|By José Luis Sierra
Apr 07, 2011
SAN DIEGO, Calif.—Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said Wednesday that “nobody is going to be able to stop drug trafficking” from Mexico to the United States. He insisted that the only way to solve the problem would be for his country to legalize the consumption of drugs, while the US government must cut off the flow of guns to Mexico, crack down on money laundering, and reduce drug use at home.
During a 40-minute keynote address at the joint convention of the Interamerican Press Society and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE), taking place in San Diego this week, Fox also urged the governments of both countries to renew talks aimed at reaching an agreement on immigration and said that criss-crossing the US-Mexican border with fences will not stop the flow of undocumented immigrants or benefit the economies of either country.
“The Berlin wall didn’t work… the Chinese wall didn’t work,” said Fox, who served as president from 2000-2006. He said Mexico, the US and Canada are part of “an [economic] strategic team that could help each other to deal with the present economic crisis” and added that none could afford not to work together.
“Mexico alone buys more products and services from the US than Germany, Italy, France and England,” Fox said. “We also have an economic exchange that exceeds the total of the rest of Latin America… We can’t continue to be seen as the ugly duckling by this country[the U.S.],” he added.
Walking a fine line between being diplomatic and speaking bluntly, Fox reiterated past comments about the need to legalize drugs as the only way to erode the multibillion-dollar drug market that has contributed to drug violence and the deaths of nearly 40,000 people in Mexico over the past four years.
While insisting that he was not criticizing current President Felipe Calderon’s tactics, Fox also called on his successor’s government to end the Mexican army’s role in the drug wars and return soldiers to their garrisons. He said the best way to improve public safety is creating a more professional and better-trained police force.
“The army is not prepared to act as police, neither is it trained to deal with issues of human rights,” Fox said, alluding to a report released last week by the Mexican Human Rights Commission. The report revealed that during the four years since Calderon ordered the military to patrol the streets of the most violent cities, such as Juarez and Reynosa, complaints of human rights violations have skyrocketed.
“We can’t fight violence with violence,” Fox said, citing numerous studies, as well as the precedents of other Latin countries, in support of some sort of legalization.
“Look at Portugal. That country not only legalized the use of marijuana but all illegal drugs, and not only managed to reduce violence but also consumption by as much as 25 percent,” he said. Fox also cited the surge in violence during the U.S. Prohibition of the 1930s, which subsided after alcohol consumption was legalized again.
“If someone wants to kill himself/herself, well that is his or her problem,” Fox said. “Every year thousands die for consuming alcohol or tobacco—more then the death victims so far registered for drug use.”
But the former Mexican president cautioned that legalization alone would not end the violence and that current and future governments must work hard to improve the economic conditions of the Mexican people, provide better opportunities for jobs and education, and push for major reforms to the justice system.
“We have to create the conditions so the young people in Mexico don’t feel tempted to work for the drug cartels for $1,000 a month because there are no more options,” Fox said.