Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Mexico leader open over drug policy

Mexico's president said he is open to changing drug policy
Mexico's president said he is open to changing drug policy

The president has said he is willing to change Mexico's drug-war strategy and promised a new offensive against money laundering after blistering criticism from opposition leaders.

Felipe Calderon's drug-war talks, the latest session with leaders of most of the country's opposition political parties, come as the government offensive against drug cartels is drawing more criticism.

More than 28,000 people died in drug-related violence since Mr Calderon launched the offensive in late 2006, sending thousands of troops to drug hot spots.

"I know that the strategy has been questioned, and my administration is more than willing to revise, strengthen or change it if needed," Mr Calderon said at the meeting. "What I ask, simply, is for clear ideas and precise proposals on how to improve this strategy."

The series of meetings started last week with Mr Calderon calling together academics, experts and civic groups to exchange ideas on combating drugs.

For more than three and a half years, Mr Calderon fiercely defended his policies, even as vicious cartel turf battles and attacks on police spread deep into Mexico and all along the regions bordering the United States.

He now appears more willing to discuss alternatives - even the legalisation of drugs, a proposal that he personally opposes.

Mr Calderon repeated his argument that unilateral legalisation would increase drug use and do little to reduce the cartels' income.

Some of the toughest criticism from the opposition leaders came on the subject of money laundering. An estimated 10 billion US dollars in suspicious cash possibly linked to drug trafficking flows through Mexico annually, fuelling the cartels' violence and ability to bribe officials.

"The government's strategy is not working," said Jesus Ortega, leader of the leftist Democratic Revolution Party. "I don't think there even is a strategy ... A government policy implies attacking this financial system that benefits from money laundering, and as a consequence, benefits from the violence."

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