By Jim Myers and Kathleen Walter
Former Mexican President Vicente Fox says his nation is at "war" with drug cartels, and he offered sharp criticism of the Obama administration for failing to assist its beleaguered neighbor.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax.TV on Tuesday, Fox said President Barack Obama's administration has failed to grapple with the deteriorating situation in Mexico.
“Obama is thoroughly mixed up with all these things he’s got," Fox said, adding: "He’s got to solve Libya. He’s got to solve Afghanistan. He’s everywhere. And this nation, I don’t know why it’s not showing the leadership and capacity to attend different issues at the same time.”
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Asked if Mexico was entangled in a civil war involving the drug cartels, Fox responded: “We’re undergoing a war, no doubt — 35,000, maybe 40,000 people killed, either members of the cartels or members of the police force or members of the army. So yes, we’re undergoing a war, no doubt.
“Everybody’s trying to deny that we’re going through a war, but that’s what it is. That’s why we have to move to a new paradigm."
Recently, Fox has called for legalizing and decriminalizing drugs in the United States to throttle the demand for narcotics, which he argues is the root cause of his country's civil unrest.
"The United States has to think very profoundly how it is going to solve this problem of excess in the consumption of drugs, excess in building a market that is very profitable to the criminals," he said.
He continued: “I think the best move is to take away the business from criminals and put it in the hands of businessmen and producers, farmers, distributors.”
He compared the situation with illegal drugs to Prohibition in the United States, which enriched mobsters who provided alcohol just as the drug trade is now enriching the cartels.
“We are never going to eradicate drugs,” he added. “They will always be there. It is a free choice” to consume them.
Fox, who served as president from 2000 to 2006, also took aim at his successor, Felipe Calderon, who has enlisted the army in the fight against drug traffickers in Mexico.
“And this decision that President Calderon took, to bring in the army in trying to control drug trafficking cartels, I don’t think is the right measure. It has created violations to human rights and additional problems," he said.
“I think there are much better alternatives than that one. The army should go back to their assigned duties, and police should take the responsibility of fighting the cartels."
Fox was also critical of both the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border and the Arizona law aimed at curtailing illegal immigration.
He stressed that he is “absolutely not” calling for an open border, but rather for the “wisdom and leadership" of this nation.
“There is [an immigration reform] bill in Congress, prepared by Senator Kennedy, Senator McCain, a bipartisan initiative, and it’s been sitting there for years, seven years, eight years. I discussed with President Bush a strategy for an integrated immigration reform. And it’s been sitting there without any solution.
“So if Arizona sees the federal government isn’t assuming its responsibilities, it creates local laws. But migration and keeping security on the borders is not a local or state issue, it’s a federal issue."
As for Obama's role in immigration reform, Fox said he “has not attended to it. It was a campaign promise he’s not even trying to do it.”
Fox is visiting the United States as part of an effort to promote the construction of the Vicente Fox Center of Studies, Library and Museum near his ranch in Guanajuato, Mexico, which he says is the world’s first presidential library outside the United States.