To save Mexico — and the world — a simple step must be taken: Legalize drugs. And not just marijuana — all drugs.
That's the message Vicente Fox brought to San Francisco on Monday, as the former Mexican president continued a string of pro-legalization appearances across the U.S.
"I am all for legalizing drugs, in the same way Portugal did," said Fox, referring to that country's move in 2001 to decriminalize possession of all drugs.
In that time, Portugal, which was struggling to combat high rates of HIV, "has ended a self-destructive path and found a decrease in consumption," said Fox, noting that in his country the stakes are much higher.
Some 80,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-fueled violence since 2006, when Fox's successor, former President Felipe Calderon, announced an all-out war on the country's "narcotrafico" cartels.
Calderon's policy has proved to be a "total failure," said Fox, who added that the American war on drugs also has not worked.
"Mammoth consumption levels" of drugs in the U.S. have fueled cartels' profits and made "the cost of the war [on drugs] ... unbearable for Mexico," said Fox, who spoke at a news conference Monday in The City.
This would all change if drugs were available for "responsible" adults on the retail market, he added.
Fox issued similar statements last month at an appearance in Seattle. Just like then, Fox was accompanied Monday by Jamen Shively, a former Microsoft engineer who has launched a company — Diego Pellicier Inc. — that he hopes will become the country's first "premium marijuana retail brand."
Marijuana is illegal under federal law, but a growing number of states — the first was California in 1996 — allow small amounts of marijuana to be grown, sold and possessed for medical reasons. And last year, voters in Washington and Colorado legalized the drug.
Marijuana is the most widely used illicit drug in the world. Much of the illegal marijuana in the U.S. is smuggled across the border via Mexico, law enforcement authorities contend.
In the coming months, a marijuana legalization bill will be introduced in the Mexican Congress, Fox said.
Current Mexican president Enrique Pena Nieto earlier this year dismissed the idea of marijuana legalization.
In 2006, at the end of his term, Fox vetoed a drug decriminalization bill he had originally proposed. Pressure from the U.S. behind the scenes allegedly led to his about-face.