In March, former President of Mexico Vicente Fox took the stage to talk with Conan O’Brien. President Fox walked onstage in jeans, a navy and white checkered button-up and casual navy suit jacket. He carried a black bag and pulled out a gift for Conan—whose coiffed red ‘do was somehow taller and wider than when he hosted NBC’s Late Night—an unbelievable feat. From this black bag, President Fox pulled out a pair of sleek black leather boots that read “No Fucking Wall” personalized with a silver applique: “Conan.” Needless to say, President Fox’s stance on Trump’s Mexico wall is that of clear disdain. He goes on to say, quite simply, that “walls don’t work,” citing the Berlin Wall that divided West and East Berlin for 28 years.
A testament to fighting ignorance, the former president of Mexico is probably best known in the US for his abrasive, albeit just, tweets to Donald Trump rather than his tenure in Los Pinos (The White House of Mexico). That said, one thing is for certain: President Fox’s voice is being heard around the globe—140 characters at a time.
Vicente Fox grew up the second oldest of nine children on their father’s ranch in Guanajuato. I can’t help but wonder if his birth order played a role in his trajectory as not only a successful businessman in the private sector, but as a politician in the public sector as well. In the ‘80s, Fox received his degree from the Ibero-American University in Mexico City, then a Harvard Business School diploma in Management Skills. After working as Coca-Cola’s Chief Executive in Mexico, he resigned and headed home to Guanajuato. It was at this time Fox became convinced that Mexico’s struggling economy needed new leadership, and he swiftly entered the political arena. Nearly Twenty years later, Vicente Fox became the President of Mexico.
Since departing from Los Pinos in 2006, the former president has been an advocate of youth and marginalized leadership through his organization Centro Fox, spoken openly about the relationship between Mexico and the United States, discussed NAFTA’s positive influence on Mexico’s economy and people, and has openly taken a stance on the legalization of all narcotics.
Legalizing cannabis and narcotics as a whole
Known for being outspoken, Vicente Fox recently met with Dr. Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of The Commonwealth Club in California. When asked about his outspoken nature, a smirk appears on his face and he references his age, stating that at 75 you look at things differently—you’ve reached the peak of wisdom. He also speaks to how his responsibilities have changed since leaving office—he doesn’t have to be as careful or “diplomatic.” Due to political acumen, he kept his views on the legalization of drugs while president under wraps, but now that he is out of office, he has vocally come out in support of legalizing drugs—specifically cannabis.
A MMJ bill recently passed the House in Mexico City. During a visit to Oakland in May of this year, President Fox acted as keynote speaker at the Cannabis Business Summit & Expo. “It [the MMJ legalization bill] has passed—it’s approved,” Fox said with delight. President Fox championed Uruguay, Portugal and Washington State as influencers of the bill, asserting that their locals have the best practices and cannabis laws. Once the MMJ legalization bill of Mexico is enacted, Fox noted, “the law will happen broadly and internationally. Criminalization has created international conversations. Kids are being killed in the streets under prohibition. Legalization is the answer to reducing crime. When the underground market raises prices, it invokes crime and empowers cartels.”
Keeping NAFTA alive and well
As for the future of Mexico, the former president has spent a lot of time focusing on economic development—bringing companies to Mexico, reducing Mexico-to-U.S. immigration in an effort to boost Mexican business, and emphasizing the importance of keeping NAFTA alive and well.
When NAFTA was first implemented in 1994 (signed in 1992), the gap in income between the U.S. and Mexico was 10:1. You would make one dollar on the Mexico side, and in the U.S. you would make 10. “Why wouldn’t people be incentivized to flee Mexico—we would all take this chance,” Fox explained to Dr. Duffy. We should consider the ideal situation, which is Canada and the U.S., where the income gap is nearly non-existent. With NAFTA in place in Mexico, Fox assuredly explained, the gap of 10:1 has dropped to 5:1; the incentive to leave Mexico has been decreased. President Fox’s forecast is that in one more generation (22-25 years) we [the U.S. and Mexico] will reach the 1:1 ratio. We have to work in that direction—it’s why NAFTA is so important—and it’s narrowing that gap. Fox went on to state that, “Our employment has increased, poverty in the middle of Mexico is on the decline. Extreme poverty is on the decline in many places. We’re working to create jobs and move ahead. We are also becoming a part of the world’s big trade game. We have 45 international trade agreements.”
California’s economy is currently the sixth largest in the world. “We are at number 11, so we are trading with California and Texas,” Fox stated to Dr. Duffy. “We must legalize [drugs] if we want to reduce violence and drug use. We are in-between the huge consumer market in the north and the producers of drugs in the south. Mexico doesn’t produce or consume on a significant level, but we are caught in the middle. I ask Trump, ‘What happens when one cargo of drugs coming from Mexico crosses the boarder? Who lets them move it around. Why is it allowed? Why is Mexico in this trap?’” The former president went on to describe some harrowing statistics: “[Illegal narcotics have] killed 250,000 young kids in the last ten years. They weren’t born criminals; it wasn’t in their genes. And they were killed. Why? Because they never had any opportunities—a good job, a scholarship . . . so they joined the cartels. Drug consumption in the U.S. is partly responsible for this. So I hope the U.S. moves faster to legalize drugs, not just marijuana—let’s legalize everything.”
Recently, President Fox has been very vocal about the relationship between the legalization of cannabis in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. According to Fox, both Canada and Mexico have intentions in becoming leaders in the booming cannabis markets—insinuating that the U.S. may want to beef up its cannabis export game. This statement may have some U.S. cannabis producers and processors concerned. The former president is waiting for the day when cannabis is integrated into the provisions of NAFTA.
There has been a recent push in the United States for youth to get involved in politics. President Fox is spreading this same message in Mexico as well. The former president founded Centro Fox, which runs out of the first presidential library in San Cristóbal, and whose aim is to act as an educational resource center for the future leaders of Latin America—emphasizing ethical practices, passion, will and leadership above all else in an attempt to provoke and promote change.
Aligning with his mission to advocate for strategic leadership in Latin America, Centro Fox is a beacon of hope and guidance for Latin America’s youth. A “think tank,” as Fox likes to call it, and social institution “committed to the poor,” Centro Fox aims to align itself with global leaders who share the same mission. Classes in Democracy, the United Nations and Leadership are made available to interested students. Exercises in problem solving are the norm—and students have opportunities to round-house and solve real world issues with their peers in face-to-face talks.
President Fox is a testament to what it means to defend ideals, be courageous and speak up when necessary, no matter the consequences. As a cannabis ally and advocate, President Fox continues to be a beacon of support in his community and ours.