Joe Biden meets Latin American leaders, won't back down on legalization

| Mar. 6, 2012 |

Published by GlobalPost

In a fleeting visit to Mexico, US Vice President Joe Biden insisted that Washington would not back down amid Latin America's talks of decriminalizing drugs in order to curb the region's spiraling cartel wars.

Biden met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon as well as the three candidates for the presidency in July's election.

"It's worth discussing, but there is no possibility the Obama/Biden administration will change its policy on legalization," Biden said after meeting with Calderon.

The Mexican president has hinted a number of times that the US should consider legalizing drugs, asking Washington to seek "market alternatives." Since he came to power in December 2006, more than 47,000 people have died in Mexico's drug wars, according to the government's tally.

The topics have led to antagonism between the two countries. Former US Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual resigned in March, as WikiLeaks revealed diplomats’ frustration with Mexico's methods in dealing with the cartels.

Calderon had a sign erected in Ciudad Juarez, one of the most violent cities in Mexico and indeed the world, that read, "No more weapons." It pointedly faced towards the US.

Read more: Felipe Calderon pleads to US: 'No more weapons'

The primary reason for the visit, though, was to meet the candidates in Mexico's upcoming elections. Biden met with frontrunner and opposition candidate Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolution Party (PRI), Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party (PAN) and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD).

Read more: Mexico election: Vazquez Mota closing the gap

Calderon's PAN is unlikely to win the elections thanks to the unsuccessful war on drugs, though the gap appears to be closing between Peña Nieto and Vazquez Mota.

Biden said that there was little difference between the candidates in terms of foreign policy towards Washington.

Biden also took in Honduras, where he met with Latin American leaders including Guatemalan President Otto Perez and his Costa Rican counterpart Laura Chinchilla, who has demanded "the United States assume responsibility" for drug-related problems.