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Friday, November 23, 2012

Mexico's PRI Takes the Reins in December: Get Ready for the New Pax Narcotica

Posted by on Fri, Nov 23, 2012 at 3:31 PM

From Reuters:

When Calderon took office in 2006, voters like 53-year-old Torreon housewife Rosaura Gomez supported his conservative National Action Party (PAN) for taking on drug traffickers.

But as the violence intensified and got closer to home, she lost faith. In this year's presidential election, Gomez backed the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which ruled for most of the 20th century, in the hope that it can restore order. The party won the election and will return to power in December.

"Before, there was a pact, and things were calm. The drugs went to the United States and these groups didn't mess with the people. This is what we want so we can live in peace," she said.

I will repeat my prediction one more time—when the PRI (Mexico's old-boy political party) gets back in the saddle, it will further bolster its alliance with the Sinaloa (Mexico's old-boy, gentleman-farmer cartel) and create a pax narcotica.

Or, more accurately, they'll restore the pax narcotica that had been in place since the US first decided to ban/control marijuana, opium, and coca in the early 20th century. When that happened, the Mexican plantation owners (who roughly congealed into the Sinaloa) colluded with the government and military to keep things going.

The system ran smoothly, more or less, until a few bumps in the road: One, the war on drugs fractured the market and the private armies. (And military-trained anti-drug warriors flipped to become ferocious drug vikings like the Zetas, which only made things bloodier.) Two, Mexican voters got fed up with the institutionalized corruption of the PRI and voted them out of office. The authority, the center of gravity, was lost. The Hobbesian war of all on all began.

Voters like the one quoted above got sick of that and yearn for the peace and quiet of stable, institutionalized corruption.

I suspect that after an initial increase in violence (perhaps a severe increase) as the PRI and the Sinaloa clear the decks and annihilate their rivals, things will settle down. And the drugs will flow more freely and efficiently than ever.


Comments (42) RSS

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Fifty-Two-Eighty 1
Of course, if all you guys would just quit doing drugs, this would become a non-issue overnight. You're the primary driving force in this equation.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on November 23, 2012 at 4:04 PM · Report this
@ 1. And I will answer that tired old criticism with my tired old reply: Nancy Reagan, DARE, the Just Say No campaign, and higher prison sentences, such as the 100-to-1 crack ratio, failed (and failed miserably) to stem consumer demand.

We proved, at a very high human cost, that drug users in the US could not be shamed or scared into abstinence.

Meanwhile, the drug war has failed to stem supply.

You can keep beating your head against that wall if you want to. But we already poured billions of dollars into that two-pronged failure, which only made things worse.

Institutionalized corruption is a terrible thing. But it is an attempt, however imperfect, at some kind of solution to the carnage. Legalization and regulation of all drugs should be the next attempt.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on November 23, 2012 at 4:15 PM · Report this
Big Sven 3
"Legalization and regulation of all drugs"? Just to be clear, many of us who support legalized marijuana are also happy to lock up and throw away the key of the motherfuckers who would sell our kids speedballs.
Posted by Big Sven on November 23, 2012 at 4:21 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 4
Wrong, Brendan, and you (perhaps understandably) completely missed my point. I'm not talking about some institutionalized regimen of making drug use "bad;" I'm just saying that, if all of this bothers you so much, just stop doing the shit. Legalization of hard drugs isn't any kind of an answer. God, I could write pages on that. You don't need that shit. Nobody needs that shit. It's not doing any good for anybody — except the cartels.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on November 23, 2012 at 4:49 PM · Report this
@4 Norm Stamper who knows a little about the drug war would beg to differ. If you're not from Seattle google him.
Posted by wl on November 23, 2012 at 4:58 PM · Report this
But the Mexican government has made significant progress. Look at all the drug kingpins that have been killed or incarcirated and the cartels are fighting amongst themselves. It just seems like such a waste to give up now.
Posted by floater on November 23, 2012 at 4:58 PM · Report this
"Just stop doing the shit" = "just say no." Which has been a miserable, bloody failure of a policy across the hemisphere. It hasn't worked and it won't work.

What do you suggest, besides waving your "just say no" wand and hoping against hope that consumer demand will magically evaporate?

If you set aside wishful thinking for a second, what have you got? From a policy perspective, I mean?
Posted by Brendan Kiley on November 23, 2012 at 5:11 PM · Report this
If only everyone had stopped drinking alcohol like the government demanded, the Mafia would have been stuck with petty crime!
Posted by madcap on November 23, 2012 at 5:12 PM · Report this
@6 I'm not a fan of total legalization but if "progress" for Mexico means more of the same, tens of thousands that have been murdered over the last five or six years, I'd hate to see what a win would mean for them. It seems like the only way to stop the violence in our neighbor to the south is legalization and regulation. At a certain point you have to accept that the demand of these products is simply too inelastic.
Posted by spoons on November 23, 2012 at 5:24 PM · Report this
Enigma 10
@4 Do you drink? Do you eat any kind of junk food? You know both those things are bad for you and don't really benefit society in any way.
Here's the thing, my body hate alcohol more than a "normal" person's body hates alcohol. I would love to share a pitcher of beer with my friends, but I know one glass would give me a headache.
So I choose as my substance for realaxation to be pot. And I buy from a grower, so I'm 100% certain my money isn't going to a drug cartel but to a good friend.

If everyone could abstain at all times from anything that is bad for them, maybe your argument would hold water. But human nature doesn't work that way and you know it. So get your head out of your ass and acknowledge that humans are going to indulge and we should punish society for someone's choice of personal consumption.
Posted by Enigma on November 23, 2012 at 5:28 PM · Report this
rob! 11
@10, no reason you should shift away from pot especially now that it's becoming legal, but here's a pretty comprehensive article discussing a variety of different additives found in wine and beer that can cause headaches or other adverse reactions, many of which are avoidable if you want to spend some time researching products with the manufacturers and maybe working with an allergist:…
Posted by rob! on November 23, 2012 at 6:48 PM · Report this
I find it hard to believe that we're getting pot from the Mexican cartels, there's so much being grown locally.
Posted by BallardBoy on November 23, 2012 at 10:00 PM · Report this
@13: um, you need to leave Ballard once in a while. Don't even need to go that far. Most areas of the US do not have the grow culture that Seattle (and the NW in general) has. And, more to the point, just as most drinkers aren't drinking high quality hooch (30 year single malt), most smokers aren't getting good bud but the equivalent of Keystone.
Posted by gnossos on November 23, 2012 at 11:26 PM · Report this
watchout5 15
@3 Lets hope anyone selling drugs to kids is thrown behind bars no matter if it was alcohol, marijuana or cocaine. Kids have an easier time scoring marijuana than they do alcohol for a very good reason, the people old enough to know better are the ones with the most power while the black market has no age restrictions. Do kids still get alcohol? Duh, no one ever said the system was perfect. Imagine though if you will the kid interested in marijuana, by itself not a very dangerous drug, but the black market dealer they might get it from will not just be selling marijuana and the temptation to try new drugs is infinite in that environment. Imagine if you will that same kid who gets anyone over the age of 21 to walk into a store and get him some marijuana, that store isn't going to be selling heroin or cocaine, that person willing to get that kid a bag of grass wouldn't dream of scoring any other drug for that kid even if they made the stupid decision to get that kid a bag of grass in the first place. Dealers today are heavily rewarded for turning would be marijuana smokers into junkies and the line is very thin for dealers, why give them more customers? If we've reached a point where we can sell people alcohol over the counter and *expect* them to use it responsibly I'm not convinced we could do much worse with a drug like heroin. Are people going to shoot up and get behind the wheel of a car? Maybe, but I don't think that number would be any higher than the number of people who get behind the wheel plastered drunk, and if that isn't a case for alcohol prohibition why is it a case to keep other drugs illegal on the basis that people might do bad things? "Won't someone please think of the children"
Posted by watchout5 on November 24, 2012 at 12:49 AM · Report this
Big Sven 16
@15: here's a fun little exercise. Draw a graph. Put "physical addictiveness" on the x axis. Put "useful dose / LD50 dose" on the y axis; that is, the ratio of how close you have to get to killing yourself you have to get to get high.

Marijuana is at the lower left. Heroin is at the upper right. The question is: does that or does it not have public policy implications? I think it does. You think it doesn't.

But since you reduce my concerns as a parent to "won't somebody please think of the children," I will happily respond with the ad hominem of "there's no *fucking* way the majority of Washington residents will ever legalize smack."
Posted by Big Sven on November 24, 2012 at 4:42 AM · Report this
pfffter 17
@3 Are you sure about that, because it really sounds like a fantasy to me. I've never ever in my 30something odd years bought pot from someone who was also dealing other hard drugs. If they were, they never offered to sell any of it! Your scenario sounds like something out of reefer madness. Melodramatic and patently false.
Posted by pfffter on November 24, 2012 at 4:45 AM · Report this
pfffter 18
I meant @15. This is what happens when I slog during insomnia.
Posted by pfffter on November 24, 2012 at 4:46 AM · Report this
I can understand why Mexico voted out Calderon's party. I'm not sure the PRI can put the narco-violence genie back in the bottle. We shall see.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on November 24, 2012 at 9:23 AM · Report this
treacle 21
If Brendan is right and the PRI actually can come to a new Pax Narcotica, then that will surely prove that corporate entities (the money making engines of the cartels) and the state can work hand in glove and make for great efficiency! In short, fascism actually works people. When the state holds a monopoly on violence, then the corporations don't have to field their own private armies, and bloodshed is reduced. Sometimes rank competition is actually worse for all, and a nice cooperative monopoly situation is the best outcome.
Posted by treacle on November 24, 2012 at 10:10 AM · Report this
treacle 22
And Brendan, I think 5280 @1 wasn't talking about "consumer demand" across the country so much as pretty directly saying that if *you guys* at The Stranger quit doing drugs, then this empire would collapse, since everyone knows that a small group of writers at your two-bit weekly paper account for 97% of the drug demand in the USA.

Is that an accurate summation of your point 5280?
Posted by treacle on November 24, 2012 at 10:14 AM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 24
No, @22. But it would certainly be a good start.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on November 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM · Report this
@12 we call those people "cocaine vegans"
Posted by SAM FANTASY II on November 24, 2012 at 1:38 PM · Report this
I heavily disagree. Peña Nieto is basically a narco-President, but I find the argument that he will represent some sort of "Pax Narcotica" to not be somewhat ridiculous. It is true that the PRI had a pact with the cartels in the past, and that life in Mexico was much more peaceful back then, but that was back then and this is now. When Peña Nieto was governor of Mexico State, crime skyrocketed (at the same time that crime saw just as dramatic a drop in Mexico City, which was governed by the PRD), and these days Mexico State has far more femicides than Ciudad Juarez. In general, all the most dangerous places to be in Mexico are the places with PRI governships - Mexico State, Chihuahua, Veracruz, Tamaulipas...Peña Nieto will put the narcos in control, but that won't bring peace.

Also, in terms of hard drugs, I think that Bolivia's "coca not cocaine" policy is pretty good. Coca's not a big deal at all, coca tea's like drinking a cup of chai. Maybe even weaker. Legalize that, and people will obviously make cocaine from it, just as they do now, but at least there won't be a huge, violent bottleneck somewhere between the Andes and the US because the raw materials will be readily available and no cartel will be able to monopolize it.
Posted by redemma on November 24, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Er, to be somewhat ridiculous. God damn I've got some grammar errors.
Posted by redemma on November 24, 2012 at 2:06 PM · Report this
Big Sven @16: here's another useful exercise.

Make two columns and in the left hand column list all of the harms that you can think of associated with a certain drug (say heroin). In the right hand column list the harms that are actually pharmacological.

The difference between those two columns is the result of prohibition. Yes, heroin is a dangerous drug and not lightly fucked with. But most of the things we associate with heroin's "badness" are a consequence of prohibition, not the drug itself.
Posted by gnossos on November 24, 2012 at 3:06 PM · Report this
@2 why is it then we focus on personal behavioral consequences when it comes to, say, Global Climate Change? Isn't also beating ones head against a wall? Eating organic or vegan, driving a Prius, none of these behavioral alterations changes the systemic promblems significantly in the short term. Yet we encourage these behavioral shifts in society don't we? Becuase they create tipping points in the culture.

Why does the desire to get high get some magical moral exception to consequences?

I agree that government prohibitions of things people want doesn't work. Drugs. Guns. Whatever. But changing the culture DOES. It takes generations.

Sure drugs- make them legal and regulate them.

BUT. Telling people that they don't have blood on their hands every time they participate in blackmarket economies is a fucking lie. Just like owning a Hummer makes one morally culpable to the effects of climate change, if you do coke your likewise every bit as morally culpable as the god damn Cartels. You can't dodge your moral responsibilities that easily.
Posted by tkc on November 24, 2012 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Fifty-Two-Eighty 30
That is actually closer to what I was trying to say. Thanks, tkc.
Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty on November 24, 2012 at 4:23 PM · Report this
Big Sven 31
Gnossos- I think I already did list the two big salient issues with heroin: (a) the fact that it's incredibly addictive and (b) the fact that the difference between a fun dose and a fatal dose is small. Do you disagree with either of these characterizations? Because both are inherent to the drug and have nothing to do with prohibition.
Posted by Big Sven on November 24, 2012 at 6:02 PM · Report this
@ 29. Tell drug users they have blood on their hands all you want. They participate in that economy and that has consequences. You'll get no argument from me about that.

But wagging your moralistic finger at US users will not substantially change the situation. That has been tried. That failed. The drug economy is not a "magical" exemption. It's an empirical, historically demonstrated reality.
Posted by Brendan Kiley on November 24, 2012 at 6:39 PM · Report this
@32 but WHY is wagging our moralistic fingers at, for instance, humvee drivers - which likewise emirically produces no substantial change - perfectly acceptable?

Look. I agree with you. In terms of productive policies on the ground prohibition HAS to go.

But we need to keep trying to convince people on the cultural level-- the people who are the Strangers KEY fucking demographic (and dude, I've witnessed people at Stranger events doing Coke) - that doing said coke, while the Cartels exist, is STILL immoral as hell. Just as unacceptable socially as a racist or sexists attitude. And they should be treated as social god damned pariahs. But they are not.

You and I both know and socially accept more people who do the occasional line of coke than we probably know republicans.

I'm not talking about Government policies. I'm talking about cultural acceptance. And yes. It DOES MATTER. Excusing people from the moral responsibility doesn't help.
Posted by tkc on November 24, 2012 at 6:55 PM · Report this
Big Sven -- thanks for the rational response.

You do identify the two biggest issues. To which I have few replies.

First, the number of people who try heroin (or any other opiate) greatly exceeds the number of folks who become addicted. So addiction is not a foregone conclusion. Is it the same ratio as those who try alcohol vs those who become alcoholics? We don't know for sure, but researchers I know think it might be in that ballpark.

Second, re overdose. You're correct that this is a pharmacological harm. But it's also a sociological harm. Due to heroin only being sold in an illicit marketplace there is no regulation of dosage or purity -- so a user never knows what amount or purity they're can fluctuate wildly from dose to dose. I believe that much overdose risk would go away in a regulated marketplace (although, clearly not all, as the epidemic of fatal ods associated with prescription opiates demonstrates).

It is not at all clear that decriminalization of heroin use inevitably leads to more use (as Portugal's experiment shows). But even if it did, I believe that eliminating all of the harms associated with it being illegal far outweigh the possible increase in use if it were legal.

This is an area where folks can disagree.
Posted by gnossos on November 24, 2012 at 8:58 PM · Report this
@34 So do you think heroin should be available over the counter or prescription only?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on November 24, 2012 at 10:21 PM · Report this
@35: Not as tightly regulated as prescription only and if by over the counter you mean as readily available as beer/wine/tobacco, then not that either. Honestly, I wrestle with that one a lot. All I'm really sure of us is that the current paradigm is completely broken and doesn't serve anybody's best interests (except the prison industry). Not business owners or residents affected by open air drug dealing and use. Not the police or prosecutors, medics or the healthcare system. Not family members affected by users. Not the users themselves or the dealers.

I like the Portuguese model except for the fact that it doesn't address the purchasing problem (nor does the Netherlands). Drugs being legal coming out the front door doesn't solve the problem of the backdoor. And that's where much of the societal harm comes from.
Posted by gnossos on November 25, 2012 at 12:01 AM · Report this
@36 What makes you so convinced that the current paradigm is completely broken? A lot more people abuse legal drugs (cigarettes and booze) than abuse illegal ones. Don't you think some of that disparity is the result of prohibition?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on November 25, 2012 at 12:16 AM · Report this
Ken @37: Some of the disparity could be due to prohibition. Granted.

But, the number of folks who try heroin/cocaine/methamphetamine etc. vs the number who become habitual or problematic users is small. They haven't been deterred by prohibition. Will the number of people trying (and problematic users) go up if prohibition is lifted? Probably, but I go back to the argument that the overall harm is still less.

Also, if you look at the two best examples we've got: in the Netherlands the % of young people who use marijuana is much less than in the US. Clearly prohibition is not working as intended here. In Portugal, the numbers of folks with problematic heroin use has declined markedly since personal possession was decriminalized. Again a non-prohibition based solution seems more effective. (And, Portugal is a great example of reducing prohibition related harms...HIV rates have fallen dramatically, as has crime associated with getting $ for drugs, drug treatment has increased and people have shifted from drugs like heroin to pot, and the numbers of first time drug users has fallen.)
Posted by gnossos on November 25, 2012 at 1:08 AM · Report this
Ken...crap...lost a previous response so I'll try again and hope it doesn't double post.

RE prohibition: the US incarcerates both more people and a higher % of its population than any other country. And over 40% are for drug crimes. And yet we consume more drugs per capita than almost any other country.

The two best examples we have of what non-prohibition might look like are the Netherlands and Portugal. In the Netherlands the % of young people who use marijuana is less than in the US.

In Portugal the number of people using heroin has declined since they decriminalized possession/use. And, to my point about overall harm declining, HIV rates have fallen dramatically, crime associated w/drug use (to get $) has declined, drug treatment has gone up, and many people have shifted from drugs like heroin to marijuana.

RE the disparity: more people try cigarettes and hootch than try other drugs (and the more people that try, the more that will abuse). Is this due to prohibition? Maybe. Would more people try other drugs if prohibition goes away? I think probably (although the Netherlands and Portugal seem to say no). Even if that were true and even if the number of problematic users increases, I still think the overall social harm would decrease.
Posted by gnossos on November 25, 2012 at 1:39 AM · Report this
well crap...double post indeed.
Posted by gnossos on November 25, 2012 at 1:40 AM · Report this
treacle 41
@29, 30 -- ok yes, absolutely: People should be conscious and culpable of where their drugs come from, and be willing to answer for that. You are correct. [...] Also, recognizing that keeping these same drugs illegal only puts them in the hands of unscrupulous persons who care not one whit of the source nor the outcome. Brendan's counterpoint: that wishing away ~300mil ppl's drug usage is a fantasy; remains true.

Another point to be made is that we are going through some pretty heavy cultural change right now. And I would argue that the human brain --a relatively stone age brain-- has been undergoing these mass society changes since about 1750++. Based on a simple analysis of human cultures it appears that the requirements needed (on a societal level) to accommodate these crazy changes of modern, urban society are that perhaps people need to be able to gain an outside perspective on their day-to-day reality. Few things provide that. And fewer things provide that without particular indoctrination. (and by that I mean religion.)

Remember, London was the first city to reach 1,000,000 people ... and that was in 1850. Not so long ago. The advent to radio, TV, nuclear war, satellites, the internet, global money movements, and this fucking black Friday bullshit only happened within the last 100 years -- 3-4 generations.

You want people's brains to instantly adapt to all these crazy changes? Without some sort of relief valve? Then sir/madame, you mis-estimate the human capacity I think. After thousands of years of stability, we encounter essentially super-radical change,.. and you want people to voluntarily "give up" drugs?

You are mad.
Posted by treacle on November 25, 2012 at 2:24 AM · Report this
treacle 42
As per @34-39, there is a significant factor of people who become addicted [to drug xyz] and because there are no places to go to get help, to get out, they remain stuck in addiction. This is real. Remaining stuck. And needs to stop. By allowing people to be not shamed and to be able get help, they will be able to climb out. You have to have a basic hope in people's desire to live. That always exists.

If you assume the worst, you will create the worst.
Posted by treacle on November 25, 2012 at 2:41 AM · Report this

"Like other politicians in Latin America who are weary of a seemingly endless drug war, Belaunzaran saw the actions of the two U.S. states as a moment to rebel."
Posted by idaho on November 25, 2012 at 9:46 AM · Report this
I realize hypocrisy isn't the worst of moral crimes, but it IS patently hypocritical to demand people be responsible for one set of negative personal behaviors (racism, sexism, etc) while giving them a buy on others (drug use, etc).

I'm not saying people give up outlets for stress- that's ridiculous. But not all outlets are created equally.

Society would survive intact just fine if people stopped using coke until the violent cartels that produce it are eradicated. It's absurd to think people just HAVE to do coke becuase of... what... capatalism?

People have always gotten high long before modern society. They will always want to get high. But we CAN create safer more ethical outlets for that desire. Other societies have.

Waiting for big daddy government to swoop in and solve social problems is and always has been a recipe for disaster. The culture has to lead the way. Just like on civil rights, environmentalism, you name it, WE have to demand more ethical personal bevhavior. Social and peer pressure works.
Posted by tkc on November 25, 2012 at 12:57 PM · Report this
dwightmoodyforgetsthings 45
@31- The question is whether prohibition actually does anything to reduce the destructive effects of drugs on society.

It doesn't. I am in favor of legalization AND REGULATION of all drugs. That would make heroin harder to access for kids, make treatment easier to access, and make dosages regulated (which would virtually eliminate accidental overdose).
Posted by dwightmoodyforgetsthings on November 26, 2012 at 1:23 PM · Report this

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