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Biden: Drug legalization debate 'legitimate'

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

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 Calderón, 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 Calderón, 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.”

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

The United States has given Calderón'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 Calderón'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.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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Pete Souza/White House

Vice President Joe Biden speaks with President Barack Obama before a meeting in the Oval Office on Friday.