Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico, visited University of San Diego last Thursday as the keynote speaker for the 15th annual Sister Sally Furay Lecture at the Joan B. Kroc Theater.
Fox was elected president in 2000 with 42 percent of the public’s vote. He was the first opposition candidate from the National Action Party to be elected after 71 years of single party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party.
Although he recently ignited controversy for believing in drug legalization, Fox emphasized a need for the United States and Mexico to behave as partners instead of traders.
Fox explained that in order for Americans to understand Mexican culture, they must first change their perception that migrants are a problem. He said Mexicans living in the U.S. are his heroes and he respects them. He believes they are making great contributions to the country and are simply trying to improve themselves and their families.
“To know where you are going, you first have to know where you stand today,” he said.
Fox also said that the current president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, needs a more international perspective.
“Walls are a symbol of fear; walls don’t work,” Fox said. “Build bridges instead of walls.”
The largest demographic of the 40,000 deaths that have occurred in Mexico during the last four years is in the 14 to 25-year-old demographic, according to Fox. He explained that a significant cause for this is that many children from single-family homes end up working for drug cartels because one parent has gone to work in the U.S.
Mario Domogma, economic junior at USD, said the fact that Fox is a former president gives him a deeper understanding of Mexico’s problems.
The U.S. is known for being the largest consumer of drugs in the world. Although Mexico is commonly known for its export of marijuana, California produces more than the entire country of Mexico.
“We are not a great drug consumer and we have this huge problem nobody else seems to have,” Fox said.
Amy Schmitz Weiss, an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Media Studies, said drug legalization is a complicated issue.
“We are not the only countries who have this problem,” Schmitz Weiss said. “It is a worldwide concern in terms of drug trafficking and drug use.”
Mexico is losing direct foreign investment from companies because of the rising levels of violence.
Fox said Mexico must employ ideas other than fighting violence with violence. This hope is shown now, as the Mexican Army may be recalled from its current duty because 350,000 police officers are being discredited by having the army do their job.
Fox reasoned that drugs, crime and violence do not make Mexico a problem, but emphasized their location as the main culprit.
“It is not a problem, we just happen to be in between those nations that produce the drugs in the south, the Venezuelas, the Columbias, the Bolivias, the Ecuadors, and those who consume the drugs, this nation,” Fox said.
Schmitz Weiss said legalization of drugs is a global issue.
“There needs to be a global effort for people to come together on this issue and what the best steps are to take,” she said.
Domogma said he went in to the lecture with an open mind and was amazed to be in the presence of a former president.
“I was there to listen and see what his views are now and see how they have changed from before, and how to go forward,” Domogma said.