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Mexico’s President Seeks Changes In Drug-Possession Bill.

Mexico’s drug-possession bill received wide media coverage, with more than 500 news outlets making reference to the story.  Previous reports said President Fox was set to sign the bill; however, later reports said he backed off the measure in its current form.  For example, the AP (5/4) reports Mexican President Vicente Fox “refused to sign a drug decriminalization bill Wednesday, hours after U.S. officials warned the plan could encourage ‘drug tourism.’  Fox sent the measure back to Congress for changes, but his office did not mention the U.S. criticism.  Fox will ask ‘Congress to make the needed corrections to make it absolutely clear in our country, the possession of drugs and their consumption are, and will continue to be, a criminal offense,’ according to a statement from the president's office.  … Mexico's top police official, Eduardo Medina Mora, acknowledged on Tuesday that the U.S. anti-drug agency has expressed concern about the law.” 

In a separate story, the AP (5/3, Stevenson) writes, “The U.S. government urged Mexico on Wednesday to rethink a proposed law that would decriminalize possession of small amounts of drugs, after the DEA and officials in U.S. border states expressed concerns about the measure.”  ABC News, CNN, the New York Times, Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle, and Fort Worth Star Telegram are among the news outlets that used a version of the AP story.

The New York Times (5/4, McKinley, Broder, 1.19M) reports, “After intense pressure from the United States, President Vicente Fox has asked Congress to reconsider a law it passed last week that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs as part of a larger effort to crack down on street-level dealing.  … Officials from the State Department and the White House's drug control office met with the Mexican ambassador in Washington Monday and expressed grave reservations about the law, saying it would draw tourists to Mexico who want to take drugs and would lead to more consumption, said Tom Riley.” 

The Los Angeles Times (5/3, Enriquez, Perry, 958K) reports the Bush administration “is refraining from public criticism of Mexico. But in private meetings Monday with Mexican officials in Washington, U.S. officials tried to discourage passage of the law, U.S. Embassy officials said.  ‘Any country that embarks on policies that encourage drug use will get more drug use and more drug addiction,’ said Tom Riley.  … ‘Many countries, including the U.S. and Mexico, see the drug problem as a trafficking problem,’ he said.  ‘But the real problem isn't trafficking, it's drug use.  The costs of drug addiction are staggering.’”

The Chicago Tribune (5/3, Dellios, 643K) reports U.S. officials and others said the measure “gave the appearance that Mexico was condoning drug use.  Karen Tandy, chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, met with Mexican officials to express concerns that it could increase trafficking and lure Americans over the border for ‘drug tourism.’   ‘We welcome the idea of Mexico reviewing the legislation to avoid the perception that drug use would be tolerated in Mexico,’ said Judith Bryan, the spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City.”  The Contra Costa Times, Kansas City Star, Myrtle Beach Sun News, Duluth Minnesota News Tribune, and Macon Georgia Telegraph are among the news outlets that published in newspapers and/or posted on Web sties the Chicago Tribune story. 

Copley News Service (5/3) writes, “Stung by opposition to a bill that would permit the possession of small quantities of narcotics, a top Mexican senator said yesterday the legislation will be toughened to reassure critics that Mexico is not opening its doors to drug users.  … Karen Tandy…was expressing her concerns during a meeting in Mexico City with Public Security Minister Eduardo Medina-Mora.” 

The San Antonio Express (5/4) wrties from Mexico City, “It seems this nation won't be a haven for small-time drug users after all, as President Vicente Fox said late Wednesday he won't sign a proposed law that would permit ‘personal use’ quantities of marijuana, cocaine and other illegal narcotics.  … The legislation had come under heavy fire from the United States.  Drug Enforcement Administration Chief Karen Tandy discussed it personally with Mexican officials here Tuesday.”

For About.com (5/3), Robert Longley writes, “The same day Mexico’s president Vicente Fox announced he would sign a law allowing the possession of small quantities of drugs including marijuana, cocaine and heroin, the U.S. Government praised Mexico for its efforts toward reducing the amount of those very drugs available for smuggling into the United States.  According to drug czar John P. Walters…Mexico, using as many as 35,000 military troops, eradicated about 51,840 acres of opium poppy and 76,175 acres of marijuana during 2005.”

The UK’s Times Online (5/3) reports the United States “is up in arms over a proposed Mexican law that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs, including cocaine and heroin.”  Eduardo Medina Mora “met with Karen Tandy…although he said she had not been convinced about the need for the new law.”   

On its Web site, the Moderate Voice (5/4) writes, “Officials…expressed grave reservations about the law, saying it would draw tourists to Mexico who want to take drugs and would lead to more consumption, said Tom Riley, a spokesman for the Office of National Drug Control Policy.” 

Network TV Coverage. NBC Nightly News (5/3, story 6, 2:20, Williams, 9.87M) reported, “We are back now with NBC News ‘In Depth’ tonight.  It is about the outrage in this country over a decision by Mexico to make possession of some illegal drugs legal.  And we are talking here about marijuana, heroin, cocaine -- the Mexican government says the whole idea is to do a better job in the war on drugs.  As to how that could that could be true, our report tonight from NBC’s Peter Alexander.”  NBC included comment from John Walters who said, “We all know that encouraging people to use drugs is bad for them and bad for every nation that does it.”  NBC added, “And Walters is not alone.  Critics warn if passed this law would send thousands of Americans over the border to experiment with the same illegal drugs this country has vowed to fight.” 

Cable TV Coverage.  CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 (5/3, 10:00 p.m.) reported, “We begin with breaking news that every parent of a teen needs to know about. If your son or daughter goes to Mexico, the country was on the verge of making it legal for them to possess marijuana, cocaine, even heroin. Mexico's president, Vicente Fox, made it clear he was going to approve the bill.  Tonight it seems he caved to pressure from Washington.”  The report continued, “We do know that the State Department officials personally called their counterparts in Mexico, the Office of National Drug Control Policy which is the drug czar, works out of the White House, also voiced concerns.” 

FOX’s Hannity and Colmes (5/3, 9:00 p.m.) reported, “Vicente Fox refusing to sign a bill that would [de]criminalize the possession of small amounts of drugs. The U.S. has pressured Fox to oppose the bill, which initially he said he would sign.”

MSNBC’s The Situation with Tucker Carlson (5/3, 11:00 p.m.) reported, “Just hours after U.S. officials warned it would encourage drug tourism, Mexican President Vicente Fox said he won't sign it into law.  The question is why was he even considering it?”