Thu, Aug 05, 2010 - Page 7 News List

Mexican president mulls legalizing drugs

AP , MEXICO CITY

Culiacan cemetary employees carry the coffin of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel during his funeral on Tuesday in Culiacan, Mexico. Coronel was a key figure in a Sinaloa state drug gang. He was killed last Thursday as he tried to escape during an army raid outside Guadalajara.

PHOTO: AFP

Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on Tuesday he would consider a debate on legalizing drugs as his government announced that more than 28,000 people have been killed in drug violence since he launched a crackdown against cartels in 2006.

Intelligence agency director Guillermo Valdes also said authorities have confiscated about 84,000 weapons and made total cash seizures of US$411 million in US currency and US$26 million worth in pesos.

Valdes released the statistics during a meeting with Calderon and representatives of business and civic groups, where attendees exploring ways to improve Mexico’s anti-drug strategy called on the government to open a debate on legalization.

Calderon said he has taken note of the idea of legally regulating drugs in the past.

“It’s a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality [of opinions],” he said. “You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”

Three former presidents — Cesar Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil — urged Latin American countries last year to consider legalizing marijuana to undermine a major source of income for cartels.

Mexico’s congress also has debated the issue.

Calderon has long said he is opposed to the idea, and his office issued a statement hours after the meeting saying that while the president was open to debate on the issue, he remains “against the legalization of drugs.”

In proposing the debate on Tuesday, analyst and writer Hector Aguilar Camin said, “I’m not talking just about marijuana ... rather all drugs in general.”

The most recent official toll of the drug war dead came in mid-June, when the attorney general said 24,800 had died. Valdes did not specify a time frame for the new statistics.

The government does not break down murder statistics, but leading newspapers who kept their own counts say last month was the deadliest yet under Calderon: the national daily Milenio said 1,234 were killed in July.

Some attendees criticized the government for lacking consistent statistics on the drug war and an effective way to communicate its successes.

They also said the government needs to do more to combat the financial arm of organized crime.

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