US vice president Joe Biden will arrive in Mexico City tomorrow (03.04.12) to discuss economic and security issues with Mexican President Felipe Calderon.
Tuesday, Biden will meet with Honduran President Porfirio Lobo, along with the presidents of El Salvador, Panama, Costa Rica and Guatemala, all countries struggling with expanding drug cartels. Drug gangs have killed tens of thousands, overcrowded prisons are overflowing with accused drug users while powerful cartels fuel corruption — influencing elections, weakening democracies and threatening fragile economies.
“I do think that the issue of legalization will be raised by the leaders to Biden, but in private,” said Walter McKay, a policing expert on security issues in Mexico, where more than 47,500 people have been killed in drug gang violence since 2006.
Have we had enough yet?
“The War on Drugs” was a phrase first used by Richard Nixon in 1971 – 41 years ago. A four decade war with no end in sight. At the time, the incarceration rate of Americans was under 0.2%. Drug arrests have quadrupled that rate by 2008 to over 0.8%, yet all forms of drugs remain readily available throughout the USA.
Four times as many people in prisons, over 1 million per year locked up, 82% of the increase in arrests between 1990 and 2002 due to marijuana.
And what does it get us? Nothing?
“The War on Drugs” – which is an intentional policy of prohibition combined with military action overseas – is an abject failure, but it has not delivered “nothing.”
With nearly 50,000 people killed in Mexico alone, with violent gangs controlling areas of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, with the USA doing virtually nothing to reduce our own demand and shoveling military aid, weapons, ammunition south, is it any wonder when someone begins to wonder if enough is enough?
Today we learn that Joe Biden is headed to meetings with national leaders, where he will face the President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina. No “soft hearted liberal,” Perez-Molina is a right-wing politician and former army general who has now called for legalization as a way to cut the legs out from under the cartels. In his view, the US has done nothing to diminish demand north of the border, yet insists that other nations stop the flow northward to the purchasers.
Two weeks ago, Guatemala’s president Otto Perez Molina, a right wing conservative and former army general, stunned observers when he declared the U.S. inability to cut illegal drug consumption leaves his country with no option but to consider legalizing the use and transport of drugs. He vowed to galvanize regional support.
“This is Plan B,” said Guatemala’s vice president, Roxana Baldetti. “Plan A is what has failed. Plan A is what we have been doing until today, and unfortunately, we have not succeeded.”
“Today more than ever, the leadership of Central America needs to confront the issue of drugs. More Central Americans cannot continue dying for a problem that, ultimately, is not ours,” Baldetti said. “Central Americans cannot continue being used by criminal organizations for an issue that only leaves us dead and that diverts the resources, the few, scant resources, that we could invest in health and education and hospitals, to fighting drug trafficking.”
For decades Latin Americans leaders and the U.S. have cooperated on a war on drugs, with more than a trillion dollars spent by the U.S. to support enforcement and eradication in Latin America, as well as promises to reduce cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine use in the U.S. that generates an estimated $25 billion in profits each year.
But during that time, demand for drugs has increased, fueling violent competition between dealers.
- Hint: US Administration doubles down: “we’ll continue to dedicate more resources to going after illicit flows…” FAIL. Utter FAIL.
One administration after another not willing to take the intelligent route and work on the demand side within the USA, which a Rand Corporation Study says is 23 times (not percent, times!) more productive in reducing demand than interdiction (war, military, ammunition, weapons, spraying, imprisonment). Twenty-three times more productive.
- C. Peter Rydell, Controlling Cocaine: Supply Versus Demand Programs (Rand Drug Policy Research Center 1994).
Advocates for guns and enforcement are advocates for massive waste of taxpayer dollars.