Pubdate: Fri, 13 Apr 2012
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2012 The Dallas Morning News, Inc.
Author: Alfredo Corchado
Author: Alfredo Corchado


SAN CRISTOBAL, Mexico - The United States needs to consider 
legalizing all illegal drugs or risk having the continent become an 
expanding war zone, argues former President Vicente Fox, insisting 
that governments are not in the business of legislating morality.

As President Barack Obama and other regional leaders prepared to 
gather over the weekend in Cartagena, Colombia, for the annual Summit 
of the Americas, Fox called the war on drugs a failure and said that 
the U.S. and its partners must look beyond criminalizing drug use and 
employing military tactics to fight traffickers.

Fox joined other current and former leaders in pressing the U.S. for 
alternatives, but his position is more radical, a reflection, he 
said, of growing frustration with U.S demand for drugs, the southward 
flow of guns, and questions about his successor's strategy against 
organized crime.

In an interview with The Dallas Morning News at his presidential 
library in Guanajuato state, Fox said he no longer advocates 
legalizing just marijuana. "Everything must be on the table," he 
said. "We cannot be the cemetery for the United States.

"I would push for legalization all the way: all drugs and in all 
places. Why? Because I think it's immoral, it's not ethical that we 
request from government or the state to take responsibility on 
whether our kids or our citizens use drugs. That's a personal, 
individual decision."

A senior U.S. official declined to comment and instead pointed to 
prior remarks by the Obama administration. During a visit to Mexico 
and Central America last month, Vice President Joe Biden laid out the 
U.S. position, saying, "There are more problems with legalization 
than nonlegalization.

"It impacts on a country's productivity. It impacts on the health 
costs of that country. It impacts on mortality rates," he said, 
adding, "It's worth discussing, but there's no possibility the 
Obama-biden administration will change its policy on legalization."

Fox touched on a range of topics in the interview, but he repeatedly 
took issue with the U.S. war on drugs. He insisted that the bloodshed 
is undermining Mexico's young and fragile democracy and warned of 
dire consequences unless the U.S. changes an approach that has been 
favored by successive administrations since Richard Nixon's.

For generations, Latin American leaders have cooperated with U.S. 
policy on drugs, with more than a trillion dollars spent by the U.S. 
to support enforcement and eradication in Latin America. Along the 
way, more than 150,000 people have been killed, including more than 
50,000 in Mexico during the administration of Fox's successor, Felipe Calderon.

More than 250,000 businesses have shut down in Mexico, and tens of 
thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people have relocated, 
many fleeing to the U.S., particularly Texas.

"We cannot keep as we are today," Fox said. "The war is killing us. 
We're losing tourism. We're losing foreign investment. We're losing 
hope. Our kids don't know what to think, what faith they can have in 
the future. Our business community is moving out with their families 
to Dallas, to Fort Worth, to Houston, San Diego, Miami, even Toronto."

Ten days after Fox left office on Dec. 1, 2006, Calderon began his 
military campaign against drug traffickers. The Calderon 
administration insists that its strategy has been successful, having 
captured 22 of the 37 top cartel leaders and seized more than 560 
aircraft and 140,000 weapons, but the violence continues to spread.

The issue has become a focal point in this year's presidential 
campaign, and Fox said it threatens to end the 12-year rule of the 
conservative National Action Party, or PAN, which began with Fox in 2000.

"There are people who say I didn't do enough, that I closed my eyes," 
Fox said. "If I did that, my purpose was harmony. My purpose was 
peace, where all Mexicans could build up a better future for our families."

Fox said the next president must "find an immediate solution" beyond 
force and focus on making "sure the opportunities are there."

Fostering opportunity is a goal of Fox's presidential library, the 
first for a former Mexican president. It serves as a laboratory for 
school-age children to learn the importance of leadership.

"The whole idea is to change their minds and what they think their 
destiny might be," Fox said. "You can be a president, an architect, a 
virtuoso of the violin. It's within you, the power, and that is 
leadership. And with that you can go as high as you want."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom