Exploring the Mexican Drug War

On the 1st of February, 14 young people were killed in the Mexican border city of Juarez, caught in the cross-fire between the Mexican War on Drugs.
The victims, barely older than children in some cases, were at a birthday party when gunmen drove up to the house and opened fire. 14 people were killed, and 20 more injured. Young people were seen climbing over fences in order to escape. Mexican authorities suspect the murders were enacted by the “La Linea” cartel, who mistakenly believed the address to be associated with a rival cartel. This tragedy comes in a time of increasing violence associated with the government/drug cartels conflict in Mexico.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon effectively declared his own “War on Drugs”, when in 2006, just 10 days after he was elected, he sent 65,000 troops into Michoacán, cracking down on drug cartels in the area. Since Calderon came to power, violence has escalated massively; a total of 18,095 people being killed in this ‘Drug War’ since Calderon came to power, the numbers increasing every year. 7726 people were killed last year, and so far 1118 people have been killed this year.
Mexican drug cartels have become more powerful in recent years due to the effects of American interference in the Columbian drugs trade increasing the amount of drugs that trafficked through Mexico into America. The “Plan Columbia” initiative instigated by President Andres Arango and the US government has caused much devastation in Columbia; an increase in drug related violence, regional political instability, and massive environmental and social destruction associated with US fumigation of coca plantations (and anything else in the surrounding area) with powerful herbicides. The collapse of the Columbian Medellin and Cali Cartels also had a massive impact on pushing more trade through Mexico.
When looking at how aggressive interventionist tactics such as “Plan Columbia” and Calderon’s self declared “War on Drugs” have had on combating the harms associated with drugs we must first ask ourselves 2 questions:
1. Have the harms associated with the drugs trade decreased?
Clearly, the answer in both these cases is no. Calderon escalated violence in the area by giving drug cartels a new enemy to fight against. Whilst it might seem like every gain for the Mexican government in the ‘War on Drugs’ is a good thing, this is often not the case, every cartel leader removed from power means more factional in-fighting as to who replaces them, increasing violence further.
2. Has the drugs trade decreased in output?
No, at least not in the long term. Supply channels have just moved to compensate for American aggression. The ‘Plan Columbia’ initiative caused more drugs to be trafficked via Mexico and the Caribbean, taking the harms associated with the illicit drug trade into new areas. The actual quality of the substances, however, is likely to decrease, increasing the harm to consumers on the American side of the border.
The “War on Drugs” is clearly counter-productive. What we need is a “War on Harm”; where we take into account that an illegal drugs trade will always exist whilst prohibitive laws are in place. Take steps to reduce the harms associated with drugs; regulate their trade so cartels don’t get a look in. Spend the money that would be spent on guns on education. Be proactive rather than reactive.
An organisation that I’m involved in is holding an online vigil and discussion on Thursday 11th, between 9 and 11pm (GMT). We are also asking people to take photos of themselves holding their own vigils at home (think candles) and sending them to mexico@ssdp.org.uk to show solidarity. Come join us at http://www.ssdp.org.uk
Add ssdp on twitter @ssdpuk
Add me on twitter @charliethescarf

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