Though it had long been programmed, President Enrique Peña Nieto’s appearance next Tuesday, April 19 at the United Nations General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS) on Drug Policy has been canceled.
Instead, last Monday Foreign Relations Secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu announced that she’d be speaking at the UNGASS in representation of the president. The announcement was made in Germany during the president’s official visit to Germany and Denmark.
The immediate question that arose is why isn’t Peña Nieto appearing at the UNGASS? The gathering will be dealing with questions such as what have been the results, what space was there for civil society to participate in the different stages of the process, what were the key issues on the table and what kind of improvements in the functioning of the U.N. drug control system have been achieved?
Upon announcing her appearance at the Summit, to be attended by world leaders, Ruiz said she would state clearly the policies Mexico is following in dealing with drug consumption. Really, this was to be President Peña Nieto’s show and a chance for him to state clearly where he stands.
To begin with, his administration is just out of five “debates” on the status of the marijuana hemp within the legal and medical system in Mexico.
The outcome of the five symposia (that’s what they really were) was that there may be an opening to legalize marijuana for medical usage. In fact, the Supreme Court last week weighed over issuing a permit to solicitors but denied it based on the grounds that the plaintiffs, who’d been denied the permit by a lower court, were not a bona fide lab.
Speculation has it that President Peña Nieto is not attending the UNGASS because in the end, the entire legal system surrounding illegal drugs is murky and undefined.
It is not just marijuana that is at issue. The one leading and most health damaging one is the apparent impaired production of raw opium and the production of synthetic drugs such as crystal or meth, for which Mexico is now infamous for.
The president could have spoken too on the results of the now nearly forgotten Merida Initiative in which the U.S. provided $1.4 billion to push actions through. A leading gain from the Merida Initiative is indeed the modernization of the Mexican legal processing system which has gone oral after being for centuries a massive load of paper work.
Another theme the president could touch upon is the diversity of opinions as to how to implement legal actions which range from the totally prohibitionist to the total legalization of all drugs.
One thing that the president could have bragged about is that currently in the Mexican press there are polls on all issues including the legalization of the poppy plantations with the purpose of processing it as opium for medical use. Many pharmaceutical labs are in line waiting for a permit to do exactly this, which is now prohibited in Mexico.
Gone too are the days when we journalists got notice from the Interior Secretariat (Gobernaciòn) that if you were, for any reason, going to mention drugs, you’d better have an opinion against them. In short, there is no censored press anymore.
In fact, President Peña Nieto took the stance prior to the marijuana “debates” that he was against the legalization but that it was just his opinion, and that he was willing to weigh opposing points of view. At least, though he says no, the president admits the widespread use of marijuana and the flaws on the legal system when it comes to judging a consumer from a small time trafficker.
Definitely, this is a subject of utmost importance and it should be President Peña Nieto who files in a report on the status of drug policies in Mexico. Surely Foreign Relations Secretary Ruiz Massieu will do a fine job, but given the presidential summit nature of the gathering, it is Peña Nieto who should be there.
Perhaps, between now and then, President Peña Nieto reconsiders and makes the planned one-day trip to New York next Tuesday.