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Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Biden: Drug Legalization "Worth Discussing," but There's "No Possibility" of U.S. Support

Posted By on Tue, Mar 6, 2012 at 4:00 PM

click to enlarge No hope for a change on drug policy
  • No hope for a change on drug policy

Joe Biden's a reasonable guy. When presidents of Latin American nations suggest drug legalization as a solution to the drug-fueled violence wreaking havoc on their land, the Vice President will listen... long enough to dismiss the idea out of hand.

The leaders of Costa Rica, Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico have all asked the US to consider drug legalization. And it's a "totally legitimate debate," said Biden -- just not a debate the Latin American presidents will win.

"There is no possibility the Obama/Biden administration will change its policy on legalization," said the vice president, on a two-day swing to the south, visiting Honduras -- which has

the highest murder rate in the world -- today after speaking in Mexico

City on Monday.

Biden made the comments Monday following a meeting with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who has cooperated with American law enforcement officials in waging the drug war on an "unprecedented" level, the AP reported.

Drug-related violence has left 47,515 people dead in Mexico since 2006, when Calderon, under pressure from US officials, launched his first anti-cartel initiative. He has since called for "market alternatives" as a way to reduce the cartels' abilities to reap enormous profits on the drug trade, but did not make any such overtures to Biden yesterday.

Just last week, authorities in San Jose found 750 pounds of methamphetamine in an apartment that allegedly belongs to the cartels, and last summer, federal authorities spent a month tramping around in the Mendocino National Forest, rooting out Mexican nationals growing weed for cartels. Is the drug war working? Well...

The drug war is likely to be a deciding factor in determining Calderon's replacement. The president is termed-out, and three candidates -- Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolution Party; Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party; and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the left-leaning Democratic Revolution Party -- met with Biden on Monday, the AP reported.

All appear willing to do the US's bidding in the drug war, Biden said.

Interestingly, the tactics employed by the United States in dismantling terrorist organizations in the Middle East and Afghanistan is not one used in Mexico: The US doesn't like the Mexican strategy of taking out cartels' bosses, or capos, the Economist reported. So no drone attacks in Mexico. Instead, Biden likes following the money.

"You go and follow the money, and the monster withers," said Biden, who added that legalization will only work with government replacing cartels as the drug-dealer (and which begs a question: if the money starts with the drug user, who's the target?). It won't work "unless you are going to not only legalize but you are going to provide a government apertures for the distribution of the drugs," he said.
Drug legalization does not necessarily enjoy strong support in Central America. A pollster in Guatemala told reporters that 80 percent of citizens of that nation do not support legalization.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.

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