I mentioned yesterday that Billie and Nancy posted comments last week on the current drug war in Mexico. Billie’s piece was "What About the Drug Wars?"; Nancy’s was "México's War on Drugs." At first, I thought the dual posting on the same day was a coincidence until I started taking a look at news stories from last week.
Anyone who did not know better would think that all of Mexico is ablaze with automatic gunfire. As, I told Billie, my mother is convinced that when I move to Mexico, I will either be killed by a drug lord or I will be locked away in a jail cell. I am not quite certain what type of life style she thinks I will be pursuing. But the newspaper headlines continue to feed her paranoid fantasies.
Most paranoia has some factual basis. The Mexican drug wars are no exception. And those facts are simply alarming.
- In December 2006 Felipe Calderón was inaugurated as president of Mexico. He committed himself to cleaning up police corruption and ending drug-related violence in Mexico.
- President Calderón revamped the federal police force and called out the army to curtail the drug violence.
- Since then, 4,125 people have died as a result of drug violence.
- At least 170 local police officers have been killed.
- At least a score of municipal police commanders have been killed.
- Several major police commanders have been assassinated – many at the hands of corrupt police officers.
For those of us who live, or who will soon be living, in Mexico, these are not abstract figures. When I drive from the Manzanillo airport to Barra de Navidad, I pass at least one major army checkpoint. And it is every bit as spooky as the checkpoints I have encountered in Northern Ireland and during the last Greek-Turkey war.
There is no sense in being a Pollyanna about violence. Mexico has had an incredibly violent history. Some of that violence has been external -- Hernándo Cortés, Zachary Taylor, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte come to mind. But the Mexican people are not strangers to committing violence on one another.
A cynic might say that the current drug war falls into the second category – this is merely an internal squabble. But the assessment would be wrong. Most of the drugs controlled by the Mexican cartels are not staying in Mexico; they are on their way north to find their way into American noses, lungs, and veins. Mexicans are dieing to save Americans from their own bad habits.
Other than a few populist politicians, who find it convenient to blame anyone other their own constituents for anything, almost every discussion on the drug wars would agree with everything I have just written. But, for a topic where there is so much agreement, the solution appears to be elusive.
After all of the damage to Mexico during the past year and a half, the results appear to be mixed. The Mexican forces have seized record amounts of cocaine, marijuana and arms, the amount of drugs heading north has not been noticeably affected.
So, what is the solution? Stronger military enforcement? Legalization of drugs? Just ignore it?
We will review some of those options tomorrow.