Originally published in La Jornada
The head of the federal executive, Felipe Calderon, signed yesterday in this capital, together with the governments of Honduras, Porfirio Lobo, of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla, and Belize, Dean Barrow, a declaration on cooperation against transnational crime. The document calls for consuming countries to explore all possible alternatives to eliminate exorbitant profits of criminals, and says a revision of the approach of the war on drugs is urgent and recommends in-depth analysis of the social and health policies that allows the legal production, consumption and distribution of marijuana, which reflects a paradigm shift in some countries on the continent with respect to international force. The latter is an unambiguous reference to the decriminalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington, following referendums conducted in parallel with the U.S. presidential election.
The episode has not just misplaced the U.S. government as the traditional promoter of drug war in foreign territory, but also the Latin American regimes that have followed Washington’s guidelines on drugs that they, uncritically, have been applied with enormous human, social, economic and institutional cost.
In the case of Mexico, the Calderon government launched a crusade against drug trafficking on behalf of a questionable ban from any point of view and for six years he refused to change his strategy despite the tens of thousands of dead, decomposing institutions, the unquantifiable human suffering and the serious loss of national sovereignty. It is a sad irony that now, just over two weeks to deliver his post, Calderon, accompanied by some Central American leaders, recognizes the relevance and urgency of reviewing the prohibitionist paradigm of the war on drugs, and that this occurs, furthermore, just after two states from a neighboring country decided to exclude marijuana from the list of banned products.
The other conclusion is discouraging: in the supposed defense of the health of American consumers, the Mexican government threw itself into a conflict that has turned violence and death a part of everyday life, diverted precious resources from health, education and overall social development and delivers a catastrophic balance of dead, infiltration of crime in corporate security, areas of the country abandoned to the control of criminals and the sovereign functions of the state surrendered to U.S. interference.
The neighboring country, for its part, did splendid business in the heat of Calderon’s war: its military industry and security services managed to turn the territory into a new market and several Washington military, intelligence and police forces were able to secure positions of influence, if not control, and coordination-only comparable to those they hold in countries occupied militarily. Moreover, producers and distributors of marijuana in Colorado and Washington soon may go about their business without being disturbed.
In these circumstances it is clear that the government occupying the first of December has as its immediate task to formulate a new vision and a new strategy on drugs.
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