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Mexican Elections Signal Shift in Drug War Strategy

The top three presidential candidates all pledge to decrease violence instead of targeting traffickers.

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Enrique Peña Nieto, the front-runner,
vows to prioritize saving lives. Photo via

By Chrisanne Grise

06/11/12

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With Mexico’s presidential election just a few weeks away, the top three candidates have all vowed to focus more on reducing drug war violence and less on targeting drug traffickers. While the candidates say they will still continue combatting trafficking, all three plan to eventually withdraw the Mexican army from the fight. More than 50,000 people have died since the current president, Felipe Calderón, began using the army more aggressively than any previous Mexican leader back in 2006. The current presidential front-runner, Enrique Peña Nieto, suggests that Mexico should continue working with the US against organized crime, but should also focus on what is best for Mexico, rather than what other governments want. “The task of the state, what should be its priority from my point of view, and what I have called for in this campaign, is to reduce the levels of violence,” he says. The two other main candidates, Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Josefina Vázquez Mota, agree that reducing the death toll takes priority. “Results will be measured not by how many criminals are captured, but by how stable and secure the communities are,” Vázquez Mota says. While these pledges are a step in the right direction, some say they are not enough to fix the problem. “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,” says Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “What the next president of Mexico needs to do—and what President Calderón 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."

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