The Drug War is Destroying Mexico Right Before Our Eyes

Everywhere you look, it is just so obvious that the drug war is making Mexico’s problems worse, not better:

A record number of Mexicans are fleeing to Canada, claiming their own country cannot keep them safe as it struggles to contain a grisly narcotics war that is spilling into nightclubs and restaurants.

There are currently 9,070 Mexican refugee claimants waiting to have their cases heard, the largest number yet from one country since the Immigration and Refugee Board was established in 1989.

The brutality is intense: human heads lobbed into discos; bound men found asphyxiated in cars; shootouts in shopping centres in the middle of the day. In September, grenades were lobbed at a public celebration of Independence Day in Morelia, a colonial town about 240 kilometres west of Mexico City, prompting some to call it "narco-terrorism" as the victims were civilians. [Globe and Mail]

How much more of this can the Mexican people withstand? The number of refugees may soon grow exponentially as it becomes increasingly clear that there is no plan to stop the violence, or rather, that the plan currently in effect is exactly what’s causing the problem. As bad as things already are, the potential for greater bloodshed and disorder is virtually limitless and it seems we’re now marching forth into a true test of wills as the drug war faithful must behold and somehow defend the unfathomable disaster they’ve created.

It stands to reason that there exists a threshold beyond which the insanity of the drug war cannot be sustained. This has to stop somehow, because it really is as bad as the drug war’s critics have long maintained. I believe we may be witnessing the emergence of a tipping point at which the totality of drug war destabilization, festering for decades, has now exploded all over the map. Calderon can’t turn back without admitting the drug war’s failure, nor can he push forward without placing in great jeopardy the very foundations of the society he’s sworn to defend.

We are witnessing the deadly consequences of a failed international drug strategy. The virus of prohibition that entered the sociopolitical bloodstream decades ago is now shutting down vital organs and inflicting damage that won’t soon heal. It cannot be allowed to continue as it has for so long. This must end and although legalization isn’t a magical or perfect solution, it is at least something that can be tested and manipulated to maximize benefits and minimize harm.

Already, the most apocalyptic visions of drug legalization’s legacy pale in comparison to the nightmare of prohibition that smolders right in front of us. It may soon become very difficult for our opponents to continue presenting reform as the dangerous, frightening approach to the drug problem.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
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If you don't have govt referee the market through regulation....

....then you the law of jungle rules the market.

There has been nothing more destabilizing in the world today than our absolute prohibition of drug market regulations for certain drugs and, therefore, allowing criminal organizations to thrive off these markets.

A failure of law enforcement and corruption

The answer to this violence is not simply to open the door by legalizing drugs. The idea that legalization will stop all the evils of the world is wishful thinking. One could just as surely argue that Mexico's violence is a result of ineffectual police and a system that's corrupt from local to national level.

I don't happen to believe in outright legalization but I do believe in relaxing the laws and penalties to allow a more sane and productive way of handling the problem. This, however, is not going to stop the violence in Mexico or elsewhere.

David

Prohibition causes the violence

Prohibition itself causes the violence. It is the illegality of drugs that makes it so profitable to sell them. The unregulated drug market only makes drug cartels rich, powerful, and deadly. The police are so corrupted by the drug money in Mexico that they are no different than the gangsters. The only way to control drugs is to regulate them via legalization. Only 11.2% of Americans believe that the 'War on Drugs' is working. No, legalization will not stop all the evils of the world. But, prohibition creates a great many evils, while legalization reduces the harm of drug use. 85% of all illicit drugs used is cannabis. We can reduce the illicit drug 'problem' by 85% with the legalization of cannabis.

Re: A failure of law enforcement and corruption

"One could just as surely argue that Mexico's violence is a result of ineffectual police and a system that's corrupt from local to national level."

So why give the criminal organizations the resources to further corrupt police in Mexico or any other country? Well that's what happens when you prohibit regulation of these particular drug markets. You transfer the market and all its wealth to criminals who now have the means to further corrupt police and other public officials. You make a bad problem worse.

"I don't happen to believe in outright legalization but I do believe in relaxing the laws and penalties to allow a more sane and productive way of handling the problem."

Again, you support polices that keep criminal organizations wealthy so they can further corrupt these governments. There's nothing "sane and productive" about polices that foster government corruption. Think it over.

legalization is in fact the answer

in response to the above poster, the violence in mexico is caused by the illegality of marijuana. when something cannot be sold in the free market, a black market develops. in the case of marijuana, this has resulted in giving criminals that commit the heinous acts described in the op free reign to charge what they wish (which is more than it would be if it were legal) and use the proceeds to buy the weapons that make said acts possible. their power is perpetuated by marijuana's illegal status. even when law enforcement efforts are successful in reducing supply, they have the effect of simply raising the price. demand doesn't go away and it never will.

most people who use marijuana are guilty of nothing more than having different taste from those who prefer to relax with alcohol. by forcing them to associate with criminals, their dollars are kept out of the economy and diverted to cartels instead. the alternative of legalization allows citizens to spend their money at places that pay taxes that help the economy, while simultaneously cutting off funding to the cartels (which weakens them dramatically). also, since the citizens aren't breaking the law anymore, they don't need to be put in prison, which would save a ton of money. finally, law enforcement is freed to focus on violent crime and gains back some of the respect from the public they are losing every day they continue this fight.

while i believe all drugs should eventually be legalized (even though i have little use personally for hard drugs), we must proceed cautiously in non-marijuana legalization. harder drugs have a much more potent and sometimes negative effect on the psyche, and that is why they must be tightly regulated if they are to be legalized. it will do us little good to legalize harder drugs without the appropriate controls; our gains could be reversed quickly if a system is not in place to limit abuse of powerful drugs by unstable people.

Prospecting a world where crack is legal

"it will do us little good to legalize harder drugs without the appropriate controls; our gains could be reversed quickly if a system is not in place to limit abuse of powerful drugs by unstable people."

I've thought about this a lot. It is unpredictable what could come from outright legalization of hard drugs if we were to regulate them no more and no less than alcohol. However, I tend to think it really wouldn't be that big a deal. The only major difference would be the culture change that would be necessary for society to accept the fact that people are seriously harming themselves legally. Let's say crack cocaine is legal and there are places where people can go smoke crack the same way people go into a bar and drink alcohol. There would be overdoses in those places every week. That's a very hard pill to swallow for most people. Thing is, though, those overdoses are happening today anyway; they just don't tend to happen in public places.

And with a few regulations, things could be significantly better. (I don't use the example of heroin because a heroin overdose is easily treated. In Insite, in Vancouver, there have been over a thousand overdoses so far and zero deaths). In the case of heroin, things would be dramatically better. In the case of crack things would be pretty much the same. Still, though, you could make sure you have nurses and doctors at those crack sites, and they could do something to attend to overdoses. Also, we could have drug counselors there, and we could even have crack education. We could even require by law that crack sites give away crack education dvds and pamphlets for free, which would also be a positive.

The only real concern is that use levels would rise. However, I don't think that would really happen. Use levels would probably only rise slightly. For example, let's say someone has never used crack cocaine and is thinking of trying it. They go to this crack site and start interacting with veteran crack heads who are high on crack at that very moment. Observing their physical and psychological condition, and experiencing the general atmosphere in that place, that in itself might make them decide not to smoke. Then, they start hearing stories of crack use past, probably including a handful of horror stories. That might make them not smoke. Then, if they're prudent enough, they might decide to hold out on trying it and look at one of the pamphlets, or even talk to someone in staff (like a drug counselor); they might decide to take home a dvd and learn more about crack before smoking it. After all that, if they do decide to try it, they'll probably be very careful with it, not doing too much of it at once, and stopping their experiment before they get addicted. If they become addicted, they'll at least be in constant contact with drug counselors. Plus, witnessing an overdose or two of fellow crack smokers can also make them stop.

And in terms of society in general, I don't think drug use will rise for this reason: people want to be healthy. Not only that, but socially, people imitate those who are healthy. Unhealthy, unattractive fat girls want to look like Jessica Alba. Unhealthy, unattractive fat guys want to look like [whoever]. Point is, nobody is interested in being like a crack head, so nobody is interested in imitating a crack head. In the end, no matter what, healthy succesful people is what everybody will always be striving to become.

The real concern is marketing and controlling influence

Prohibitionists ludicrously believe that crack if it were legal would have to be sold in 7-11 stores and marketed at football stadiums like alcohol. Regulation is not in their vocabulary because many prohibitionists have a philosophy that government regulation is bad and unworkable.

Since an craving addict is willing to buy at anytime, I would allow doctor-run clinics to provide hard drugs to users of heroin and other hard drugs during early morning hours like 5am -9am while kids are asleep or in school, like with methadone clinics.

Take all the glamour out of drug use.

how many people could end up using crack?

Even if the worst case scenario happened (if crack is sold in 7-11s, and marketed on tv and at football stadiums (the latter of which seems very unlikey, because no football franchise would want to have the image of being crack-friendly, and they would lose a lot of business if they did), how many people could possibly end up using crack anyway? I don't think many people ever would.

Thing is, everyone tends to compare drugs to alcohol and cigarretes, and while alcohol and cigarretes do cause great harm, it takes a long time for the user to feel that harm. With cocaine, once you're addicted you psychologically feel like shit; it really feels horrible (depending, of course, on the level of the addiction, but still). And you can get addicted relatively quickly. Plus, the people around you start seeing psychological changes in you. Also, it is much easier to overdose on it than with alcohol. Red flags start flying relatively quickly with cocaine. That is, I think, the reason most people stay away from it.

Marijuana is never going to be as popular as alcohol either, despite it being less harmful. The reason being, marijuana is a hallucinogen. Drugs, because of their nature, follow certain patterns of use in most individuals (as well as certain levels of use in society). Most people only use powerful hallucinogens (like lsd, mushrooms, etc.) a few times in their entire lives. Marijuana is used by most people for only a few years (usually in their youth). After that, either they cut down and only do it once every so often (perhaps even only once or twice a year), or they completely stop. It seems that hallucinogens, for whatever reason, just don't lend themselves for lifetime use (at least not constant lifetime use).

Alcohol and cigarrettes lend themselves for lifetime use. Coca leaves lend themselves for lifetime use, but cocaine in powder form doesn't. Most people just reach a state of crisis and then decide to stop, relapsing various times in the process. The same with crack. Heroin follows a similar pattern; people do it for some time, reach a state of crisis, and then decide to stop. There are some people who never go back to using, but there are some people who, after having gone through the crisis and after having stopped completely, actually are able to go back to using but this time in a controlled manner.

In any case, every drug seems to follow certain patterns of use by individuals and certain levels of use in society. Alcohol lends itself to be used by more than fifty percent of society for a lifetime, despite its harms. Most other drugs don't. When you look at statistics, only about .4 percent of people use crack in the US, about .3 percent use meth, and about .3 percent use heroin. About five percent use powder cocaine, and about 14 percent use marijuana. These levels remain steady for decades, and similar ratios are seen in other countries. If drugs were legal, the levels of use and the patterns of use would probably remain pretty similar, even if they sold crack at the 7-11s (which they wouldn't, because only a very small minority of people would smoke it, and since it would still always have a bad reputation, 7-11 would probably not carry it).

Dissent to this view

In most cases I favor drug legalization. But I think you are greatly mis informed or mis lead if you think this is primarily a drug legalization problem.

Drugs or no drugs there are bad people in this world. These guys are very different from the loving hippies in Vermont who grow all the good bud. These guys are kidnappers, rapists, and murders. They want to collapse the government, kill men and rape women and sell children into slavery and prostitution.

If drugs were legalized in mexico these men would rob the drug selling establishment and kill the owners for fun.

You can only have civil liberties, if you have a civil society. Mexico civil society is falling apart.

Quite frankly I want the mexican govt to kill these bastards becuase they give drugs and drug legalization a bad name. Make no mistake. Those who support drug legalization, should be against these guys, because most of us who support legalization are peace ful people, who dont want government telling us what to do. At the same time dont want organized crime telling us what to do either.

It would take time

It would take time after legalization for the violence to subside, but it really would. You say "Drugs or no drugs there are bad people in this world". That might be true, but having something to fight over dramatically increases the fighting. If it wasn't for the Mexican government's crackdown, the murder rate in the country would not have climbed so rapidly. There is a clear link between prohibition and violence.

"If drugs were legalized in mexico these men would rob the drug selling establishment and kill the owners for fun."

They might have fun doing it or they might not, but the primary motivation would be money. If they could make the same amount of money selling legally, they would, no violence necessary. For some time the violence would continue because it has become a habit, but eventually it would subside. When was the last time Budweiser sent a bunch of men to massacre people at Heineken?

Fighting fire with fire

"Quite frankly I want the mexican govt to kill these bastards becuase they give drugs and drug legalization a bad name. "

Killing just creates more killing. It's not like 'these bastards' are just a specific group of people who happen to be evil. You can't just kill them and end the violence. There are societal conditions which create this violence (existing violence is one component, black market profits is another), and as long as those conditions are still present, new violent people will continue to emerge. In fact, waging war on cartels just makes the conditions worse.

Lets reign in these powerful thugs but lets not make them rich!!

But lets not continue to surrender an industry of tens of millions of consumers to criminal groups and make them rich.

Rich criminals buy more powerful gains.

Rich criminals can buy more resources to reinvest into the drug trade (such as submarines for trafficking).

Rich criminals can invest drug profits into other criminal enterprises.

Conditions for peace

If people feel they have a greater chance of success through being peaceful, they will be peaceful. If they feel they have a greater chance of success through being violent, they will be violent. What we have to do is try to create conditions in which people have a better chance of success through being peaceful.

Crack?

I think, if drugs were legal, there would not be the same incentive to make them as potent as possible, which is a driving reason behind crack, crystal meth, hash, and almost all the super-potent drugs. Yes, legalization would lead to crack addicts continuing to use crack, but prohibition does not stop them, and it would drastically reduce the number of new users. If you were curious about the effects, you would be much more likely to try powder cocaine than crack, or a quality amphetamine (or cocaine) instead of crystal meth made from unknown substances in someone's garage. But the best part of legalization is, it's your own damn choice. Be drug free, tell your kids that drugs can very easily turn bad, protest outside head shops, whatever, but you honestly, regardless of "the greater good" or whatever pseudo-moralist garbage you want to come up with, don't have the right to tell another person what they can and cannot put into their own body anyway.

Question for "Prohibition causes the violence"

what's the source for the claim that only 11.2-percent of Americans support the Drug War?

I've seen the fairly recent Zogby poll that said 76-percent of Americans think the drug war is a failure, but I can't find the source for the 11.2 figure, though i realize the number of supporters is probably pretty small.

not trying to be a contrary arse, i would love the source so i can "pass it around"

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