TIJUANA, Mexico - President Felipe Calderon said Thursday that a California ballot measure to legalize marijuana represents hypocrisy in US drug policy for encouraging consumption while at the same time demanding that Mexico and other countries crack down on drug trafficking.
"For me, it reflects a terrible inconsistency in government policies in the United States," the Mexican leader said late Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.
California voters will decide on Nov 2 whether to allow possession of up to 1 ounce of marijuana. Proposition 19 would also clear the way for local governments to permit retail sales of pot.
Calderon said he was certain that legalizing marijuana will lead to an increase in drug consumption.
"It's very sad to see how drug consumption is, little by little, tearing apart American society and, if we don't watch ourselves, it will tear apart ours," the president said.
Calderon spoke as Tijuana opened a two-week festival to showcase the city's economic prowess and cultural riches -- a $5 million victory that portraying the city across from San Diego as a beacon of hope in the Mexican government's war on drug traffickers that Calderon launched in 2006. He sent troops to restore order in Tijuana in early 2007, one of the first cities in Mexico to have the military lead the battle against organized crime.
Gone is the "pozolero" who dissolved bodies in vats of lye, gunbattles in front of hospitals and day care centers and mutilated bodies dumped near school yards. Tijuana now wants to be known for making televisions and heart valves and putting on art fairs and a street opera festival.
"Until a short time ago, Tijuana had an image tied primarily, almost exclusively, to criminality," Calderon told about 2,000 invited guests earlier Thursday during the festival's opening ceremony. "Tired of being stigmatized, Tijuana has decided to show its true side."
As Calderon introduced a long line of dignitaries on stage, the crowd rose for a 45-second standing ovation when he named Gen. Alfonso Duarte, the top army officer in Tijuana who has led the city's assault on crime.
Calderon said Tijuana continues to suffer from crime but that its problems are no different than other cities in the world -- a view echoed by the city's politicians and business elite.