View attachment 19835 Legalization of drugs in Mexico would not only lead to lowered violence and drug consumption but also boost its economy, former Mexican President Vicente Fox said Wednesday during a speech to a convention of newspaper editors from the United States and Latin America.
“Things are going very badly for Mexico with the issues of organized crime and violence,” Fox said in Spanish. “We’re losing large volumes of tourists, if not in the interior, then at the border. We’re losing a great number of investments.”
Fox — a member of the conservative National Action Party, or PAN — made history in 2000 with a presidential victory that broke seven decades of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI. Now more than four years after the close of his term, Fox has been staying in the public eye.
His successor is President Felipe Calderón, who launched an unprecedented war against organized crime, a campaign that has claimed more than 35,000 lives in Mexico since 2007.
The anti-drug war was one in a range of topics that Fox touched on as he addressed members of the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Inter American Press Association. During a 40-minute speech at a hotel in downtown San Diego, Fox expounded on subjects such as U.S. immigration policy, Mexico’s economy and the role of Mexico’s military in leading the fight against drug trafficking.
“The military should not be in the streets,” Fox said. “It is not prepared to carry out police functions, probably because it is not prepared to profoundly respect human-rights processes.”
Asked if he was challenging Calderón, Fox said: “I am not talking about President Calderón, nor am I going to. I am going to speak about the strategies that are being followed and which I believe could be improved considerably.”
Fox is expected to speak Thursday afternoon at the University of San Diego, at the invitation of the Trans-Border Institute and the Center for Community Service-Learning. He was originally scheduled to give a lecture at Point Loma Nazarene University, but the invitation was rescinded due to his views on drug legalization.
“The flow of drugs is not going to be detained. It’s like sex, like alcohol, like cigarettes, like abortion,” Fox said Wednesday. “It’s like marriage of people of the same sex. Life is changing, prohibitions are crumbling and this seems to be the last frontier of prohibitions.”
Since Fox left government, “he’s done something unique among former Mexican presidents,” said Jeffrey Davidow, who served as U.S. ambassador to Mexico during the early years of Fox’s administration.
With high-profile speeches and the creation of his presidential library, Fox “has continued to be a very public figure. Most former Mexican presidents have retreated to the background, and he has chosen not to do so. In that way, he is much more like a former U.S. president,” said Davidow, now president of the Institute of the Americas at the University of California San Diego.
Though Mexico decriminalized posession of small quantities of drugs starting in 2009, broader proposals such as the legalization of marijuana have not received much political backing.
José Antonio Crespo, a political analyst in Mexico City, is among the Mexicans who support legalizing marijuana, believing it would reduce drug traffickers’ resources.
“The United States is the principal obstacle,” Crespo said in an interview from Mexico City. “If the proposal doesn’t have approval from the United States, it simply doesn’t get done.”
Fox first publicly called for legalization of marijuana two years ago. He is among a growing number of former Latin American leaders who have called for drug legalization, including another former Mexican president, Ernesto Zedillo.
On Wednesday, Fox cited the example of Portugal, where he said drugs use has fallen by 25 percent a decade after they were legalized there.
From Chile to the United Nations, proponents of legalization are “persevering in their search for solutions,” he said. “Certainly, these solutions will be found.”
By Sandra Dibble
Originally published April 6, 2011 at 9:43 p.m., updated April 6, 2011 at 9:46 p.m.
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