Mexico's Calderon proposes U.N. lead debate on drug policy

UNITED NATIONS Wed Sep 26, 2012 8:07pm BST

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Mexico's President Felipe Calderon addresses the 67th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 26, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Mike Segar

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UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations should lead a global debate over a less "prohibitionist" approach to drug policy, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on Wednesday in the latest attempt by a Latin American leader to float possible changes to international narcotics laws.

Calderon, who leaves office on December 1 after spending much of his presidency locked in a bloody battle with drug-smuggling gangs, told the U.N. General Assembly that organized crime was "one of the most serious threats of our time."

"Today, I am proposing formally that (the United Nations) ... carry out a far-reaching assessment of the progress and the limits of the current prohibitionist approach to drugs," Calderon said.

Calderon did not specifically say what an alternative approach to drug policy might look like. However, he and some other Latin American leaders including Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos have suggested they might be open to legalization of some narcotics if that helped reduce violence.

The small, relatively prosperous South American nation of Uruguay has gone even further, sending a law to Congress last month that would allow the state to grow and sell marijuana.

It was unclear whether Calderon's proposal would find a receptive audience. The U.S. government remains opposed to more lax drug laws, and Calderon's global influence has diminished since his successor, Enrique Pena Nieto of the opposition PRI party, was elected in July.

An estimated 60,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence during Calderon's six-year presidency as he attempted to crack down on powerful drug smuggling gangs.

Calderon said his proposal did not mean "ceding an inch" to international drug gangs. He also reiterated previous calls for consumer markets, including the neighbouring United States, to take more initiatives to reduce demand for cocaine and other narcotics.

Calderon has also repeatedly called on Washington to tighten gun controls to stop weapons flowing from the United States into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. He has also urged Washington to revive a ban on assault weapons in the United States that expired in 2004.

(Reporting by Brian Winter; Editing by Simon Gardner and Vicki Allen)

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