The Mexican president, Felipe Calderón, said today he would consider a debate on legalising drugs, as his government announced that more than 28,000 people have been killed in drug violence since he launched a crackdown against cartels in 2006.
The director of country’s intelligence agency, Guillermo Valdes, also said the authorities had confiscated about 84,000 weapons and seized $411m (£258m) in US currency and $26m worth in pesos.
Valdes released the statistics during a meeting with Calderón and representatives of business and civic groups, where attendees explored ways to improve Mexico‘s anti-drug strategy and called on the government to open a debate on legalisation.
Calderón said he has taken note of the idea of legally regulating drugs in the past. “It’s a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality [of opinions],” he said. “You have to analyse carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”
Three former presidents – César Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil – urged Latin American countries last year to consider legalizing marijuana to undermine a major source of income for drug cartels. Mexico’s congress has also debated the issue.
But Calderón has long said he is opposed to the idea, and his office issued a statement hours after the meeting saying that while he was open to debate on the issue, he remains “against the legalisation of drugs”.
The latest debate on legalisation was proposed by the historian and writer Héctor Aguilar Camín, who said: “I’m not talking just about marijuana … rather all drugs in general.”
The most recent official toll of Mexico’s drug war dead came in mid-June, when the attorney general said 24,800 had died. Valdes did not specify a time frame for the new statistics.
The government does not regularly break down murder statistics, but leading newspapers who have kept their own counts say last month was the deadliest yet under Calderón: according to the daily Milenio, 1,234 people were killed in July. The Mexican government says most victims were involved in the drug trade.
Some delegates at the meeting criticised the government for lacking consistent statistics on the drug war and an effective way to communicate its successes. They also said the government needs to do more to combat the financial arm of organised crime.
“There’s no systematic policy for investigating or seizing the assets of organised crime,” said José Luis Piñeiro, a security expert at Mexico’s Autonomous Metropolitan University, “nor a system of locating the properties of organised crime”.