In an interview with a prominent Mexican newspaper, former Mexico President Vicente Fox proposes a number of potentially controversial approaches to solving Mexico’s organized crime problem, explaining why the legalization of marijuana and allowing former criminals to become legitimate “businessmen” is the best way forward.
In conversation with El Universal, Fox claims that “[drug] prohibition doesn’t work” and suggests a laissez-faire, free market approach to marijuana legalization. Claiming that negotiations with criminal organizations are “not necessary,” the former president says that decriminalizing the drug would allow today’s drug lords to be “the businessmen of tomorrow,” while weakening the economic power of illegal organizations.
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Fox also affirms that forgiving the cartels’ crimes is the way forward, referring to the past dictatorships of Argentina, Chile and Spain as examples of how forgiveness was successful in the transition to democracy.
Fox’s views differ from the heavy-handed approach of his successor President Felipe Calderon (2006-2012), which he denounces as being a “blatant violation of human rights,” in reference to alleged extrajudicial killings by the Mexican army.
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Fox’s proposals have been criticized both by opposition politicians and by his own party, the National Action Party (PAN). Such was the case in 2011, when the PAN censured similar comments by Fox following an arson attack by criminals on a casino that left 52 civilians dead; Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard characterized Fox’s views at the time as “throwing in the towel.”
However, Fox’s opinions have some resonance amongst Mexicans who feel severe militarized efforts to be exacerbating the conflicts between organized crime groups and the state. Many Mexicans also regard the drug war as a US problem for which Mexico pays the larger price.
But translating Fox’s utopian vision into reality is at best a leap of faith and at worst irresponsible. There is little guarantee that legal marijuana will lead to lower levels of violence, and it is Mexico’s weak, corrupt and inept government institutions that open the door for violent actors at least as much or more than the current drug paradigm.