Tuesday, July 17, 2007

No End In Sight

This War Is Lost
[The author of this article has some ideas worth thinking about]

No, this isn't about the war in Iraq that a certain senator in the US was talking about recently. It's about another war that has been going on far longer, a war that has cost much more in both money and lives in the US and now, in México. It is the drug war, a war that transcends many US administrations and has no end in sight.

I remember attending a lecture back in the mid 1940s by an agent of what is now the Drug Enforcement Administration describing how violent the drug business was and the cost to society. Nothing has changed in sixty years except that it is much worse.

The US National Institute on Drug Abuse says that between 1985 and 1992, the cost to society increased by 50%. The trend continues. Overall cost to US society (including health costs, productivity and enforcement costs) was $108 Billion in 1992 and increased to $181 Billion in 2002. The raw cost of the illegal drugs imported has been around $60 Billion USD for years. $16 Billion in health care costs in 2002 and rising. Productivity costs in 2002 were $129 Billion and rising. Drug related crime; either direct or committed while "under the influence" is the single largest category of crime in the US.

According to the US Bureau of Justice, drug arrests have risen for adults from around 350,000 in 1970 to about 1,600,000 in 2005.

Want to see something scary? The general price trends for drugs from 1981 through 2003 have been down . . . while the purity of the drugs is much higher! And you think this war is being won?

Here's something else to think about. Of worldwide heroin grown, heroin in México has been dropping from 5,450 hectares in 1990 to 2,700 hectares in 2002. In Afghanistan, it has gone from 12,370 hectares to 206,000 hectares in the same period. The biggest jump up was in 2002 and 2003. Yeah, and you thought that the war there would help this issue. Think again.

What this is doing to México is something else. It's now a full fledged shooting war in México. With this much money flying around, someone is going to supply the US market come hell or high water. You can't pick up a paper without seeing 5 or 10 assassinated, and in May, in one shoot out between drug gangs, 22 were killed near the northern border. Police, including police chiefs and commanders are fair game. And now, direct attacks on the Mexican army by better-armed drug fighters have become common. In one instance, the attackers traveled in a convoy of more than 15 vehicles to the battle. And most escaped on horseback into the rugged mountains.

The Mexican chief of drug intelligence for the Department of Justice (PGR) was assassinated in his auto in downtown México (City) in the last week of May in broad daylight.

In early May, four bodyguards assigned to protect the children of the governor of the State of México were killed. The governor said that it must be "mistaken identity" and shrugged it off. Later that day a severed head with a "narco note" was delivered to an army post nearby telling the governor that more would come. This is becoming a standard practice with heads turning up everywhere.

The Fox administration started war against the drug gangs by arresting and imprisoning the cartel leaders. The effect was to destabilize what was a more or less orderly business. Then the lower ranks (the "young Turks") started wars between the cartels for the control of the lucrative drug market in the US.

The Calderón administration took the war to a new level by using the Mexican army to directly attack the gangs and try to reclaim México for the Mexican people. (More than 24,000 troops are committed now.) The problem is that it seems so far that the drug gangs are stronger than the army and navy combined.

The drug smugglers are even getting into human illegal immigrant smuggling by using the people as human shields to smuggle drugs across the border.

There has been a hint of another line of thinking down here now. Why not simply declare peace with the drug gangs and "make a deal" with them to let Mexico alone. If the US wants to buy drugs . . . that's their problem.

True, that line of thinking has been strongly rejected here . . . at least for now. But if the US doesn't clean up their act, who can condemn this line of thought? After all, who maintains this enduring illegal market? Considering this state of affairs, isn't is fair to ask the US when, after 60 years of failure, are they going to get serious about their own drug problem?

México fully cooperates in stopping illegal immigrants from "sensitive" countries transgressing México to the US. How about some cooperation from north of the border on drugs?

Just like illegal immigration, this is a market driven affair.
by Richard N. Baldwin T., at HispanicVista.com contributing columnist, lives in Tlalnepantla, Edo de México.

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