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The Epic Failure of the War on Drugs in Mexico

There is widespread acknowledgement that persisting in doing what we’re doing right now cannot work.

What’s happening in Mexico today is like what was happening in Chicago during the 1920s, the days of Al Capone and alcohol prohibition times 50. You have massive levels of violence, 60,000 or more dead in these drug-related wars.  You have incredibly high levels of violence and corruption and intimidation.  You have narco gangs essentially becoming the sovereign authorities in certain parts of the country.  You have incredible victimization.  You have drugs more available than they’ve ever been.  When you knock out one major drug lord they’re replaced by another one or three or five or ten.  You have the military and the police being corrupted.  You have government officials being intimidated.  You have journalists being killed.  And toward what end?  

Nobody sees this approach working.  And so it’s very interesting to listen to the comments of President Calderon who has been president basically from December ’06 until December, 2012.  And you hear him on the one hand leading the drug war, feeling he has to fight against the gangsters and the narcos – and there’s some justice to the fact you can’t let the gangsters take over territory – but at the same time saying, “Let’s open this up.”  He says to the United States, “If you can’t reduce your demand for drugs, you better investigate market alternatives” – by which he means options of legal regulation and legalization.  

And he’s just following in the footsteps of his predecessors.  Vicente Fox, his predecessor, is openly calling for the legalization of all drugs.  Fox’s predecessor, Ernesto Zedillo, was a member of this Latin American and global commission calling for major drug policy reform.  

You have the business leadership in both Mexico City and Monterrey independently of one another setting up commissions trying to call for a new drug policy and serious research into alternatives.  You have the leading fellow on the left, Javier Sicilia, the Mexican poet whose son was killed in a horrible killing and has now become the moral voice of the left, leading caravans across Mexico and the U.S. calling for more socially just policies. 

So there is the emergence of a movement in Mexico really to open this up and a widespread acknowledgement that persisting in doing what we’re doing right now cannot work.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think’s studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. 


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