Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mexico drug war update

What the drug war has wrought:
Every year, the United States illegally imports more than 200 metric tons of cocaine, 1,500 metric tons of marijuana, 15 metric tons of heroin, and 20 metric tons of methamphetamines. The more than $50 billion it has spent on interdiction efforts over the past quarter-century have barely made a dent in this demand.

The efforts have, however, altered the structure of the drug trade. The production of marijuana and heroin in Mexico through the 1960s and 1970s was the province of small-time operators, many of them family-type organizations, which could move drugs across a laxly policed U.S.-Mexico border without much risk of capture. But the cocaine epidemic and the advent of the U.S.-led "war on drugs" changed the nature of the business.

...As the cartels have shrunk in number, the pressure on them -- from U.S. and Mexican authorities, and from their own competitors -- has increased apace, forcing the organizations to become better equipped and more violent. Today's Mexican cartels spend millions of dollars a year on assault rifles, explosives, armored high-end SUVs, and sophisticated intelligence operations, with the aim of avoiding interdiction and eliminating competitors.
In other words, the drug war has exchanged small time operators for vast syndicates which operate their own personal armies, the sophistication of which rivals the Mexican military. Unsurprisingly, when confronted with these drug-funded armies, the Mexican government has responded by deploying soldiers of the Mexican army into the fight -- all in the name of making the Mexican people safer. But it seems the country's citizens have as much to fear from the military as from the drug criminals:
Mexico's own National Human Rights Commission has done a comprehensive job of providing just those sorts of examples [of human rights abuses]. Since [Mexican President Vicente] Calderón came to power in 2006, the commission has issued reports on more than 50 cases involving egregious army abuses, including killings, rape, and torture. In one of those cases from 2007, for example, soldiers raided several communities in Michoacan, arbitrarily detaining 36 people, most of them at a military base where they were tortured to obtain information about alleged ties to drug traffickers. Four of the victims, underage girls, were also raped. The commission has reported receiving nearly 4,000 additional complaints of military misconduct.
For the sake of argument let us say that drug use will increase if legalization occurs. Would this really be a worse outcome than the current situation?

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