In late 2006, Mexican president Felipe Calderon announced a new government-backed military offensive against his country’s drug cartels, believing they could be defeated through sheer brute force. Four years later, more than 28,000 people have been killed, and the drug cartels are more powerful than ever, controlling vast manufacturing and distribution networks that have helped to bankroll kidnappings, extortion, human trafficking, and the corruption of an estimated 60 percent of U.S. border agents.
The majority of the cartels’ revenue – more than 60 percent, according to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy – comes from selling marijuana in the United States. Remember this.
Finally realizing the futility of the status quo, Calderon last week softened his position and said he was open to a debate about lifting prohibition as a way to combat the cartels and deprive them of their main source of income. (Officially, he remains an opponent of legalization.)
Then over the weekend, Calderon’s predecessor, Vicente Fox (who as a former president is more politically flexible than his sitting successor) went even further, saying he firmly supports ending prohibition as a way to quell the violence. “Radical prohibition strategies have never worked,” Fox wrote, explaining that he sees legalization “as a strategy to weaken and break the economic system that allowed cartels to earn huge profits.”
This line of thinking is not new, obviously. Other Latin American nations are realizing prohibition doesn’t work, and former leaders of Brazil and Columbia, as well as former Mexican president Ernesto Zedillo, have been among those calling for its end.
Meanwhile, as the war rages on in Mexico, street shoot-outs have become commonplace, journalists fear their own safety so much that they don’t even report the violence, and school children are being trained to duck and cover in order to avoid the crossfire.
But with Mexico awash in blood and its leaders desperately looking for solutions, our officials have offered nothing but the same failed options. With one hand, the U.S. gives the Mexican government millions of dollars to continue funding its horrifically unsuccessful war, and with the other, our officials continue to deny the irrefutable reality that prohibition has not worked and another approach is needed — one that will stop handing the cartels a virtual monopoly over such a lucrative trade. Read the rest of this entry »