Today The Washington Post worried out loud that drug money could affect the 2012 Mexican Presidential election. They wondered whether tainted political contributions and outright threats could put the presidency back into the hands of the PRI political party, and take it away from President Felipe Calderon’s PAN party. The article said some Mexicans look back to the days when the PRI were in power–and they were in power for an unbroken string of 70 years–and suggested that their system of corruption and patronage at least kept the criminals in check. Better to take a bribe than a bullet.
Tossing Calderon out of office and replacing him with someone else would be the best thing for the Mexicans to do if they want to end their so-called “War on Drugs”. People wage war on people–not chemicals nor plants–so this non sequitur, “War on Drugs”, is an effort to put a clear label on a policy whose goal and tactics are not at all clear (President Richard Nixon coined the phrase). Fifty-thousand Mexicans have died since Calderon decided to take on the drug dealers. And to what avail? Things are getting worse not better. Violence has been spreading, not receding both domestically and internationally to places that used to be secure. It is puzzling then, that some polls have said the majority of the Mexican people continue to support Calderon’s policy.
Not everyone agrees with Calderon. The former president of Mexico, Vincente Fox, has said the best way to end the “War on Drugs” is to legalize them. But this ignores the political realities of the USA where the government cannot even agree on a budget. In the absence of leadership at the national level, the 50 American States one-by-one are changing the law to allow the sale of marijuana. But that process could take decades, and does not address the flow of cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine.
The best way for the Mexicans to deal with the violence is to allow drugs to pass freely through their country. This de-facto legalization would put the problem at the US border which is where it belongs. The cartels would quit fighting the police and peace would ensue.
Latin Americans argue that the drug war is an American problem because American consumers are the source of demand that propels the trade. But if the American politicians cannot address this issue then the bureaucracies put in control to fight the problem are left without clear direction. Their own inertia propels them foreword even when it is no longer logical to do so.
Consider how many people are employed in the war on drugs. There are thousands of border guards, tens of thousands of DEA agents and support personnel plus government contractors. Then there are all the munitions manufacturers who provides weapons and helicopters to whatever Latin American government agrees to have them foisted upon them. Then there is Monsanto the manufacturer of glysophate–better knows as “Roundup”–which is the chemical used in the eradication campaigns. This enormous ship-of-state with all its cargo and accoutrements is difficult to change course. With all these vested interests, including pensions, payroll, and profits, one wonders whether there is any desire to change anything.
Herein lies the problem. The war on drugs–we must use that term since it fits like no other–does not affect the Gringo since it does not occur in his backyard. It does not matter to the politician in Texas or Massachusetts that once sleepy and peaceful Belize is being threatened with drug violence. It does not matter to the congressman from California that farmers in Guatemala are given the choice to allow drug flights to land on their fields and accept payment or pay with their lives. There is no one there to worry about increased coca production in Peru and the increased crime which could arise as a result. In short there is no constituency for this issue that is a constituent of the United States.
So there is not much hope the USA will do anything about this problem since few in that nation are clamoring to do so. The best hope is to return the PRI political party to power and see if the status quo ante policy can put an end to the violence.
(2) Readers Comments
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