Tides of Change in Latin America
After Cuban leader Fidel Castro excoriated Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for his anti-Semitism, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez appeared to get the message:
During a visit to the International Tourism Fair in Caracas yesterday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced he would meet with leaders of Venezuela’s Jewish community. “We respect and love the Jewish people,” said Chavez, who added that opponents have falsely painted him as “anti-Jewish.”
Chavez has been a close ally of Iran and a strong critic of Israel. He severed ties with Israel in January 2009 to protest its actions in the Gaza Strip. A series of recent incidents have ignited concerns about anti-Semitic violence in Venezuela.
The Chavez remarks came one day after Jeff wrote on this blog about his recent reporting trip to Havana and his conversations with Fidel Castro. Castro excoriated anti-Semitism and criticized Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust. The former Cuban president called upon Ahmadinejad to “stop slandering the Jews.” (Castro also expressed misgivings about his handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but that’s another story.)
Meanwhile, with 28,000 dead as a result of the country’s drug wars, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said that he is willing to reconsider Mexican drug laws:
The government of Mexico, tired of drug war violence, is considering the legalization of marijuana and possibly other drugs.
With Mexicans everywhere, exhausted by the deadly drug wars, asking for answers, the debate has grown more urgent.
Discussion about legalization has already been put on the public agenda by President Felipe Calderon, who has held a series of open forums with politicians and civic leaders.
The president is also known to be watching the neighbouring US state of California, to see if the state approves an initiative on November 2nd to legalize marijuana for recreational use.
Calderon has said that Mexico will not be able to act alone in legalizing drugs, saying if the cost of drugs is not levelled, at least in the United States, the black-market price will still be determined by US consumers.
Change is not one-sided. Hopefully the American populace and lawmakers are as willing to reconsider their drug laws as well, so that we can enter a new period in which marijuana is legal, controlled and commoditized. Californians have the chance to make change happen this November by passing Proposition 19.