Thursday, August 05, 2010
Mexico is starting to talk about being part of the solution to the current drug policy car wreck.
On Tuesday, President Calderón announced that he would consider opening a discussion with his government about legalizing drugs in Mexico.
That was an amazingly brave statement for a man who is known for his cautious conservatism.
He made his statement while announcing that over 28,000 Mexican citizens have died as a result of the program he launched in 2006 to break the back of the Mexican drug cartels.
Anyone who remembers the body counts of the Vietnam War will recognize the rest of the statistics announced on the same day. 84,000 weapons confiscated. $411 million (USD) cash seizures. $330 million (Mx) cash seizures.
The only thing missing was General Westmoreland spotting the light at the end of the long, dark tunnel.
The president made his announcement at the urging of business and civic groups, who are worried that the current drug war will continue to threaten Mexican society with little success of eliminating the cartels.
Mexico is not alone in discussing reformation of drug policies. Three former presidents — César Gaviria of Colombia, Ernesto Zedillo of Mexico and Fernando Cardoso of Brazil — have promoted the legalization of marijuana in Latin America. Their goal is the same as we have discussed on this blog several times: to collapse the price of marijuana and undermine a major source of income for cartels.
The Mexican congress discussed a similar idea when it voted to legalize personal use of drugs last year. A move that was called radical, but merely shifted drug policy to the level of prohibition in the United States during the 1920s.
Even though that might be a good start, President Calderón is not interested in half measures. He wants the discussion to be about the legalization of all drugs. And he wants the public to hear all of the arguments on both sides of the issue. In other words, to have a logical discussion, not a bumper sticker war.
Kudos to him. As a conservative, he knows a failed government policy when he sees it. Mexico is getting tired of spilling blood because of American drug users.
And he is merely talking about a discussion. He is not proposing anything. Yet. But it is a start.
If Mexico legalizes drugs, the cartels will not go away. The chief business of the cartels is shipping drugs north to the United States and Canada. And shipping dollars south. That will not change. In fact, the drug flow north will increase because the cost of doing business will decrease.
This may be one of those rare moments in history where politicians north of the border have an opportunity to do the right thing -- and stop wasting money on a policy that did not work in the 1920s and will not be successful now.
I am not optimistic it will occur. But we can always hope that one of these days politicians will act on behalf of sane public policy.