Mexican President Opens Debate over Drug Legalization due to Country's High Murder Rate


The Mexican President Felipe Calderon said today that he would consider a debate on legalizing drugs following the announcement that there have been more than 28,000 drug-related deaths in Mexico since 2006. “It’s a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality (of opinions),” said Calderon. “You have to analyse carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”

2006 was the year in which Calderon took office, and was also when the army was first brought in to step up the drug war, in place of a police force which was widely seen as corrupt and ineffective. Since then there have been 963 clashes between Mexican authorities and drug gangs according to national intelligence chief Guillermo Valdes, an average of almost one a day. Although $411 million US and 84,000 weapons have been seized, the total failure of Mexico’s current anti-drugs strategy is clear. 1,234 murders were committed in July, the majority of which were drug-related, making it the bloodiest month yet under Calderon’s leadership. Additionally, soldiers have frequently been accused of human rights abuses since taking on a leading role in fighting drug cartels. It has been fairly clear that a new strategy is required for some time.

Drugs were decriminalized for personal use in Mexico last year, but plans to effectively reassign resources to the drug war have clearly failed. The idea of legalising marijuana as a way of undermining a major source of income for cartels was previously floated by several ex-Latin American Presidents, but yesterday was the first time there has been a major proposal to widen the debate to include all drugs. “I’m not talking just about marijuana,” said analyst and writer Hector Aguilar Camin, “rather all drugs in general.”

MSNBC anchor Cenk Uygur yesterday labelled the US drug war "unwinnable" and called for its end, citing the “unconscionable number” of Mexican people that have been killed in drug wars as his justification. However, the US government has not just lost a partner in the war on drugs. A statement released by Calderon’s office yesterday clarifies his position as being open to debate but “against the legalisation of drugs.” Even if drug legalisation were to occur in Mexico, battles for control over smuggling routes into the US would be unlikely to stop. The opening of the debate in Mexico is a start, but only legalization of drugs throughout North America can fundamentally reduce the shocking and unacceptable number of Mexican drug-related deaths.