Editorials | April 2007
|Would Legal Drugs End Cartel Violence in Mexico?|
Allan Wall - MexiData.info
The Mexican war on drugs continues. In a recent international summit in Campeche, Mexico, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe pledged to work together to fight the drug cartels.
Meanwhile, Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard continues his own war against crime, drug trafficking, contraband and illegal street vending. In a new exchange program designed to get weapons off the streets, the Mexico City police are offering some real incentives. For example, if you turn in a machine gun you can receive a computer in exchange, and for a smaller weapon you can get cash or an Xbox video game console. Reducing crime in Mexico City would go a long way toward helping Ebrard’s presidential ambitions come 2012.
Nevertheless, the cartel killings in Mexico continue, with an average of seven narco-executions per day.
The killings didn’t even stop during Holy Week. For a narco hit man, a holy day is just another workday. On Holy Saturday, for example, Ernesto Moreno, police commandant in the southern state of Guerrero, was gunned down as he ate in a restaurant with his wife and children.
In another highly publicized case, Televisa correspondent Amado Ramirez was shot to death on Good Friday as he left a radio station in Acapulco. Though there are some questions as to whether or not the Amado shooting was narco-related, there is no doubt that reporters are at risk. In today’s Mexico, a journalist can say what he or she wants about a politician, but if he or she gets too specific about narco activities he or she may disappear or wind up dead.
On Thursday and Friday of Holy Week, 21 persons were slain in narco attacks. This compares to three such murders on the same days a year ago. Since January 1, the 2007 total count is 673 persons killed in narco attacks in Mexico. At this point in time last year the tally was 542.
During all of 2006 over 2,000 Mexicans were slain in narco killings. In contrast, during calendar year 2006 there were 895 U.S. military personnel who died in Iraq.
Besides the carnage, there’s the impunity of it all. The perpetrators are hardly ever caught. In one possible exception, suspects have been arrested for the murder of a politician slain in Acapulco. However, some are suspicious of the arrests and think those arrested may just be scapegoats.
The victims of narco executions include narco criminals who are killed by rival cartels, and many police officers. Of the policemen slain by narco hit men, how many of them were corrupt cops who ran afoul of a particular narco gang, and how many were honest cops slain in the line of duty? Nobody can say for sure, but either way the bold impunity of the narco-slayers and their mayhem is truly disturbing.
On the other hand, it’s not as if Mexican streets are the scenes of ongoing narco gun battles 24/7. Most Mexicans aren’t directly affected by it. The same day Amado Ramirez was shot in Acapulco (for whatever reason), the hotels there were at 96.6 percent capacity.
And yet, narco war is a cancer on society that Mexican governments are struggling to contain.
The problem is that drug trafficking and its attendant violence are driven by so many factors: the big budgets available to druglords, police corruption, judicial inefficiency, and, lest we forget, the massive demand for drugs north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
In a recent column, Mexican pundit Sergio Sarmiento laid out what he believes are Mexico’s only two options:
“There are only two ways to stop this wave of executions. One is to suddenly endow our police with a miraculous efficiency that makes the impunity vanish. If we begin to see the capture of those truly responsible for the murders, the hired assassins would at least think a little more before carrying out an execution.
“The other way would be to recognize that we have lost the war against drugs, that it makes no sense to continue spending resources and human lives in an attempt to stop what no one can stop.”
Sarmiento is speaking here of drug legalization, and he continues with a U.S. historical analogy — the end of Prohibition in the early 1930s. According to its proponents, drug legalization would actually decrease cartel violence.
Controversial yes, but if things don’t improve more people may be ready to consider the legalization option.
Allan Wall is an American citizen who has been teaching English in Mexico since 1991, and writing articles about various aspects of Mexico and Mexican society for the past decade. Some of these articles are about Mexico's political scene, history and culture, tourism, and Mexican emigration as viewed from south of the border, which you can read on his website at AllanWall.net.
Click HERE for more articles by Allan Wall.