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Mexico President-Elect Wants Drug Legalization Talks

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #741)

Mexico's likely president-elect, Enrique Peña Nieto, said in a PBS Newsmaker interview that aired Tuesday evening that Mexico should discuss legalizing drugs and regulating their sale, and that the US and other countries should be part of the discussion as well. But he also said that he wasn't calling for legalization and that he would continue using the military in Mexico's battle against its powerful drug trafficking organizations, the so-called cartels.

Mexican president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto (
While Peña Nieto is virtually certain to be Mexico's next president, it's not quite official yet. Mexico election officials are recounting half the ballot boxes because of inconsistencies in the tallies and expect to release final results Sunday. But with Peña Nieto holding a five-point lead over second place finisher Andre Manuel Lopez Obrador, the recount is unlikely to change the outcome.

[Editor's Note: For our feature article on what Peña Nieto might mean for Mexico's future drug policy, published just as the PBS interview aired, go here.]

"I'm in favor of opening a new debate in the strategy in the way we fight drug trafficking. It is quite clear that after several years of this fight against drug trafficking, we have more drug consumption, drug use and drug trafficking. That means we are not moving in the right direction. Things are not working," he told PBS's Margaret Warner in Mexico City. "I'm not saying we should legalize," he repeated. "But we should debate in Congress, in the hemisphere and especially the US should participate in this broad debate."

"So let the debate begin, but you're not taking a position yet?" Warner asked.

"That's right," he said.

Peña Nieto joins an ever growing list of Latin American leaders calling for frank discussions on alternatives to US-style drug war policies. The incipient rebellion has been brewing for years, but broke into the open on the hemispheric diplomatic this spring at the Organization of American States' Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

Although US media coverage of the summit was devoted almost entirely to the bright shiny object that was the Secret Service prostitution scandal, the summit saw Latin American leaders, including Colombian President Santos and Guatemalan President Perez Molina urge that formal discussions take place. And just days ago, Uruguayan President Mujica joined the ranks of the drug war dissenters, as his government put forth plans to establish a state monopoly on marijuana sales.

While Peña Nieto's comments on debating legalization won't be welcomed with open arms in Washington, his affirmation that he will largely continue the policies of his predecessor, President Felipe Calderon, will reassure politicians and policymakers worried that he was going to go soft on the cartels. While he would shift the focus from going after gang capos to reducing the violence, the Mexican state would continue to battle organized crime, he said.

"I know there is a concern around this issue, in terms of assuming this adjustment means not going after drug cartels involved in drug trafficking. No, absolutely not," he insisted.

"I will maintain the presence of a Mexican Army, and the Navy and police in the states of the Mexican Republic, where the problem of crime has increased," the telegenic former governor of Mexico state emphasized. "We will adjust the strategy so that we can focus on certain type of crimes, like kidnapping, homicide, extortion, which today, unfortunately, have worsened or increased, because we have a lot of impunity in some areas. The state's task is to achieve more efficiency, and to go back to the rule of law and enforce laws strictly in our country."

And while he said he wanted to intensify cooperation with the US, he made clear that he felt the US had failed to do enough to stop gun-running into Mexico. That has been a complaint of Calderon's as well.

"We have been insisting on getting the US more involved in arms control," Peña Nieto said bluntly. "Unfortunately, it has had no impact."

The cracks in the wall of global drug prohibition keep getting bigger, and that bleeding fissure opened up by Mexico's wave of prohibition-related violence has created yet another stress point on the prohibitionist consensus. We may not be there quite yet, but the time when that wall finally collapses is coming.

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.


Thinking Clearly (not verified)

To think that if we don't like something we can just outlaw it and say it doesn't exist is foolish. If that was possible we could just outlaw stupidity and we would have it made.

Well, that is not how things work in the real universe. Its time for the Untied States of America to get off of its incredibly arrogant and stupid stance of trying to prohibit drugs. Its not the drugs we are fighting. Its the people who take them. We are outlawing the impossible. Drugs are now more abundant than ever.

Its time to set aside foolish things, just as children do when they finally grow up.

The time has come for America to grow up and stop the foolish and impossible war on drugs.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 12:54am Permalink
Carlos (not verified)

In reply to by Thinking Clearly (not verified)


Foolish to me is an understatement, but I guess you are a lot more diplomatic than I and I should learn from you. When the policies become a lot more handful than the reason for which the laws and policies are made, we need to take a serious closer look.  Are we not to increase happiness and decrease misery?

Not only the policies and laws are harmful, but the claims and dominant method use for abstinence based "treatment", is unreliable, unnecessarily confrontational and punitive to say the least.  Unlike other medical methods we use to improve in peoples lives, is mostly unsupported by scientific research.  Everything we call treatment is based on vast amount of scientific research except for substance abuse methodology.  It’s safety and effectiveness is sketchy at best quackery most likely.  But then again we are dealing with an unpopular medical condition not many professionals are willing to identify themselves with.  Patients are vulnerable and at the mercy of some times questionably unethical professionals who ignored the substantial amount of research and practice based on the myth their cognitively limited human reasoning which ignores science. Making up rubbish is a lot easier than science.

Substance abuse treatment is in line for the next civil right movement

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 6:26pm Permalink
levelnext (not verified)

This is all lies.   This NOT YET ELECTED sorry excuse for a president is above all incompetent, and will not end the violence or stupid and futile war on drugs.  He will either ramp up the violence or cut a deal with the drug lords.   All the stuff he's saying about the debate is just for headlines and appearing balanced, but he's not.  He really isn't.  

Believe me, I'm mexican and this election was totally rigged.  You can watch lots of youtube videos where fraud is happening and the cops just dont do anything.  The real problem is NOT Drugs or drug lords, the problem is that ALL mexican police, politicians and institutions are CORRUPT beyond repair.

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 2:24pm Permalink

There is a basic difference between the debate in Mexico and the US. While the US argues civil liberties and  incarceration rates against prohibition, in Mexico, things are much more urgent due to the radical violence generated by the drug wars. Here's an example: Monterrey, Mexico, a large industrial city, used to be one of the safest with a rate of 6 homicides per 100,000 in 2006, in 2012 the rate is 44.  

And yet, the public has yet to make the link between prohibition and violence.

There are other interesting and usually misunderstood points:

- Calderón never distinguished between war on crime and war on drugs. Peña Nieto is trying to make this point. The public doesn't grasp this one either.  

- 80% of the violence in Mexico is related to its own drug market, not the export market. 

This last one is relevant since Mexico can solve its own problems, or at least 80% of them, without the need of USA's participation. If Mexico legalizes and the US doesn't violence could go back to the only-export market violence of the 90's, very focalized in certain border towns. 

I don't believe Peña Nieto will make a bold move until there is enough pressure, but the pressure could build up quickly once the public becomes aware and links prohibition with violence. We are trying to do just that with a group called Di si al Debate (Say yes to Debate).


For more Information www.  





Thu, 07/05/2012 - 11:04pm Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Yea , that discussion stuff sounds real nice . Colorado citizens are going to " discuss it " this November at the ballot box . So will citizens in Washington . Looks like the " drag it out for decades " mentality of the government is going to get a serious wake up memo this year . This November I mean . hahahahaha....

Thu, 07/05/2012 - 11:24pm Permalink
mike dar (not verified)

The Drug war is only a subset effect. It neither is an influence or a concern on those whom control policy... other than , if changed, could threaten profits.

All governments today are Fascist in nature. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and the discussion of whether corporatism should rule the world is best left to another time.

But it is relevant to how decisions are made and how the public is manipulated into wasting time, energy, emotions and resources, to change something that has vast economical implications on those vested with interests balanced on the status quo. Till people realize this affect of propaganda keeps them from realizing success in changing the status quo, the status quo will not change.

Obviously, certain mega corps run Congress. Obviously the (Congressional members) right hands do not know the left hands intents. Nor do most Representatives care, nor are they willing to "buck" the system.. even by  taking the time to follow a thread of reasoning or follow the dots.

Mexico "Free trade" agreements come to mind. The "Act" was instrumental in putting a million subsistence farmers out of work. They could no longer compete with rejected corn(not good enough for the American conceived idea of ...every kernel the same size and color) being dumped in their markets.

So, many people think.."That is why there are so many grows(MJ) and Drug trades...ect!". When the effector is really mega corps, whom will never wish Hemp seeds with, as good, nutritional benefits as corn, ruining a perfectly fine financial arraignment.

Let's take the inarguable stance that Mega Corps do not operate on a moral basis. Also that operating a "mega" today requires leveraging highly. That small effects can have wide ranging possibilities. The average person, inside the Mega knows things can adapt.. just as those outside a Mega's structure.

But that is not what a Corporate Officer is mandated to do. He is mandated, just like the DEA, to do anything within his power.... including lie, to protect "certain" peoples interests.

Take Monsanto or ADM for example. Both would have stock prices drop, should corn alternatives gain ground in Mexico. Both are subsidized from the U.S. govt.. Both lobby heavily, both influence the FDA, Dept of Commerce..and eventually the exchange rates(commodities).

There a number of companies that are effectors to the Drug war, from Alcohol to Carbon Cars(being run by former DEA heads). Till Drug war victims and opponents start dealing with the reality that these "megas" make the policies in America, not politicians themselves, we will hear nothing more than "it should be discussed more", that " there needs to be a dialogs started" ect.

As in any conflict, one needs to know your "enemy". Since the "Drug war" continues unabated without win, it's obvious most do not know whom the "enemy" is, and are thereby ineffective.

As H. Clinto said when asked if MJ would ever be legalized.."No. there's too much money in it". It's time for people to understand what that means and who actually is benefiting,, who stands to lose and how they "Mega Corps" have "... too much money..." vested into the way things are currently.

Sat, 07/07/2012 - 10:58am Permalink
saynotohypocrisy (not verified)

In reply to by mike dar (not verified)

2, good chance it will be 3, states are going to be "discussing" this year whether cannabis should be legalized, the way it should be discussed, with voters deciding based on the discussion. Not that anyone has the right to prohibit cannabis, and force people to use alcohol etc instead, but I'd rather deal with convincing citizens of that, than convincing special interest $ controlled legislatures. Thank goodness for direct democracy!

Sun, 07/08/2012 - 3:28pm Permalink

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