Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in an interview with EFE that, although his position is against legalization, his administration is “very open” to a debate at the hemispheric level on the consumption and trafficking of illegal drugs.
Peña Nieto, who took office last December, also said that he had decided not to give up in the fight against violence in Mexico and to seal political pacts with the opposition that will facilitate governability and growth.
The Mexican president, who granted the interview to Efe in Panama, where he attended the Ibero-American Summit, said he wanted to put a new stamp on and redefine the scope of that regular forum.
Excerpts from the interview follow:
Q.- The Mexican city of Veracruz will be the site of the Ibero-American Summit in 2014. How do you think these forums must be revised so as not to lose relevance? And how to you interpret the absences, above all of countries with political leanings toward the center-left?
A.- I think it represents a great opportunity to be able to place a new stamp on and revitalize the scope of this Ibero-American Summit, which was founded specifically and materialized in 1991 in Mexico. It’s an opportunity to see what new formulas and methods we have to imprint greater effectiveness on this point of encounter, on this group of countries, identified by history, values and language.
In the new global context of openness, globalization, competition, I think we must also renew the ways of achieving this greater cooperation and greater benefits for the countries that comprise this Ibero-American Summit. I think that the next summit in Veracruz will allow us, during the course of the year, to work to gather consultative opinions in favor of forums, cultural meetings, of greater cooperation and that they will really place a new stamp, a renewed spirit on the Ibero-American Summit.
About the absences (of certain presidents), I regret that some are not present at this Summit and miss them. Each absent country has given different explanations, all respectable and understandable. I hope that insofar as we can manage to put greater meaning and greater effectiveness and a new vitality on this summit, that will lead to greater participation and presence by all countries.
Q.- The drug cartels in Mexico, despite significant arrests, continue to be very active. Do you have plans for a new strategy, knowing that for your predecessor this battle was a great political drain? What do you think about the proposals for legalizing drugs to combat drug trafficking?
A.- I reiterate that the Mexican state has the obligation and the duty to carry out a task that is inescapable and that it is the role of the Mexican state to provide security to the public and, the state will not give up in this aim, and even less so will it give up in the aim of reducing violence. If the figures that are coming out continue to move down, if we also manage to reduce other types of crimes, not only murders, which are those that generate greater violence, but others that harm social coexistence, the spirit, of Mexican society, if we really manage to get the participation of all levels of the federal, state and municipal governments in reducing the levels of violence, I think that we’ll be achieving the objective that we’ve drawn up and that all this will be seen to favor an environment of greater growth and development.
With regard to the legalization of drugs, my government has said it’s against that, but it’s also very open in the hemisphere, not only in Mexico, for us to have a broad debate that allows us to evaluate and review what’s occurring today in the hemisphere and in the whole world. Regarding the consumption of drugs, some of the soft ones, as they call marijuana and things of this kind, there must be a reassessment of the policy of the governments involved in this commitment to combat the trafficking and consumption of drugs. And I repeat, I cannot be in favor (of legalization) because I think that drug consumption, no matter how soft they are, leads in the end to the consumption of much more harmful drugs. What is clearly shown is that the consumption of any drug creates harmful effects on the health of a society. So, I can’t be in favor of legalization, but yes I’m very open to the debate and to us then making a joint decision - at least on the hemispheric level - that allows us to attend to this problem of drug trafficking and consumption.
Q.- You met in Panama with Spain’s prime minister, Mariano Rajoy. Do you propose to strengthen links with Spain? When are you going to visit (Spain) again as president?
A.- That meeting with Prime Minister Rajoy, without doubt, reaffirms the ties of personal friendship we have, that we’ve been building, which fosters the accords that as nations we also make in different sectors. I think that it’s a space, a channel, an intention of dialogue, of rapprochement, that - starting with having a good relationship, a good friendship - favors the building of what we can between the two countries for the development of our peoples.
I know that Spain has experienced difficult times starting with the changes and reforms that the government has had to make in the face of the economic crisis. Not only Spain, but the European Union, and I also think that I have had the chance to share the difficulties, the natural resistance to what I’ve referred to. We were able to share the optimism that prevails that all this will be for the best. Specifically, we share the fact that the efforts of a government are to make its modest or major contribution to the development and progress of our peoples.
There’s a splendid relationship (between our two countries), I’m very pleased that Spain, as the promoter of this meeting of the Ibero-American Summit, is present. It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to have greeted the prime minister of Spain, to affirm our friendship and to commit to a visit that, regrettably during the course of this year ... I will not be able to make. I hope that next year, as I have forecast, I’ll be able to make a visit to our brother country, as Spain is, with whom we feel such great identification and closeness.