Washington (dpa) – As Mexico’s drug cartels wage a bloody war for dominance of the multi-billion dollar narcotics business, a growing chorus of leaders is calling for a radical solution: legalize the market.
In June, a high-powered conference, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, called for governments to look into “legal regulation” of illicit drugs, a move they said could weaken cartels.
Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, former EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, and former presidents of Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil were among those calling for legal, government-regulated drugs sales “to undermine the power of organized crime and safeguard the health and safety of citizens.” Former US president Jimmy Carter applauded their findings, in an op-ed in the New York Times.
Advocates argue that a legal drugs market would destroy drug cartels by eliminating a “black market premium” – the price hike on illegal goods – which accounts for up to 90 percent of cartel profits, according to the libertarian Cato Institution think tank.
That’s what happened in the US in 1933, when the repeal of Prohibition decimated crime gangs who had made millions trafficking in illegal alcohol.
Although two former Mexican presidents, Vicente Fox and Ernesto Zedillo, support legalization, Mexico’s current leader, Felipe Calderon, has in the past rejected calls for reforms. But as Mexico reels from more than 45,000 deaths in five years, in a war driven by US drug use, he may be changing his tune.