President Felipe Calderón: Drug Trafficking, Consumption "Impossible to End"

Felipe Calderon
At the end of his six-year term in D.F., Mexican President Felipe Calderón is taking the garrulous route out of office. Calderón, who exits the presidency next month, is busily talking up Mexico's surging economy and potential to be the next BRIC nation with foreign journalists. But no interview with him is complete without discussion of Mexico's Drug War, which was escalated to a full-on military conflict under Calderón's direction.

In an interview with The Economist, Calderón dropped a particularly noteworthy bomb: Despite the military and the murders, there are still plenty of drugs in Ciudad Juarez, just south of El Paso, Texas -- and there always will be.

See also: Marijuana Legalization in Two States Has Mexico, Costa Rica Questioning U.S. Role in Drug War

"The consumption of drugs or their trafficking" are "impossible to end," the president told the magazine's Mexico City correspondent. The focus now, Calderón said, should be on "market mechanisms" to ensure inevitable drug money doesn't go to killers associated with a cartel.

In short, the Mexican president has advocated for drug legalization in the United States.

Calderón is from the southern Mexican state of Michoacán, and shortly after taking office in December 2006, he launched a military-style offensive there in response to continuing drug cartel-related violence. This is seen as the starting point for the current Mexican Drug War. Calderón says various cartels' influence has been reduced and the murder rate has dropped. That may be true, but tens of thousands of citizens, as well as police and cartel members, have died (note to the sensitive folks: don't do a Google image search for "cartel violence").

The solution, as Calderón sees it, will be a reduction in demand. And since the demand comes from the United States -- the entity responsible for all drug violence in South and Central American, Calderón says -- the onus is on Americans to figure out a way to stop the cash flowing south. Below is a Q & A from the Economist interview. Emphasis ours.

The Economist: What is your message for those who live in the United States, including those who still buy drugs?

Calderón: Clearly the origin of the problem, the biggest source of income for the criminals continues to be the sale of drugs in the United States. Consumption in the United States is behind this problem of violence that we are experiencing in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Ecuador and practically all of the Caribbean. And that has to end.

So either the United States and its society, its government, and its Congress decide to drastically reduce their consumption of drugs, or if they are not going to reduce it, they at least have the moral responsibility to reduce the flow of money toward Mexico, where the cash goes into the hands of criminals.

To reduce that flow of money they have the obligation to find ways that allow it to occur. They have to explore even market mechanisms to see if that can allow the flow of money to reduce. If they want to take all the drugs they want, as far as I'm concerned let them take them. I don't agree with it but it's their decision, as consumers and as a society. What I do not accept is that they continue passing their money to the hands of killers, who are committing terrible crimes in Mexico and in the whole region.
Calderón didn't say the magic word, "legalization," but what else could "market mechanisms" mean?

Of course, this might just be wishful thinking. On a trip to Mexico in the spring, Vice President Joe Biden outright dismissed any possibility of legalization. And on Saturday, Calderón will be succeeded by opposition party leader Enrique Peña Nieto. It's uncertain what path he'll take on the drug war, but in a country exhausted by seemingly endless violence, something's gotta give.

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