Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), the front-runner in Mexico's presidential elections, has said he is open to debating the legalization of drugs as one of the measures to counter violence and criminality in the country. Lopez Obrador also has proposed several other peacebuilding measures to tackle the problem.
“All topics should be analyzed. Health is affected more by alcohol and tobacco than other drugs, and prohibiting these drugs creates more violence. Why not talk about it? And why not -- if it's what's best for the country -approve it and implement it, listening to everyone's input?" he said, during an event titled Dialogue for Peace and Justice, organized by several non-governmental organizations.
Several other presidential candidates including conservative Ricardo Anaya and ruling party candidate Jose Antonio Meade also attended the event, which was held at the Universidad Iberoamericana and attended by over 60 human rights and civic organizations.
Besides opening the debate on drug legalization, Lopez Obrador also spoke about a general strategy to counter violence in the country, including a national peace dialogue. He said he would invite activists, politicians, world leaders and social organizations -including Pope Francis and UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres- to reach consensus on what other policies would aid in the effort.
“If there's crime, an activity will be done, and they will change it, criminals will do other things and my concern is that, by opening the market to drugs, other kinds of crimes will surge. The best thing would be to address the causes, the structure, reach the bottom of things without forgetting these measures (legalization),” said Lopez Obrador.
AMLO pledged to change the national security strategy, which claims 70 lives each day, saying that “violence can't be fought with violence,” and that human rights will be respected.
To address the source of violence, Lopez Obrador said his government would fight poverty, listen to youth, avoid family disintegration, rescue agriculture and strengthen cultural, moral and spiritual values, as well as punishing corruption and combat impunity.
However, he avoided answering a key question regarding the controversial Internal Security Law, or LSI, which was passed last December, saying “neither yes nor no” when asked if he would be willing to repeal it.
Critics of the LSI claim it would only legalize and prolong the presence of the army in conflict zones. While the government uses the military and navy to counter drug cartels all across the country, these security forces have a terrible human rights record, and they're often involved in mass killings and kidnappings, which foster mistrust among the population.
Lopez Obrador had previously refused to give a direct opinion on drug-related policies, saying that he would instead do polls to find out what Mexicans think about legalization.
He has also suggested the creation of a UN-backed truth commission, similar to the International Commission against Impunity (CICIG) in Guatemala, for independent investigations on corruption and violence-related crimes committed by the State.
AMLO is currently leading all polls by a wide margin. The latest survey by the polling firm BGC gave the center-left candidate 42 percent of the voter intention, while the right-wing Anaya, his closest rival, has 33 percent support.
Meade, the candidate for the ruling party, has 19 percent of the support, and the independent candidates -who were not present at the event- Margarita Zavala and Jaime Rodriguez “El Bronco” are far behind them.
The poll also showed Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement (Morena) backed by 39 percent of Mexicans in voting for the lower house of Congress. Two parties allied to Morena were forecast to win another 5 percent between them.
Support for Anaya’s center-right National Action Party (PAN) stood at 25 percent, while its two coalition partners garnered another 10 percent.
The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was seen winning 18 percent of the vote in the lower house, with two allies together mustering another 3 percent.
The survey had a margin of error of 2.9 percentage points, BGC said.