Rory Carroll and Paul Harris
London Observer
August 8, 2010

The atrocity last month in Torreón, an industrial city in the northern state of Coahuila, came amid headlines shocking even by the standards of Mexico’s drug war. A sophisticated car bomb of a type never before seen in the country; a popular gubernatorial candidate gunned down in the highest-level political murder; and then last week the release of official figures putting the number of drug war-related murders at 28,000.

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It was against this backdrop of bloody crisis that President Felipe Calderón said something which could, maybe, begin to change everything. He called for a debate on the legalisation of drugs. “It is a fundamental debate,” he said. “You have to analyse carefully the pros and cons and key arguments on both sides.”

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A statement of the obvious, but coming from Calderón it was remarkable. This is the president who declared war on drug cartels in late 2006, deployed the army, militarised the city of Juárez and promised victory even as the savagery overtook Iraq’s. Calderón stressed that he personally still opposed legalisation, but his willingness to debate the idea was, for some, a resounding crack in the international drug policy edifice.

“This is a big step forward in putting an end to the war,” said Norm Stamper, a former Seattle chief of police and now spokesman for the group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (Leap).

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