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Former President Of Mexico Discusses Ways To Stop Drug-Related Violence

Audio

Aired 4/7/11

What can be done to end the drug-related violence in Mexico? We speak to former President of Mexico Vicente Fox about how the drug war has changed since he left office, and why he believes that legalizing drugs is the best way to reduce the violence that's plagued his country over the last decade. We'll also talk to Fox about illegal immigration, and trade between the U.S. and Mexico.

Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox speaks at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland in 2003.
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Above: Former President of Mexico Vicente Fox speaks at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland in 2003.

Vicente Fox will deliver the keynote address today at 4 p.m. at the 15th Annual Sister Sally Furay Lecture at the Joan B. Kroc Theatre on the University of San Diego campus.

What can be done to end the drug-related violence in Mexico? We speak to former President of Mexico Vicente Fox about how the drug war has changed since he left office, and why he believes that legalizing drugs is the best way to reduce the violence that's plagued his country over the last decade. We'll also talk to Fox about illegal immigration, and trade between the U.S. and Mexico.

Guest

Vicente Fox, former President of Mexico

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. Just I quick update on the powerful 7.4 after shock that was reported off the coast of Japan. The quake struck Thursday night, 41 miles from Sendai, one of the areas hardest hit by last month's earthquake. Workers were evacuated from the area's nuclear plant that was badly diagrammed by the earlier earthquake. Right now, are a tsunami washing has been lifted. We'll give you have an update on this newest earthquake in Japan coming up at the top of the hour on NPR News.

Right now, a very special guest on These Days, former Mexican president, Vicente Fox. The drug cartel war as we heard in the first part of this hour in Mexico has claimed tens of thousands of lives of now President Fox is on a speaking tour. He's trying to point out what he sees as mistakes made by the present Mexican government. And he is advocating a revolutionary change in U.S. drug laws of it's a pleasure to welcome former Mexican presidents, Vicente Fox, to These Days. Good morning, President Fox.

FOX: Good morning. Pleasure to be with you, with the audience. And I'm very pleased to be here in San Diego, this great city. Unfortunately today, a little bit cold.

CAVANAUGH: Well, we try to do our best for visitors but we got it wrong today. Now, let me bring you to the heart of the matter that we have been discussing in the earlier part of this show. I know that you've been saying that drug legalization may be a more effective tool against the drug cartels than any kind of military force. Are you talking about legalization in Mexico or the U.S. or both?

FOX: My real answer is both, and maybe the whole of the world. And I put some rationale on it. We have a think tank at central fox, which is the presidential library, the first one ever built outside of the United States, and that's where we do a lot of working research, debate on this issue, especially this very actual issue, and very costly to Mexico. And the cost increases every day, number one, the amount of lives that we lost must have been with the young people from 14 to 25-year-olds that join the cartels, and the cartels this war they have among themselves, and the war that government has with the cartels. All of this has reached now a figure of over 40000 of these kids killed. And we have to consider those other 40000 that killed them. We have to consider the loss on tourism that Mexico is experiencing right now. The loss of foreign investment coming to Mexico. The fear that is spreading out, the loss of hope on the youth in Mexico which they don't see that future. So this is a very costly issue to Mexico which brings us to thinking new ideas, trying to find a way out. And the analysis is that there is drug consumption most everywhere in the world. But more than anywhere in the world, your consumption and the big market is here in the United States. So that's where we have to consider both nations. The drug consumed in the United States generates billions of U.S. dollars that are laundered here, transferred to Mexico, used by the cartels to buy the weapons here in the United States , which is a nation that has absolute freedom to traffic, sell arms. And these are the ones that are being used in Mexico. So this is the consequence of consumption. And then we see things like this referendum that California's state carried on a few months ago.

CAVANAUGH: Proposition 19?

FOX: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: The proposal to legalize and tax marijuana?

FOX: Yes. That's right. Which came out with a 44 percent support on depenalizing marijuana. Now, I have another example and experience which is Portugal. Portugal has decriminalized and legalized all drugs, not just marijuana. All drugs since ten years ago. And the end result is a 25 percent decrease, decrease in drug consumption. So we might have an answer there. Because we have to separate the health problem by consuming drugs, and the crime and violence associated by it to distribute in the black market. I questioned myself, and we question pat central fox, what happens with the drug once it crosses the border? Every empty there might be some cargo loads crossing or cargo loads being reached, the youth market on the sea coast, or somewhere. But drug, thousands of doses that are here, what distributes here? Who take its from crossing the border to Seattle, to Washington city? To New York? To Chicago? It's consumed everywhere. So cartel, criminals, exist here in the United States , distributors of drugs exist here in the United States. But it's in a way under ground. And in the case in Mexico, it's very visible.

CAVANAUGH: President Fox, excuse me, let me clarify some of the things that you're saying because I know that there are a lot of people in law enforcement on both sides of the boarder who don't see legalizing drugs as the way to go. I'm wondering what kind of support will are you getting from this -- on this idea?

FOX: Well, if they don't support it, why then they don't refrain? It's their job, it's their responsibility, and it's not happening. What i read everywhere and the evaluations that we have is growth growth growth of consumption. At both times in Mexico and the United States , and it's billions, tens of billions U.S. dollars of drugs that crosses to the United States, and through partially is produced, California produces more marijuana than what we produce in all of Mexico. But most of it is imported. So how come it goes through? Now, what I'm saying here is -- I know, I know police is drug enforcement agencies have to comply with the law, and the law says no trafficking, no distribution no consumption. But that's my suggestion that you U.S. change that law. Because I don't think that we, the people, we the citizens or we or not we, in that case, the consumers, are the drug users' own responsibility. I mean why should we request from government and from the state to stop, to finish the circulation of drugs to protect our kids when we can protect our kids by educating, by informing, by letting them know how harmful to their health is? To put a [CHECK AUDIO] on kids to them, so they don't reach, the drug will never happen.

CAVANAUGH: President Fox, let's say the U.S. won't legalize drugs. I'm wondering what is -- what else can be done? In other words, what do you think about president Calder n's decision to use the Mexican army to fight the drug cartels? Do you think this there's any possibility that that could eventually work?

FOX: Things to do on the US side to reduce consumption, to reduce the income of money to the cartels. To reduce the amount of money transferred, which is being laundered in the United States , in collected in the United States. To reduce or limit arms accessibility so that they don't get all the arms, the government issues, they're getting. Soap that's on the U.S. side. More stronger enforcement of the law because the drugs circulate here. On the Mexican side, number one, I've been saying publicly that we should proceed to debate, and at the proper time, to decide upon legalizing in the case of Mexico. And the answer that some come up with, they say, no, it has to be done in both nations. I don't think so. California was one that was going to take its own initiative without considering Mexico. And Mexico could do and take its own decision without considering United States , because at the very end what make Mexico is doing unfortunately is working for the United States , is working to avoid kids in the United States to buy drugs. And for that, we're paying that huge price. Now, next in Mexico, to take the army out of the streets. I don't think violence defeats violence 678 I don't think the army is prepared to do policing work. What I see happening is that when you have the army on the streets, or when you have them in Guantanamo, human rights are violated every day. So we would save a lot of human rights violations. Number two, we would insure the due legal produce or the [CHECK AUDIO] judiciary process to all those accused of being criminals or being drug traffickers, because now, the due legal process of laws are being complied with in had the case of Mexico. So army out of the street. Number two, to reinforce and to come up with a very strong solid, reliable police organization and police corps, national level, state level. Highly coordinated. Where we have to depolitize, and we have to take up parties and interests, because here comes the major of the [CHECK AUDIO] and he brings you his police chief. So we have to make a professional career, elected directory by the citizens. And that will change a lot of things, like you have here with the sheriff. Number two, in this, police structure, we must have a professional career so that they are highly connected, good salaries, competitive salaries, and a professional, professional training and preparation for all of those police. At the very end, we would still have the problem of corruption, because it's so much money that is generated by the markets of drug consumption that that money is used to bribe the police corps in Mexico.

CAVANAUGH: Right. President Fox, I want to let everyone know who is speaking, okay? I want to reintroduce you. Former Mexican president Vicente Fox is our guest now on These Days. And as you're outlining all of these measures that you would like to see changed within Mexico to make their police function stronger, I know I have also read that you have been somewhat critical of presidents Obama for putting so much attention on country's like Libya, and not as much attention in your eyes on what's going on, the cartel violence in Mexico. What would you have president Obama do?

FOX: Well, first of all, to understand the problem. And not to just have the thinking that it's Mexico's problem. It's not our problem. We would not be in this war if there were not be consumption in the United States. The drugs imported or moved from Columbia, from Venezuela, from Bolivia comes through Mexico or comes through the ocean to the United States. But we're not a high consumption nation. Consumption of drugs. Of we're not a high producer of drugs of that's further south. And so here we are in between the producers of the south and the market of the north. And we have to pay this extremely, this mammoth cost of trying to refrain drug trafficking of it's a job that Mexico too, and presidente Calder n too, because we believe in complying with the law, but in the very end, we're doing a job for the United States, which the the United States is not doing, I have neither heard president Obama or anybody else in the U.S. government say okay, no more drugs for the kids am. All the power of the state is to prevent that drug circulating in the United States. I don't hear that. I don't see that happening when on the other side of the border, down south, this courageous president we have, presidente Calder n, we decides that he would stop drug producing, drug trafficking and drug crossing to the United States, I mean, it's I good decision, but in a way, it's a dream. You will never -- you will never eradicate drugs from the face of the earth as you or we have not eradicated sex, and we have not eradicated now abortion, now marriage between couples is authorizes, consuming alcohol is authorizes, consuming cigarettes and authorized, and all of them -- [CHECK AUDIO] and still, the prohibition has been eliminated. Prohibitions don't work. I think that the best strategy should be exercise our own freedom of choice, everyone. He wants to consume drugs and he wants to kill himself, let him do it. But let's educate him, let's give him information, let's promote that if they consume drugs, they're gonna kill themselves. And let's try to do it on that route. Which means authorizing, which means legalizing. Imagine, imagine taking this mammoth figure of billions of U.S. dollars that are never seen, the financial capacity of the cartels, and they say, money recollected from the black market, and it is used to do additional criminal activities. Imagine all that mammoth amount of money coming to the hands of government like is happening in Portugal. Now, Portuguese government has all that money to educate it, to prevent, to. Inform, to invite people, consumers to reduce the consumption of drugs because it's harmful to their health.

CAVANAUGH: Perez do not fox.

FOX: We have a moral and ethical standing in here. Why should we claim and ask the question government, what we should be doing at home? What we should be doing with our own person, with our own body by not using harmful things? By protecting our health?

CAVANAUGH: President focus, let me stop you for a moment, if I may, I want to just, in the minutes that we have left, I want to just take you back to the year 2000 when you were elected president. It was a period of political new beginnings in Mexico. And between the U.S. and the United States. And now here we are, this terrible drug cartel violence in Mexico, and of course, there's been no movement on any kind of immigration reform, in fact those positions have hardened in the United States. What do you think came of that potential that was there in 2000 between the U.S. and Mexico?

FOX: Okay, number one, what you're mentioning is one more additional side cost of this issue of drug consumption. Because it's separating apart Mexico and the United States. Right now, wee in a perfect moment of the relationship. Weep hear some comments on some information coming from high officials of U.S. government blaming Mexico, what is going on. And Mexican [CHECK AUDIO] are doing the same. We are neighbors, we're friends, we're partners, Mexico and the United States, and we should be acting different. But this is it a side cost against this war of cartels. Now, what happened in my administration? You remember president bush coming to San Cristobal to give a big big kiss to my mother. I mean, she was the most -- the happiest woman on earth to see the Perez debt of the strongest nation of the world coming and giving a kiss in this small community. In San Cristobal there, the only one single commitment that we came out with was that we would go both, his government, my government, for a reform, a migration reform. And we started working. Unfortunately September the 11th came about. Unfortunately United States decided to go to war in Iraq. Unfortunately president bushed changed priorities. His war against terrorism changed everything, and Mexico was forgotten and the migration issue was forgotten. At that time we didn't have the problem that we have today with drugs. And those close to 200000 kids, 40000 have died, 40000 have killed them, and over a hundred thousand that are working for the cartels for $1,000 a month, those kids should be on the right side. Those kids should be having a job, should be in universities in Mexico and not joining cartels. Why we can't do that, because we're not working fluently, [CHECK AUDIO] and is a powerful truth to create jobs, both governments, we're not attending trading, we're not attending exchanges. So instead of that, this nation, this -- and I say it with all respect, because my grandfather was from here, and I in a way feel also American, I have American blood in my veins, and so I don't understand this nation now building walls. I mean that's incredible. That the leader is isolating itself because of fear when we should be building bridges, bridges of being, bridges of exchange, of [CHECK AUDIO] bridge was exchange of technology, and we should be reinforcing our friendship, our neighborhood, and our partnership. When you see the house of that neighbor burning, you better do something about it. It doesn't have to do with throwing out to Mexico peanuts and if I have hundred million dollars to keep the fight against crime. I mean, that's not fair. There should be a much large upper commitment of this nation on this issue. Or, or the option, legalize drugs so that we don't have to have this black market so that we don't have to have criminals, then we would have businessmen, that we would have government running this income issue subject.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I have to -- I want to stop you there because we're basically out of time. I want to thank you so much for giving us your time today. President Fox. And let me tell everyone that you will be speaking today, you are on a speaking tour, today former Mexican president Vicente Fox will deliver the keynote address, it's at 4:00 o'clock in the morning at the fifteenth annual sisters Sally four a lecture at the Joan B. Crock theatre on the university of San Diego campus. And again, President Fox, thank you so much for your time today.

FOX: I love to see the San Diegans and my paizanos, here in the city to come to that meeting. There we extend the thoughts and the dialogue on this key issue of education. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, sir. And if you would like to comment, please go on-line, KPBS.org/These Days. Stay with us for hour two of these, coming up in just a few minutes right here on KPBS.

Comments

Avatar for user 'mika'

mika | April 7, 2011 at 10:27 a.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

I never thought I would be applauding Vincente Fox. Even though I'm not 100% convinved about legalization, I'm glad that someone is finally admitting that the current strategies of drug control are failing to end drug use and has created a violent black market.

It's good to keep an open mind - you never know where you'll find allies. Now if I could only convince Fox to have a coffee and talk with me about privatization.

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Avatar for user 'HarryStreet'

HarryStreet | April 7, 2011 at 5:19 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sold on legalizing drugs as a deterrent to the violence in Mexico. We have a drug war in the US (not as publicized) and is equally dangerous, yet I can't imagine Americans feeling we should legalize the trade.

Mexico's current situation is most likely due to their longtime, cultural-integrated society of looking the other way, taking money under the table, and accepting the fact that this is the way it's always been in Mexico.

Yes, the demand for drugs in the US is part of the problem, but there is a demand for drug use in Mexico too, though not as publicized. I believe the war on drugs should be changed from a police command to a military command.

We are not facing mere criminals, but WAR criminals. These are people who rape, kidnap, murder, and mutilate as a means of getting what they want. (Does anyone recall how the Nazis operated? Not much different here).

With US military aide the Mexican military will be able to coordinate a much better form of attack against the army of the cartel. And yes, more civilians will die, which is what happens when you are at war. But is there really any other way? Should we accept the cartel as victors? Let them spread their drugs both legally and illegally all over Mexico and the US? Where will it stop?

To combat violence you have to have greater violence. Not a pretty prospect, but I don't see how we have much choice here. After all, the cartel has WON the current war. A new one has to be started for a change of tactics to take effect.

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Avatar for user 'ridgwayjm'

ridgwayjm | April 8, 2011 at 5:09 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

I can't agree more with David65. We can't accept the cartel as victors, then go on to legalize drugs and turn into a dope-up nation. The US military may be our only option (after we leave Iraq & Afghanistan). BUT, the Mexican people have an EXTREMELY strong bias, even a paranoia, against any US troops in their country. So this yearly massacre in Cuiad Juarez may just be pushing them to overcome their paranoia against the US and accept US military aid.

Note again that the Mexican drug war is killing many more civillians per year than the "war" in Afghanistan -- it's not even close!

Other than that, the only thing I have to say is that Vincente Fox's interview with Maureen Cavanaugh shows that he's a blowhard who can't stop talking! But maybe he's traumatized by the bloody events.

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Avatar for user 'Alexfdezl69'

Alexfdezl69 | April 9, 2011 at 4:31 p.m. ― 3 years, 8 months ago

I am Mexican (I work and live in Tijuana)... And as Mika mentioned, this is probably the only time I agree with something Vicente Fox Said.
Respectfully, I don’t think David65 and ridgwayjm are looking at the large picture...
I think the point that Fox made in the last part of the interview is valid... The origin of the problem is CONSUMPTION... as long as there is demand for drugs (or any other product)... In a capitalist society (as the one we all love and live in) there will ALWAYS be a supplier...
Americans may not know this, but the US, puts much pressure (utilizing all of the leverage it has over Latin America) for us to fight and stop drug production and traffic… But as Fox said… We have NEVER seen any US government take a DEFINITIVE stand, or a RADICAL position against drug CONSUMPTION… Yes, there has been a US war on drugs, and it has been going on (at least politically since the Vietnam War), and yet the USA is still BY FAR the single largest market of illegal drugs….
So … If the wealthiest country in the world, with a strong Police and border patrol agencies, with a Solid Judicial system, can’t (or won’t) STOP the problem…. How can you (the USA) expect a poor, corrupt, week country like Mexico (or any other country in Latin America, Asia, or the Middle East) to stop it for you???
Really?
Food for thought… What is more complicated? Wholesale? or for retail sales? Where do you need a larger network?

Viva Mexico y Viva la paz…

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