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Mexico's Vicente Fox surprised legislators by reversing his public stance and refusing to sign a bill that would have decriminalized drug possession for personal use. Without mentioning fierce American criticism and a warning from the US government about the effect on "drug tourism", Fox sent the bill back to the Mexican Congress with instructions to keep criminal penalties in:
Mexican President Vicente Fox refused to sign a drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, hours after U.S. officials warned the plan could encourage "drug tourism."
Fox sent the measure back to Congress for changes, but his office did not mention the U.S. criticism.
Fox will ask "Congress to make the needed corrections to make it absolutely clear in our country, the possession of drugs and their consumption are, and will continue to be, a criminal offense," according to a statement from the president's office.
On Tuesday, Fox's spokesman had called the bill "an advance" and pledged the president would sign it. But the measure, passed Friday by Congress, drew a storm of criticism because it eliminates criminal penalties possession of small amounts of heroin, methamphetamines and PCP, as well as marijuana and cocaine.
What really drove the controversy was the bill's timing. Just as immigration activists clamored for open borders and a wide-open southern frontier, the Mexican government announced its intent to allow unfettered drug use south of the Rio Grande. Some libertarians might not see this as a problem on either side of the river, and Mexico can pass laws that suit the Mexicans. However, with Vicente Fox pushing for liberal immigration policies in El Norte and Bush trying to sell normalization to an angry conservative base, the last thing the White House needs is an Amsterdam on the Rio Grande.
It doesn't just concern immigration, either. Americans travel to Mexico to take advantage of liberal attitudes on drinking, and it doesn't take much imagination to predict what will happen if Mexico decriminalizes heroin and methamphetamine. Students and wealthy dilettantes will not even have the thin deterrent of Mexican law enforcement to keep them from developing a taste for drugs along with the tropical sun, and from carrying that taste into a habit once back home. It would also have complicated efforts at drug interdiction to some degree.
The Mexican legislators have pledged to retool the bill for better clarity; they claim supporters intended the word 'consumers' originally to apply to recognized drug addicts. However, that would have left the bill almost unenforceable in its present wording. Even with a rewrite, the political damage may have been done. This reminds Americans that the Mexican political culture remains quite different from the US, and that an open frontier in the Southwest has more than one potential danger.Sphere It View blog reactions
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