Former president of Mexico calls on U.S. to legalize drugs


by Angela Kocherga / KENS 5 Border Bureau

Bio | Email | Follow: @akochergaborder

Posted on April 16, 2012 at 6:41 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 16 at 6:41 AM

San Cristobal, Guanajuato -- President Vicente Fox is among a growing number of leaders in Latin America calling on the U.S. to legalize drugs to reduce violence and organized crime.

"Prohibitions don't work, and the last remaining frontier of prohibition is drug, and we should questions ourselves why drugs," Fox said.

It's the same question President Barack Obama will hear from some of the leaders gathered at the Summit of the Americas this weekend in Colombia during talks about drug policies in the region.

"This war on drugs is totally lost," said Fox, the former president, during an interview at his sprawling ranch, where he built the first presidential library in Mexico.

Fox continues to speak out about issues even after leaving office, another first since most former presidents quietly retreat from public life.

And the man who ended 71 years of one party rule with his election victor is speaking out on the drug war as the current presidential race heats up.

"This problem is killing us, so I really hope whoever wants to be sitting in the presidential chair as of December of this year, he better have a solution to this," Fox said. "We cannot keep going as we are today."

Fox is critical of the current president's drug war strategy. Current President Felipe Calderon is a fellow PAN  party member, who began a crackdown on drug cartels shortly after taking office in 2006.

"When you go against the same wall for five years and nothing changes, but it's getting worse," Fox said. "You have to do something . And leaders have to recognize when you have to change."

Part of the change he advocates is legalization, and not just  marijuana.

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

It's a controversial position, but he says Mexico needs creative solutions as it copes with a drug war that has killed more than 50,000 people since 2006.

"We're losing tourism. We're losing foreign investment. We're losing hope," Fox said. "Our young people don't know what to think. What faith can they have in the future?"

"Our business community is moving out with their families to Dallas, Houston, San Diego, Miami, even Toronto," Fox said about the families who've left Mexico to escape violent crime including kidnappings and extortion.

The former president says he wants his library to serve as a place to debate ideas and inspire the next generation of leaders in Mexico.

More than 200,000 people visited "Centro Fox" this past year. Many were students including 70,000 school children from rural areas of Mexico who went through a five hour course about democracy and leadership.

The program is called "president for a day." The highlight: children get the chance to sit in the chair in a replica of the presidential office.  

"The whole idea is to change their minds and what they think their destiny might be, of just being migrants or working construction, or harvesting fields," Fox said.

His most pressing concern: "We need peace, and we need peace as soon as possible."