Exclusive: Legalization activists slam Obama’s renewed commitment to drug war

By Sahil Kapur
Friday, March 4, 2011 16:47 EDT
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WASHINGTON – The pro-legalization group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition fretted that President Barack Obama and Mexican President Felipe Calderon were embarking on a counterproductive mission after the two pledged “renewed cooperation” on the drug war Thursday.

“Legalization is the only way to end the cartel violence, just like ending alcohol prohibition was the only way to make gangsters stop shooting each other over beer and liquor distribution,” Tom Angell, a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, told Raw Story in an e-mail. “How many more police officers and innocent civilians will these leaders allow to die before they finally tackle the one true solution to this violence?”

“Both presidents have said recently that legalizing and regulating drugs is a legitimate topic for discussion, so it would truly be a shame if they didn’t take the time to talk about this issue when they met behind closed doors,” he said.

Angell’s comments came after a meeting between Calderon and Obama yesterday that ended with the two leaders renewing their commitment to the war on drugs. “We are very mindful that the battle President Calderon is fighting inside of Mexico is not just his battle, it’s also ours,” Obama said in a joint press conference at the White House. “We have to take responsibility just as he’s taken responsibility.”

Pledging more US resources to the effort, Obama praised Calderon for showing “extraordinary courage” as both presidents sought to repair relations frayed by recent incidents and sparring between the two nations.

Three weeks ago, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata was shot and killed in northern Mexico.

Calderon said Thursday that Zapata’s “death must urge us to work together to ensure a prosperous and peaceful future for our region.”

After his death, leaked State Department cables revealed a top US diplomat bashing Mexico’s capacity to gather intelligence and fight cartels.

In response, Calderon last week told the Mexico-based El Universal that US efforts were “notoriously insufficient” and ripped Americans officials for “ignorance” regarding the realities of the drug trade.

The Associated Press reported last May that “[a]fter 40 years, the United States’ war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.”

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