $10 billion a year in the USA alone today-- of which the "joint" is just a slavish imitation for cannabis users trying to pass for normaaaal i.e. look like $igarette addicts.

In honor of poor Carmen who was "snuffed" by her irate soldier boyfriend when she "reached for" a toreador "next one", it would be poetic justice if poor despised Mexico solved this worldwide "drug war" out from under us (or do you spell it US).

Thu, 08/12/2010 - 9:24pm Permalink
Moonrock (not verified)

 President Calderon is right, legalisation in Mexico would not end Mexico's problems. Most of the consumers are in the U.S., so it would not end smuggling into the U.S. It might help to ratchet down the level of violence somewhat, but unless Mexico's relationship with the U.S. changes, i.e. it refuses money to fight the drug war, there will be little change. The U.S. and its draconian federal drug laws are what drives this whole process.
  If the U.S. government were really interested in ending the corruption and violence in Mexico they could do it simply by ending prohibition. The U.S. cultivates its enemies with great deliberation; and its allies, too, are often just pawns in the power games it plays. 

Fri, 08/13/2010 - 12:41pm Permalink
dahszil (not verified)

prohibition, Is to marginalize the even more oppressed and vulnerable other types of drug users than marijuana consumers.  I mean aren't we becoming "bourgeoisie"(i.e complacent) by fighting for more lifting of the prohibition on weed because it is accepted by the majority, but continue to drawing a line and demonizing other types of drugs, or not caring about these other types of mood altering substance users?  Are we not being like the Ozzie and Harriet, the Beaver Cleaver family, Disneyfied mofos who have been giving us such a hard time over "weed"use for so long until recently?

Fri, 08/20/2010 - 4:15am Permalink
Reizza (not verified)

Mexican presidents dont care about you!!!!. There has never been a war aimed at drug cartels, its all just talk. Legalizing drugs in mexico doesnt do anything, mexican citizens cant even afford to buy drugs. you dont make enough money. The First thing mexico needs to do is better the economy and start a real war againts drug cartels. corrupt FOX!!

Thu, 12/30/2010 - 1:48pm Permalink

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