At the height of Mexico’s war against the cartels, its chief architect privately admitted that it was “impossible to win” and that drug legalization was the only way out.
Felipe Calderón, the former president of Mexico, made this confession privately to the British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in 2011. Until 2018, however, Calderón has been a strong advocate of the militarized war on drugs.
“Calderón had made a name for himself in Mexican politics as “I will win the war on drugs,” said Clegg, who is now a senior public relations officer for Facebook and also a representative of the World Commission on Drug Policy.
“He said, “Do you think there will ever be a controlled sale of drugs in Britain or America? Because I came to this idea”-and I remember him saying it with great emotion-“that we have spent years trying to fight this war on drugs that is impossible to win. You’ll never win if you don’t get rid of crime by moving towards drug regulation.
Mexico has gone very far in its war on drugs and cartels. The army has been sent throughout the country to attack the cartels. The policy resulted in more than 275,000 deaths in the cartels and the civilian population since 2007. More than 73,000 people are also still missing, and 39,000 unidentified bodies are in the country’s morgues.
Calderón did not deny that the conversation had taken place but stated that he had never said that the war on drugs was impossible to win. He stated that he had long evoked the possibility of legalization as a solution to the problems of drug-related violence, but that he had never been convinced of its merits.
Calderon’s successor embraced a different vision, prompted by a 2018 Supreme Court decision that ended cannabis prohibition. Major Mexicans are now entitled to possess, consume, and grow cannabis for personal use. And the country is studying the implementation of cannabis regulation in parallel with the health crisis related to the coronavirus pandemic.