June 2, 2013— -- A former Latin American president has once again said that drugs should be legalized. This time it was Vicente Fox who was the president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006.
Fox was in Seattle on Thursday, as a guest speaker for Don Pellicer, a new company that wants to set up marijuana stores in Washington state and Colorado, and aims to create America's "largest" marijuana brand. The former Mexican president spoke in a press conference in which Don Pellicer's CEO [a former Microsoft executive] sought money from investors, and unveiled plans to buy marijuana dispensaries.
After praising Don Pellicer and its head honchos for their "initiative," Fox described marijuana prohibition as a "trap," that has increased violence in Mexico.
He said that policies that legalize this drug's consumption represent an "opportunity," to stop that violence, and welcomed the recent legalization of marijuana for recreational use, in Washington and Colorado.
"This state of Washington has decided to lead a new path," Fox said. "In Mexico we welcome this initiative because the cost of the war [against drug cartels] is becoming unbearable."
Many politicians in Latin America are also talking about taking new paths in drug policy, and demanding that the U.S. also consider legalization as an international strategy.
Some, like Fox, are former presidents, who fought drug cartels tooth and nail in their time, and now have little to lose by saying that drugs should be legalized.
But there are a few current presidents out there who are pushing for changes in drug policy. Curiously, they come from the right, the center, and left of the political spectrum:
Otto Perez Molina (Guatemala) - Ever since he took office in 2012, Guatemala's president has been trying to convince Central American countries to legalize the transport, sale and consumption of drugs, even the hard ones like cocaine. He hasn't been successful yet, but this conservative former general, who had to deploy his country's military against drug dealers, continues to argue that drug prohibition is a futile strategy. "We've seen that when we capture a drug boss, cartels get reorganized and business continues," Perez Molina said in a speech in February 2012. "While there is demand in the United States, drug trafficking will continue here [in Latin America]."
Juan Manuel Santos (Colombia) – When he was defense minister a few years ago, Santos received millions of dollars of US aid, which were destined mostly towards military operations, that targeted leftist guerrillas who profited from the drug trade. Now as the president of Colombia, Santos is trying to make a peace deal with the rebels. He's also trying to back out of the war on drugs. A moderate centrist, he has consistently said in international meetings that a "rational debate" on drug policy should take place. Within his own country, he's set up an Advisory Commission on Drug Policy, which is in charge of finding new alternatives. Currently, Colombia's congress is debating a law that would legalize synthetic drugs.
Pepe Mujica (Uruguay) - Last year, Mujica proposed a marijuana law that would allow people to grow their own weed or buy it at state-run stores and smoke the plant for fun. He had enough votes in Congress last December, to get this law passed. But Mujica, a former leftist guerrilla, decided to postpone the vote until mid 2013, after polls suggested that most Uruguayans do not approve of legalizing the plant. Mujica said that the citizens of Uruguay –which has a population of just 3 million - must be "educated" on the benefits of legalization.