Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Defacing Hitler | Accident at Smith »

Friday, May 30, 2008

This Week on Drugs, Mexico Edition

posted by on May 30 at 18:45 PM

Custom Made: Border agents intercept cocaine fabricated into Jesus statue.


Mary must have made it through.

In More Depressing News: Congress has approved Plan Mexico, an effort to further militarize drug interdiction, although lawmakers did trim Bush’s request by a over $100 million. Regardless, we’re still sending a ton of money to beef up the Mexican drug war. How’s that been going so far?

Since President Felipe Calderón of Mexico started his drug war in 2007, more than 200 law enforcement officers have been killed, among them at least two dozen top commanders. The overall body count is estimated to be 1,300 people so far this year, on track to exceed the roughly 2,500 drug-related killings in 2007.

Will adding military presence to the equation in Mexico—like what we’ve done in Colombia—invite more of what happened to these officers? Or will it reduce the amount of drugs (perhaps molded into the shape of a prophet) that make it to the US? History says the answer to the latter is no.

It seems that Obama gets it—that Americans’ appetites for drugs cannot be suppressed through military force in the third world and that the supply chain is largely a result of our demand. He said:

Because if we’ve learned anything in our history in the Americas, it’s that true security cannot come from force alone. Not as long as there are towns in Mexico where drug kingpins are more powerful than judges. Not as long as there are children who grow up afraid of the police. Not as long as drugs and gangs move north across our border, while guns and cash move south in return.

But, alas, he doesn’t get it.

For the people of Colombia – who have suffered at the hands of killers of every sort – that means battling all sources of violence. When I am President, we will continue the Andean Counter-Drug Program, and update it to meet evolving challenges.

Who Else Gets Swept Up? This cartel hired a 12 year old.

In Good News: Pot defendants in Denver no longer have to appear in court.

Teacher: Busted for heroin then back to class for the day.

Hailey: Marijuana is the lowest priority in Idaho town.

Junkies: B.C. court protects safe injection site.

Parolees: Get green light to smoke medical marijuana.

May 26, 1971: In tapes released after leaving office, President Richard M. Nixon says, “You know it’s a funny thing, every one of the bastards that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish. What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob, what is the matter with them?”

RSS icon Comments


I really really hope the cocaine came from El Salvador.

Posted by kinaidos | May 30, 2008 7:01 PM

Re: "Plan Mexico"
I'm by no means a neo-con, in fact I'm a liberal working at a non-profit in Mexico City. But I think it's a bit foolish to criticize the Mexican Drug Policy for its use of the military and arrogant to say this is about controlling supply to the United States.

This is about ending the hold the cartels hold on the Mexican government.

Although the military has an bad record with human rights, it is still more reliable than the corrupt police force. You should read the stories on how those top commanders were killed. They were mostly sold out to cartels by high-ranking corrupt cops.

It may not be going well now, but this is a step the Mexican government needs to take.

Posted by Kim | May 30, 2008 7:40 PM

Bob Weir (actually John Barlow) said it best:

"Shipping powders back and forth,
Black goes south and white comes north."

Posted by drewl | May 30, 2008 8:20 PM

Wow, I'm Jewish, and yes, anything which does not harm other people should be legalized. Nixon was smarter than you thought!

Posted by Karlheinz Arschbomber | May 30, 2008 11:16 PM

What, nothing on McClellan's reports on Bush's cocaine use?

Posted by Will in Seattle | May 30, 2008 11:17 PM


The easiest way to get rid of the cartels is to get keep the money out of the drugs. With no money they can't corrupt the police and government.

There are really only two ways to take out the money though. You either have to reduce demand to near zero, or make the price super cheap.

Demand isn't going to go to zero. The only way to get the price lower is to legalize/decriminalize. I don't see that happening either.

If you get a chance read Cocaine: An Unauthorized Biography and you can see how this kind of thing has worked in other countries before. (it hasn't).

Posted by Andrew | May 31, 2008 7:17 AM

Andrew: You are responding flippantly to someone with real insight. I'd like to see drugs legalized in the U.S. too, but Mexico can't make that happen. As long as it is the major supply route to the biggest black market for drugs in the world, Mexico is going to have to deal with criminal cartels operating on its territory. And since Mexico can't just go find itself a new next-door-neighbor, a military response may well be its best practicable option.

Posted by David Wright | May 31, 2008 11:11 AM

@ 2) Nobody wants the cartels to lord over the law. But further militarizing the anti-drug efforts in Mexico will be just as ineffective as attempts in Colombia. At least, that's what the article you linked to suggests:

"In Colombia the headway that has been made - such as the arrest of (top drugs boss) Diego Montoya - has a lot to do with good police work. The military is not made for fighting for organised crime," says Markus Schultze-Kraft of the think-tank International Crisis Group.

"Mexico will continue to experience serious problems with drug trafficking as long as the drug flow from the Andean countries is not considerably reduced," argues Mr Schultze-Kraft.

History shows Plan Mexico will be a failure. For example, we've spent billions of dollars on eradication and enforcement in Colombia, but that country is home to the most powerful and most lethal cartels in the world. There's a direct relationship between the extent that law enforcement tries to clamp down on an illegal market with a high demand and how hard the cartels will push back to sell their product. We had the same experience in the US during alcohol prohibition, which built up the mafia to sell booze to a thirsty America. The problem is rooted in the demand side of the supply-demand equation. The options are to regulate the flow of drugs or to reduce demand.

@7) With all due respect, David, it's naive of you to suggest that proximity to a problem is, in itself, insightful of a solution. Cops often say they see the harm of marijuana, so it makes sense to throw all the pot smokers in prison. Sure, those cops see drug abusers, but that doesn't mean that prison is an effective way to manage drug abuse. Likewise, it seems plausible that fighting fire with fire would work in Mexico, but that's a simplistic way of addressing a conflation of issues related to international trade, economics, poverty, and drug abuse.

The funding for Plan Mexico isn't money from Mexico spent by Mexico to solve its own problems; rather, it's money from the US to make it look like we're doing something without having to deal with the fallout on domestic soil. We have to overcome the visceral reaction to "get those cartel bastards" and instead undermine the economic systems that empower them.

Posted by Dominic Holden | May 31, 2008 1:30 PM

Comments Closed

Comments are closed on this post.