Vicente Fox was president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006. The 2000 election was a historical event in Mexican politics because Fox became the first elected president from an opposition party in 71 years to defeat the Partido Institucional Revolucionario (PRI).
Harvard Political Review: We have the United States presidential debate coming up next week. What do you think are the most important topics of debate?
Vicente Fox: I think there are 3 themes that should be discussed at the debate. Firstly, the political economy which is the foremost concern of the voter. Like Clinton or her cabinet said, I also believe that it is important to talk about the economy. A debate focused on the economy could resolve and readdress many of the so-called solutions that Mr. Trump is proposing. For example, NAFTA which he deems as negative, is not. Another example is immigration, which ultimately has much to do with the economy because immigration moves to the rhythm of economic opportunities. Secondly, geopolitics, particularly the current situation and the strategies regarding outreach by the United States. My recommendation would be to retry and to revitalize the United Nations so that the United States does not have to be the “police force” of the world and be entrenched in various problems and confrontations when there should be a world order promoted by the United Nations. The third theme would be how the United States should act with everyone else, how to be in harmony with its neighbors, with Latin America, especially with efforts regarding economic development. These are all themes that should be important to the American citizen, primarily the economy.
HPR: You have said much about Mr. Trump, what do you think about his recent visit to Mexico?
VF: I believe it was a historic mistake, I would qualify it as much. Firstly, because it is not a situation of an equal with an equal: President Enrique Peña Nieto is the active president of a great nation. Mr. Trump is a candidate and a candidate is no one; he has no power, he has no executive action. Normally in these types of situations, when is one dealing with a candidate, it is only done when the candidate is president elect—only then does this work. Secondly, I saw it as a shortsighted political decision. President Nieto though he would win with this event since he is doing very, very badly in approval ratings and he thought that with this meeting, he would improve his relationship with the Mexican people. It ended being exactly the opposite. There was not a single Mexican that was in agreement with him and 120 million Mexicans protested that he treated someone who is an enemy of Mexico and the entire world as a head of state. Everything [Trump] has said, everything he has proposed, has created enemies against him worldwide and especially in Mexico. The way in which he has offended us and proposed to treat us is unacceptable and I do not see how President Nieto thought he was doing something to help our fellow Mexicans. The third part of the problem is treating a liar in this manner. Trump came to Mexico using diplomatic language and as soon as he crosses the border into Arizona he changes back to his ways of offending and defaming Mexico. Here is a person who is lying to the American people and who is going to trick those who are going to vote for him and lies to the Mexican people in the same day.
HPR: President Nieto has two years left in his term, what do you think he should do to improve his image or finish well?
VF: President Nieto has accumulated various problems throughout his term even though he did some things right at the beginning. In this case in particular with Trump’s visit, [President Nieto] should have made strong declarations against Trump’s lies but instead he made Trump appear as a head of state. What President Nieto would have to do now is to do away with that image, call Trump a liar, call him out for not keeping his word with the agreements from their conversation and say that he is not in agreement at all with any of Trump’s proposals regarding the treatment of immigrants. We would need to have a more patriotic President Nieto with more character to tell Trump what he needs to be told—this is the only way in which President Nieto can save his image amongst Mexicans. I am a member of the Club de Madrid which puts together a consortium of 95 heads of democratic states from around the world. These 95 people, who come from Asia, Australia, Europe, South America and from other places reject Trump’s attacks, offensive language, and discrimination. Not one of us accept that he is a viable candidate for the American presidency. The problem [that Trump has] is not with Mexico but with the entire world—his lack of diplomacy, his lack of thinking as a normal person, he is a true madman in our eyes. We do not want the United States to be represented by Trump.
HPR: You have called for the extradition of notorious drug kingpin, Chapo Guzmán. What does this say about the justice system in Mexico?
VF: Now, el Chapo: Mexico is caught in the middle of a problem, being next to the huge consumption of drugs that takes place in the United States, the country that consumes the most drugs in absolute quantity and per capita quantity. Mexico is also next to the countries that produce it [such as] Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and these drugs are transported through Mexico and into the United States. In Mexico, there is not significant production nor consumption of drugs. This war on drugs is taking its toll on Mexico because of this trap. The United States is the consumer of drugs, a market that generates 55 million dollars. This money is used by the cartels to corrupt Mexican authorities, corrupt prison authorities, to hire people of 15 to 25 years of age, and to purchase weapons and firearms in the United States. In the States, they believe that violence is generated in Mexico, that the violence is created by the cartels within Mexico—that is not the case, this is the result of Mexico trying to halt the drug trade within the country making its way to the United States.
So, why is el Chapo able to escape prison? Because he has millions of dollars that he gives to the prison authorities and, of course, he corrupts the system. That is why extradition should be a must for when Mexican authorities catch a criminal in the country. The total and complete solution to this problem is to legalize drug consumption. The United States has done this for medical use and for recreational use in two states: Washington and Colorado. This is the way with which we can take away the revenue from the drug cartels and have it go the government in the form of taxes.
HPR: Now on the topic of legalization, do you see this as a viable solution in the near future in Mexico?
VF: Yes, we have come from not even talking about this to a public debate which has sparked a favorable situation on behalf of Mexican citizens. There have been initiatives proposed in Congress and the Congress of Mexico City. These initiatives are being processed and there is actually a reorientation going on regarding the medical use of marijuana in Mexico. There is a path clearing up that will eventually lead to the legalization of production and consumption of drugs, starting with marijuana and eventually, from my point of view, all the drugs. I am in favor of the legalization of any drug because we should let the consumer, the citizen, decide. What the world has learned from places that have already legalized drug consumption is that nothing special happens. Au contraire, consumption decreases, as has been the case in Uruguay and the Netherlands, even in Washington and in Colorado.
HPR: To wrap up the interview, I had a question about an interview you had in 2015. You said that the parents of the 43 disappeared students had to “accept reality.” What type of “reality” do you refer to by that?
VF: What I said was regarding a concept in its entirety. Firstly, for the parents to not accept that their children are dead, well, they have to accept the reality of the situation. I doubt that their children are alive today. What they should demand is justice and in that sense the Mexican government has been very obscure, not very transparent. No one knows what exactly happened, no one knows who killed them or had them disappear. If it was the army, they should be punished. If it was the police of the municipality or federal police, they should be punished. But all that has been done has been to hide everything. And it is not the only case, there have been various similar cases in Mexico where the facts are hidden and probably because the government might be the one to blame. In Mexico there is a constant and permanent violation of human rights. There was a daily violation [of human rights] during [former President] Calderón’s term and President Nieto’s term. There is a daily violation of the judicial process— if someone is presumed to have committed a crime, there can be false accusations and this often goes unchecked. This is all a result of the war against the drug cartels as well as other events: human rights violations, judicial process violations and a great opacity or great obscurity that hides the truth.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Image source: Alchetron.com/Temática