In Mexico, Faltering, Not Failed
By Edward Schumacher-Matos
Saturday, February 21, 2009; A13
BOSTON — Mexico is not a failing state, as it has become fashionable to say. What has failed is our “war on drugs.” That failure and the drug-related violence wracking Mexico suggest it is time to open a national discussion on legalizing drugs.
About 6,600 Mexicans were killed in fighting involving drug gangs last year, and alarms are going off in this country. The U.S. Joint Forces Command, former drug czar Barry R. McCaffrey, former CIA director Michael V. Hayden, former House speaker Newt Gingrich and any number of analysts have speculated that Mexico is crumbling under pressure from drug gangs.
But “failed state” is the sort of shorthand that Washington has a way of turning into its own reality, the facts be damned.
. . .
American taxpayers currently spend about $21 billion on trying to reduce drug supplies and on domestic enforcement, according to the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Of that, $14 billion is spent just on jailing drug offenders. The number of people incarcerated for drug offenses increased an incredible tenfold to 500,000 in 2007, from 50,000 in 1980.
And all for nothing. Cocaine is still so readily available that its street price is a quarter of what it was in 1981.
If the abject failure of trying to keep American school-kids off drugs by undermining law, destroying economies, jailing hundreds of thousands, bribing or killing judges and promoting worldwide anarchy isn’t reason enough–perhaps the monetary cost will prove unsustainable in a wrecked economy.
Our drug policy is the result of the most pernicious and inexplicable coup d’etat of reason by the religious right. As failed as the prohibitionists of the ’30s in America, they persist against all demonstrable facts against them. In Mexico alone last year, 7,000 citizens were killed–essentially snorted up American noses.
Possibly we’ll finally give it up and join Europe, where personal drug use is more effectively understood. The $21 billion failure may become too costly to bear, which would be stopping an insane policy for the wrong reason.
But any reason will do.