According to Mexican President Felipe Calderón, the United States is “the biggest drug addict in the world.”
In an essay published on the Mexican government’s website Sunday, Calderón wrote: “The origin of our violence problem begins with the fact that Mexico is located next to the country that has the highest levels of drug consumption in the world. It is as if our neighbor were the biggest drug addict in the world.”
The U.S. threw a state dinner for Mexico three weeks ago, but diplomatic relations between the two countries have become increasingly rocky in recent days. Long-standing tensions over immigration have been aggravated by a new Arizona law aimed at cracking down on illegal aliens in the state.
Speaking May 20 before a joint meeting of Congress, Calderón attacked the law, calling it a “terrible idea” and criticizing the use of “racial profiling.”
He found support for that sentiment not just from Democrats in government – some of whom stood and applauded his comments – but also from clergy. Cardinal Roger M. Mahoney of Los Angeles likened the powers given to police by the Arizona law to “Nazism.”
Following President Obama’s announcement last month that he would send up to 1,200 more troops to patrol the border, a 15-year-old Mexican boy was shot by a U.S. Border Patrol agent. The incident fueled criticisms from those who, like Mahoney, favor less stringent restrictions on illegal immigrants.
Calderón’s essay focuses not on problems at the border but on internal problems in his country. In the introduction of the essay, Calderón emphasizes that his country is waging not a war on drugs but a war for “public safety.” He also writes that the government is “determinedly fighting organized crime because … it has significantly disturbed the peace of citizens.”
In section II, which is titled “causes of the problem,” the “consumption of drugs in the United States” gets top billing.
Few experts deny that the U.S. has a drug problem. Data collected by the Office of National Drug Control Policy estimate that there are 20,077,000 users of illegal drugs over the age of 12 in the United States.
The State Department’s response to Calderón’s editorial, e-mailed by spokesperson Noel Clay, acknowledges the problem.
“The president has requested approximated $5.6 billion for demand reduction activities in the U.S. in 2011 to prevent drug use in the United States and to treat American drug abusers,” the statement reads.
While Calderón does not mince words, the U.S. government tiptoes around the issue. The State Department’s comments regarding drugs and Mexico have been largely noncommittal. And earlier this week, the New York Times reported that the government had delayed the release of a report called the “2010 National Methamphetamine Threat Assessment” by the National Drug Intelligence Center of the Justice Department so as not to aggravate relations with Mexico.
The New York Times notes that the report was first delayed due to Calderón’s state visit to the White House but that, even after that visit, “the release of the report has since been repeatedly delayed.”