Will the U.S. Join the Debate?
By Daniel Robelo, AlterNet
The question of whether legalizing drugs would help reduce the killings in Mexico has made front page news this week and is causing unprecedented debate around the world.
Last week, former Mexican President Vicente Fox called on his country “to legalize the production, distribution and sale of drugs” as the best way to weaken the drug cartels.
Acknowledging that “radical prohibition strategies have never worked,” Fox’s recommendation echoes another former president of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo, as well as past presidents of Colombia and Brazil, who last year issued a ringing condemnation of the failed war on drugs, in favor of alternatives that include the removal of legal penalties for marijuana possession.
This latest endorsement of legalization also comes on the heels of current Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s own announcement that, while he opposes legalization, he nevertheless supports an open debate about ending prohibition – the root cause of the violence in Mexico that has now claimed over 28,000 lives.
Sadly, however, legalization is not even part of the policy dialogue in D.C. In fact, the U.S. drug czar has repeatedly said it’s not even part of his or President Obama’s “vocabulary.”
Yet despite Washington’s reticence to engage the topic, the debate about legalization is taking place in many communities throughout the U.S. California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, like Calderon, has called for a debate about marijuana legalization, a proposal that Californians will vote on in November. In 2009, the City Council of El Paso, Texas – directly across the border from Ciudad Juarez, the world’s deadliest city and ground zero in Mexico’s drug war – passed a resolution “supporting an honest, open national debate on ending the prohibition on narcotics.”
President Calderon’s openness to debating legalization comes amid new recognition that the cartels are not just killing each other, or members of the government, or innocent civilians – they are openly challenging the Mexican state and eroding its democratic institutions.