MEXICO CITY — Former Mexican President Vicente Fox on Wednesday labeled the global war on drugs “useless” and an "absolute failure," saying it's time to consider legalization as an antidote to the violence ravaging his country.
Fox, who governed Mexico from 2000 to 2006, said his successor’s 5-1/2-year-old offensive against drug trafficking groups had failed to reduce the availability or consumption of illegal drugs and led only to more bloodshed and mayhem. More than 50,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched the crackdown in late 2006.
Fox said his country, caught between drug producers in South America and a sea of users in the United States, was paying an unfair price for U.S. laws criminalizing drug use.
“The country that imposed the prohibition, the country that has punishments and considers drugs a crime is the country that uses the most drugs in the world,” Fox said during an hour-long meeting with foreign correspondents.
“We must end this useless war,” he said.
It’s hardly the first time Fox has called for decriminalizing drug since leaving office. But in a pointed message aimed at audiences abroad, he said escalating violence made urgent the need to rethink the decades-long global drug strategy, under fire by a growing number of current and former world leaders.
Those calls have become especially loud in violence-racked corners of Latin America, such as Guatemala. During a recent summit of regional leaders in Colombia, President Obama said he was open to debate on drug policies, but ruled out legalization, saying it would lead to worse problems. Many skeptics doubt that violent traffickers would abruptly retire from criminal activities if drug use were made legal.
Fox, who under U.S. pressure once vetoed a bill to decriminalize possession of small quantities of drugs, said his views had changed with age. “I’m at the peak of my life and I see things differently,” he said.
-- Ken Ellingwood
Photo: Former Mexican President Vicente Fox holds a news conference in Mexico City on Wednesday. Credit: Alexandre Meneghini / Associated Press