Source: PBS Newshour
July 3, 2012
By: Margaret Warner
Mexico’s President-Elect: Legalization Should Be Part of DrugStrategy
MEXICO CITY | The president-elect of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, said Tuesday Mexico should have a debate about legalizing and regulating the sale of drugs here, an approach advocated by some other Latin American leaders to take marijuana sale profits out of the hands of the drug cartels.
While insisting he was not in favor of legalizing drugs himself, he said, “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.”
“I’m not saying we should legalize,” he repeated. “But we should debate in Congress, in the hemisphere and especially the U.S. should participate in this broad debate.”
“So let the debate begin, but you’re not taking a position yet?” I asked.
“That’s right,” he said.
The Obama administration has responded warily to such talk from its southern neighbors. Yet two weeks ago, the president of Uruguay sent just such a proposal to his legislature — for the government to effectively become the sole seller of marijuana — saying “the traditional [interdiction] approach hasn’t worked” and “someone has to be the first” to try it.
On other points, though, Pena Nieto sent reassuring messages to Washington. He said his plans to refocus the drug war to reduce violence suffered by the Mexican people will not mean abandoning the pursuit of drug kingpins shipping vast quantities of drugs to the United States.
Two weeks ago, at a House hearing, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., accused Pena Nieto of advocating “a reversion” to the old policies of “turning a blind eye to the cartels” as long as they weren’t perpetrating the grisly violence.
Pena Nieto jumped at the chance to correct the record, saying, “I know there is a concern around this issue, in terms of assuming this adjustment sold mean not going after drug cartels involved in drug trafficking. No, absolutely not.”
While saying he wants to intensify cooperation with the U.S. government on many fronts, he sent one strong zinger Washington’s way. The issue:
the Obama administration’s failure to do anything major to stop the flood of U.S.-made assault weapons that have wreaked such deadly havoc in Mexico. “We have been insisting on getting the U.S. more involved in fighting arms control. Unfortunately, it has had no impact.”
It’s a message current Mexican President Felipe Calderon has been harping on. It seems clear President Obama is going to hear it from Mexico’s new president as well.