Former President of Mexico Talks in Kirkland

The Honorable Felipe Calderón
Nzuekoh N. Nchinda

As part of the Conversations with Kirkland series, the Honorable Felipe J. Calderón Hinojosa, President of Mexico (2006 - 2012) and former Harvard Kennedy School fellow, speaks with students about the state of affairs in Mexico during his presidency and now. The event, moderated by Eric P. Lesser '07 HLS '14, took place on Tuesday afternoon at Kirkland House.

Former President of Mexico Felipe de Jesús Calderón Hinojosa spoke at Kirkland Common Room Tuesday, challenging critics of his crackdown on drugs and organized crime in Mexico and suggesting ways gun control and immigration reform in the U.S. could benefit both nations.

After sending thousands of Mexican army soldiers to put down drug violence in 2006, Calderón’s fight against the cartels quickly became known as the “war on the drugs”—a term he vehemently disputed Tuesday.

“It is not a war on drugs from my side,” Calderón said, adding that the term—which dates back to President Richard Nixon’s time—does not justly define the purpose of his work.

“Yes, the drugs and crime are very correlated, but they are not the same thing,” Calderón said, adding that his goal was to defend and protect Mexican families.

“Drugs itself is a different issue,” said Calderón, who legalized the individual possession of drugs in Mexico four years ago.

“The key point to win this effort is to stop the money that the criminals receive from the American consumers,” Calderón said.

When asked about the correlation between the gun trade and violence, Calderón called for more comprehensive oversight of gun ownership.

Citing the expiration of the Assault Weapons Ban in late 2004, Calderón noted the strong correlation between unlimited access to weapons and the homicide rate in Mexico.

Over 80 percent of the guns used in these crimes were sold in American gun shops, Calderón said.

“I really respect and admire the American Constitution and the Second Amendment,” Calderón said. “However, it is very different to be able to buy 100, 200 weapons and deliver them to criminals.”

Calling for the creation of a “collective register of weapons,” Calderón said tracking weapons sold and their owners’ information would be a step in the right direction towards regulation.

Calderón also spoke extensively about immigration between the U.S. and Mexico.

“It’s not good news for Mexico,” Calderón said about the estimated 6.8 million undocumented Mexican immigrants already living in the U.S.

To preserve the rights of those already in the U.S., Calderón proposed a potential fee-based system where Mexicans could pay taxes or a participate in a transitory work program.

—Staff writer Zohra D. Yaqhubi can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @zohradyaqhubi.