President Barack Obama is scheduled to make a brief “pivot” to Mexico this week where he faces widespread impatience with the US-dominated drug war, anger at Arizona, and token progress on immigrant rights legislation in Washington. Obama’s security advisers are alarmed that Mexico is rejecting the current levels of US control of the militarized drug policy as an invasion of Mexican sovereignty, which escalated in the Bush era.
Over 60,000 Mexicans have died since 2006 in a campaign by the Mexican state and military, with US CIA and Pentagon advisers, to defeat the entrenched drug cartels. Former president Felipe Calderon, a favorite of the Bush administration and US neo-conservatives, waged the war at a $2 billion cost to US taxpayers. (Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2013) The strategy of targeting cartel “kingpins” resulted in killings and arrests of 25 most-wanted criminals, a rate of four per year, but also spawned 60-80 smaller violent crime groups competing to fill the vacuum. According to Mexico’s new interior minister, the crackdown on the cartels led to a rise in kidnappings (83%), violent robberies (65%) and highway robberies (100%), between 2006 and 2011. (Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2012)
The failure of the Drug War leads to further escalation of the same policies. As Obama was being sworn in this January, the Pentagon opened a new special operations center in Colorado, with a five-fold increase of US special operatives to 125. Their mission: to oversee sensative Mexican operations under the imperial title of the Northern Command. (Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2013)
The new Mexican government of President Enrique Pena Nieto is promising to modify the military policy, which they call “fighting violence with more violence,” and push back against US intervention, which American DEA officials interpret as yielding to the cartels. Mexico says that while security resources have more than doubled, crime has continued to increase along with massive collateral damage to civilians. Pena Nieto campaigned to increase funding for programs to reduce addiction while still adding a new paramilitary force of 10,000. The new Mexican policy will scale back the use of American drones and counterterrorism forces in Mexican territory. Mexico’s critics claim the US is attempting to compromise Mexican sovereignty under the cover of fighting the cartels.
The US drug policy is in under challenge across Central and Latin America. Mexico City’s Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera, along with many former Mexican leaders, is calling for legalization of marijuana in place of the drug war. Pena Nieto himself has insisted on “space for rethinking” the current prohibition policy. Even outgoing President Calderon spoke of “market alternatives” as he was leaving office. A study by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute last year concluded that legalization measures in places like Colorado would allow consumers to enjoy cheaper high-quality marijuana, thus reducing Mexican cartel profits and causing “the most important structural shock that narco-trafficking has experienced in a generation.” (Los Angeles Times, January 5, 2013)
The costly failure of the Drug War, and the subtle changes occurring over marijuana policy on both sides of the border will be certainly ignored amidst official fanfare about “new security and economic partnerships” between Washington and Mexico City.
But a writer in La Jornada already is proposing that Mexican marijuana be marketed for export like the country’s famous tequila. The brand name, he thinks, should be either “Howl” or “On the Road.”
Public Says Drug War Lost
Only seven percent of Americans believe the US is winning the Drug War. Eighty-two percent consider it a failure and 12% do not know, yet it continues, a secret, sacred cow. It is like background checks for criminals smuggling guns to Mexico – 90% of Americans favor such background checks but lobbies for arms hold democracy hostage. The killings, mayhem and smuggling go on.