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Biden calls drug legalization debate 'legitimate'

Vice President Joe Biden said during his trip to Mexico that the US remains firmly opposed to the legalization of illegal drugs.

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US Vice-President Joe Biden (C) takes a tour around during his visit at the Basilica of Guadalupe on March 5, 2012 in Mexico City. US Vice President Joe Biden was in Mexico and Honduras for a two-day diplomatic trip. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

Vice President Biden said that the debate about legalizing drugs was "legitimate," even though he remained firm that the US would not budge on its opposition to legalization, BBC News reported

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Vice President Biden visited Mexico for two days to meet with the three candidates in the country's July 1 presidential elections: Josefina Vazquez Mota of the governing National Action Party (PAN), Enrique Pena Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD).

Biden also met with Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the Associated Press reported

As violence related to drugs escalates in Latin America, some leaders in the region have called for a discussion about decriminalizing drugs. 

“I think it warrants a discussion. It is totally legitimate,” Biden said after his meeting with Calderon, the New York Times reported. “And the reason it warrants a discussion is, on examination you realize there are more problems with legalization than with nonlegalization.”

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During their meeting, President Calderon demanded that the US work harder to to stop the flow of weapons and drug money over the border, the BBC reported. 

The US has given Calderon's government hundreds of millions of dollars to fight back against drug cartels, the AP reported. Drug-related violence has killed at least 47,515 people in Mexico from Calderon's first offensive against the drug trade in December 2006 through September 2011.

However, Obama's administration will scale back certain anti-drug programs in Mexico next year as they shift from providing the country with expensive military equipment to focusing on training programs, the Times reported. 

Biden is also traveling to Honduras for a summit with President Porfirio Lobo and leaders from El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala, the BBC reported.

Last week, the Organization of American States (OAS) warned that drug gangs posed an increasing threat to Latin American democracies, according to the BBC. 

The issue of legalizing drugs is likely to come up when regional heads of state, including President Barack Obama, meet in Colombia for the sixth annual summit of the Americas next month, BBC reported. 

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/120306/biden-calls-drug-legalization-debate-legitimate-1