Former Mexican President Vicente Fox said Tuesday he is encouraged that the Obama administration accepts some U.S. responsibility for drug violence ravaging Mexico, but he is not yet persuaded it will lead to concrete U.S. actions.
"The responsibility is here as well as it is in Mexico, so it's a joint responsibility," he said in an interview in suburban Atlanta with The Associated Press. "Finally they have accepted this."
He said it's not yet clear whether the U.S. will join Mexico in the fight against the drug cartels, or if "they want to protect the border and they just want to protect U.S. citizens."
Fox, who was president from 2000-2006, said he was similarly encouraged early in his own administration when former U.S. President George W. Bush enthusiastically promised immigration reform. But he was later disappointed when Bush made repeated excuses about why it wasn't possible, he said. Fox said he fears the same may happen with the drug war if the U.S. doesn't make a real commitment.
"As long as this nation, and I mean the United States, does not reduce or eliminate drug consumption, Mexico will have problems," he said.
After a trip to Mexico in April, President Barack Obama said strengthening border patrols and cooperation between U.S. and Mexican officials would help make cross-border crime a manageable problem.
U.S. drug czar selected
Obama also named former Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske as the U.S. drug czar. Kerlikowske has said he will focus on reducing demand for illicit drugs — a contrast with the Bush administration's focus on intercepting drugs as they cross the border and punishing drug crimes.
Fox said Mexico's current president, Felipe Calderon, is making a "courageous" effort to cut the drug supply, but he said the U.S. and Mexico must share information and strategies, "and not only send the army or build walls."
Fox also said it's time to renew the debate about legalizing some drug use — an idea he proposed while still in office. It is gaining ground in Mexico amid increasing violence that has killed more than 10,500 people since Calderon launched a military-led offensive against powerful trafficking cartels in 2006.
'Why not discuss it?'
Fox said strict controls and high taxes would be necessary under legalization. He said levels of drug use might remain the same but violence would be significantly reduced because the cartels would no longer control the supply. Families and schools should bear much of the responsibility to educate against drug use, he said.
"I am not yet convinced that that's the solution," he said. But he added, "Why not discuss it?"
Fox was in suburban Atlanta Tuesday for a summit on relations between Mexico, the U.S. and Canada. He spoke Monday at Emory University's commencement ceremony.
Fox is president of the Centro Fox, which he established in 2007. It is a presidential library and museum that focuses on humanitarian work.