Latin America: Mexican Leftist Candidate Calls for More Army in Drug War 6/2/06

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As Mexico's July 2 presidential elections draw ever nearer and the race ever tighter, left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has called for an increased role for the armed forces to try to rein in the country's violent drug trafficking organizations. Under pressure from the government of outgoing President Vicente Fox, Mexico's so-called cartels have fragmented and reconsolidated in a bloody war that has left at least 1,500 dead. Outbreaks of drug war-related violence have spread from border cities like Nuevo Laredo to once immune resorts like Acapulco, where cartel members engaged in virtual street battles with police in recent weeks.

Mexican army drug patrol
Lopez Obrador took the occasion of a Saturday visit to Nuevo Laredo to call for a larger role for the armed forces. "I'm going to create a legal initiative to reform the constitution and give more power to the army in the war against organized crime," he said in remarks reported by the Associated Press. Repeated efforts to purge police and justice officials corrupted by drug traffickers had failed, he said. "There has been enough experimenting," Lopez Obrador said. "Every six years they try to clean up the attorney general's office and it ends up completely infiltrated and totally involved in illegal acts."

Lopez Obrador's comments put him in a "tough on drugs" contest with Fox's National Action Party (PAN) and its presidential candidate, Felipe Calderon, who is running in a dead heat with Lopez Obrador, according to the latest polls. Roberto Madrazo, candidate of the fractured Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), which ruled the country as "the prefect dictatorship" for 71 years until Fox's election in 2000, is a distant third. In the past two years, the Fox government has undertaken what Fox called "the mother of all battles" against the cartels, but the result has been only more bloodshed.

While Lopez Obrador said the army could be the solution, President Fox is already using it to fight the competing Sinaloa and Gulf Coast cartels. And while Lopez Obrador suggested the army could escape the corrupted fate of Mexican law enforcement, there is little reason to believe it invulnerable to the lure of traffickers' lucre. The arrest of a Mexican army general on corruption charges after being named head of the national anti-drug effort in 1996 is one example. The existence of the Zetas, former Mexican military men trained as an elite anti-drug unit who defected to the traffickers, is another.

President Fox made noises about legalization early in his administration, but soon buckled under to the American drug war. The much vaunted and aborted Mexican decriminalization bill was not really aimed at expanding Mexico's drug war; the decrim provisions were inserted by representatives as the bill quietly moved through the congress. Interestingly, both the PAN and the PRI voted for the bill, while the PRD opposed it.

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Issue #438 -- 6/2/06

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Editorial: We Should Have Such Problems | Book Offer: Burning Rainbow Farm: How a Stoner Utopia Went up in Smoke | Feature: Salvia Under Siege -- Movement to Ban Herbal Hallucinogen Gains Momentum in Statehouses | Feature: SSDP, ACLU Seek Permanent Injunction in HEA Lawsuit, Education Department Moves to Dismiss | Feature: Drug Reformers Take the Third Party Path in Bids for Statewide Office | Feedback: Do You Read Drug War Chronicle? | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Law Enforcement: Federal Drug Prosecutions Declined for Past Five Years | Medical Marijuana: South Dakota Initiative Makes the November Ballot | Harm Reduction: ACLU Wins Victory in Connecticut Needle Exchange Case | Latin America: Mexican Leftist Candidate Calls for More Army in Drug War | Latin America: US Drug War Ally Reelected in Colombia, But Leftist Legalization Advocate Places Second | Latin America: As Venezuela and Bolivia Draw Nearer, Chavez Ponies Up $1 Million for Coca Factories, Research | Europe: Dutch Mayor to Move Coffee Shops to Belgian Border | Web Scan: New Change the Climate Online TV Ad, Journey for Justice Daily Journal, Psychedelics and Medicine, Convict Nation | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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