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Former Mexican president: Legalize drugs

August 9, 2010 |  4:10 pm

Vicente fox

Vicente Fox, the most recent former president of Mexico, is calling for the legalization of narcotics. In a post at his personal blog published over the weekend, the former president says: "We must legalize the production, distribution, and sale of drugs." Fox, whose election in 2000 ended more than 70 years of one-party rule in Mexico, argues that legalizing drugs would "strike and break" the economic power of drug-trafficking cartels operating in Mexico.

"We need to break the balance between criminals, markets, transfer routes, and criminal associations sheltered by corruption, intelligently, with much less doses of violence," Fox writes.

He also expresses support for the idea of state police forces to replace municipal police, which are plagued by corruption and often found to collude with organized crime groups. The military, the primary force currently deployed against the cartels, should be withdrawn due to rising allegations of human rights abuses, Fox also argues.

The post, in Spanish, is here. Here's an automated translation into English.

Fox is the immediate predecessor of President Felipe Calderon, who initiated a military-led campaign against traffickers in Mexico that has so far claimed more than 28,000 lives since he took office in December 2006. Under the Merida Initiative, the United States has promised Mexico millions of dollars in aid in its fight against the cartels, and in recent visits to Mexico, President Obama has praised Calderon's military strategy.

In a summit last week on the drug violence, Calderon offered a blunt assessment of the reach and power of the cartels, and said he would be open to a debate on legalization of drugs. His administration later clarified that Calderon is still opposed to legalization.

Both Fox and Calderon are members of the center-right National Action Party and are often singled out for criticism of Mexico's efforts against drug trafficking. Critics point out that drug violence grew under President Fox as a result of his strategy of arresting or killing top cartel leaders, which led groups to splinter and fight violent internal battles for control of drug routes. The violence has only surged under President Calderon, getting worse and worse by the year. Others have openly suggested two consecutive PAN administrations have applied justice unevenly against drug trafficking groups, "favoring" the Sinaloa cartel over its rivals -- despite several recent gains against major Sinaloa cartel figures. Calderon has said all cartels are treated equally in Mexico.

Fox's post over the weekend is not the first time he's publicly supported legalization of drugs in Mexico. He made the same basic argument during a U.S. media interview in May 2009. That year, Mexico quietly decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and LSD.

Fox now joins another former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, in support of some form of legalization of narcotics. Early last year, Zedillo and former leaders of Colombia and Brazil called for a "paradigm shift" in international drug policies.

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Former Mexican President Vicente Fox. Credit: UC Irvine

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