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Obama and Mexican President-Elect Talk Drug War

Marijuana legalization in two US states opens up new possibilities for today's US-Mexico talks.


Peña Nieto and Obama have much to discuss.
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By McCarton Ackerman


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Barack Obama meets today with Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto; they're expected to finally discuss the drug war after a long silence from the White House on the subject. Peña Nieto is among a growing number of Latin American leaders—including Colombia's Juan Manuel Santos and Guatemala's Otto Perez Molina—who want a new approach to the raging Latin American drug war. He believes that the recent legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington finally provides an opportunity to address the issue with the US President. "It opens a space for a rethinking of our [drug-war] policy. It opens a debate about the course the drug war should be taking," said Peña Nieto. "It doesn't mean the Mexican government is necessarily going to change what it's doing now...but I am in favor of a hemispheric debate on the effectiveness of the drug-war route we've been on." 

While Perez Molina has proposed legalization of all drugs in Guatemala and Uruguay is moving toward legalizing marijuana (and selling it under a state-managed monopoly), Peña Nieto currently shares Obama's stance of opposing legalization. But if marijuana legalization spreads further in the US, Mexico may be forced to adopt similar measures. "It creates certain distortions and incongruences, since [state legalization] is in conflict with the federal government there," said Peña Nieto. "That will impact how Mexico and other countries in the hemisphere respond." The president-elect will take office on Saturday, replacing Felipe Calderon, whose militant drug war tactics have been criticized for intensifying the violence; since he took office 6 years ago, an estimated 60,000 Mexicans have died, and the conflict is seen as being at a stalemate.


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