Mexican president-elect Peña Nieto has a lot to ponder as he prepares to take the reins of the government on December 1st. Not the least of his challenges: how to deal with a military-style campaign against the drug cartels that has spun out of control.
For the past six years, outgoing President Felipe Calderón has waged a brutal war against the drug cartels in his country — a war that in 2011 alone saw approximately 12,000 people killed. There is some encouraging news, however, as Nieto has expressed that he is willing to consider alternative options to his country’s approach on marijuana prohibition.
Luis Videgaray, a top adviser to Nieto, signaled that the president-elect could be open new approaches in dealing with the out of control drug violence in Mexico. According to The Washington Post:
Videgaray is right to be wary of continuing the crack-down on marijuana smuggling from Mexico to the US. Every day Mexico — at the behest of the United States — sends soldiers into the remote regions of of the country to find and destroy cartel drug operations. But opinions on marijuana are changing rapidly, and with two states now having legalized marijuana, it is beginning to seem like an especially pointless exercise. Why should Nieto continue to send Mexican soldiers to their deaths to fight a war on drugs on behalf of the US, when in parts of the country they no longer enforce prohibition laws?
The graph below(credit, WikiMedia), shows just how devastating the tightening of drug policies under Felipe Calderón has been.
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It’s obvious that the policy of militantly pursuing drug cartels has taken an incredible toll when the metric is human capital. This is certainly discouraging, but surely getting tough on drug smuggling in Mexico has reduced abuse here in The States, right?
As it turns out, it hasn’t. As you can see there has been a slight decline in drug arrests here in The States since Calderón’s ascension to the presidency, but this has much more to do with recessionary pressures than anything else. Consumption of most everything declines in hard economic times, and I am sure this correlation surprises no one. Not to mention, that either way, it’s hardly enough of a drop off to justify the costs in human lives.
So what is Mexico to do in order to stop this disturbing trend? The simplest solution would be to tell the United States to fight its own war. If America would like to continue a campaign against people’s personal freedoms, then it should be America that suffers the consequences. As the world’s largest consumer of drugs, this is our problem, not Mexico’s.
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely Nieto would be willing to consider a complete cessation of the disgraceful war on drugs. The US applies an incredible amount of pressure to keep the status quo, and there is little chance of that changing anytime soon.
But with the legalization of marijuana in two US states — as well as a general relaxation of law enforcement attitudes regarding the issue — Mexico is sure to at least re-evaluate its stance on drug policies. The most effective policy they could adopt: legalization. Not just of marijuana, but all drugs. It really is the only way; as long as there are illegal drugs, there will be an illegal — not to mention violent — drug trade.
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