By PJRC corespondent Alci
The message from the Obama White House was clear: No to the partial legalization of narcotics, Yes to the current, militarized drug war policy which has claimed tens of thousands of lives. While President Obama was dealing with the issue of Israeli tensions with Iran, Vice President Joe Biden travelled to Mexico and Central America on March 5 and 6 where he met with Mexico's presidential candidates and regional heads of state. (La Jornada, March 5, 2012)
In Mexico, Biden met with president Felipe Calderon, whose term is nearing its end, and assured continued US budget support for the ongoing drug war, which has claimed 50,000 lives. According to local media outlets, Calderon asked Biden to do something about the flow of weapons from the US into Mexico but otherwise vowed to continue current policy. Biden then met with Mexico's three presidential candidates, Enrique Pena Nieto of the PRI, Josefina Vasquez Mota of the ruling PAN and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the left-wing PRD. After the private meeting Obrador delivered the only statement that seemed to divert from the consensus, saying he wants "to establish a new bilateral relation with the United States mostly based on cooperation and development which means the United States stops focusing so much on the military and police issues." Biden conceded the validity and importance of debating legalization, thus appearing to open the door to new policy options, but told the Washington Post that he “doesn’t think that is the answer and will not legalize drugs."
From Mexico it was on to Central America where Biden met with leaders from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. A surprise early advocate for legalization has been Guatemala's right-wing President Otto Perez Molina who has also called for legalizing certain trade routes for any partially legalized narcotics, a sign of just how dire the situation involving drug violence has become. Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla told Biden the region is suffering from the drug war's effects and that “we demand the United States assume responsibility.” Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega stated that, “We have not found that the concern of the international community has translated into a commitment to ensure that Central America advances in the fight against drug trafficking,” Biden responded by again refusing to consider legalization and pointing out that the US has invested $361 million in anti-crime aid for Central America alone under the Central America Regional Security Initiative.
Central American leaders remained defiant after the meeting. Honduran president Porfirio Lobo read a joint statement announcing that Central America's governments, which now boast the world's highest murder rate, will meet on March 24 to continue discussing legalization.