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The top three presidents candidates in Mexico have all promised a significant shift in their country’s drug war strategy, according to a front page story in today’s New York Times. The candidates are pledging to prioritize a reduction in prohibition-related violence, which has led to more than 50,000 deaths since President Calderon launched a war on the drug traffickers in 2006, over conventional measures such as arrests and seizures. Although the deployment of the Mexican Army was a cornerstone of Calderon’s approach, all three candidates have pledged to withdraw the Mexican Army from the drug war.
The new consensus in Mexico is reflective of a broader paradigm shift throughout Latin America. After decades of being brutalized by the United States government’s failed pro¬hibitionist drug policies, a growing number of current and former Latin American leaders are saying “enough is enough.” They’re demanding that the full range of policy options be expanded to include alternatives that help reduce the crime, violence and corruption in their own countries – and insisting that decriminal¬ization and legal regulation of currently illicit drug markets be considered.
Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, issued the following statement:
“The fact that all three of the principal candidates for president of Mexico say that they are going to focus on reducing violence rather than simply seizing drugs, making arrests and targeting top traffickers seems like a step in the right direction. But none of the candidates has yet to articulate an alternative vision for how their country will move beyond the prohibitionist nightmare that has plagued Mexico not just in recent years but in fact for decades. Indeed, none has even been so bold as President Calderon was last year when he said repeatedly that the United States should consider “market alternatives” if it was unable to reduce its demand for illicit drugs.
“What the next president of Mexico needs to do – and what President Calderon should also do before departing office – is align themselves with other Latin American presidents who have boldly called for all drug policy options to be considered, including various types of decriminalization and legal regulation. Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemalan president Otto Perez Molina are saying what needs to be said and playing a leadership role, not just regionally but globally, in demanding reform of the failed global drug prohibition regime. The presidents of Costa Rica, Argentina and Ecuador are now backing their initiative – and President Obama has publicly acknowledged the need for a new dialogue on drug policy.
“For this movement to build, nothing is more important now than bold leadership from Mexico’s current and future presidents.”