Drug War Posts: Aug. 2009 - June 2010

June 18, 2010

U.S. House panel urges Latin America to protect journalistsJune 17, 2010, Dallas Morning NewsViolence against journalists in Latin America is reaching dangerous new dimensions, experts told a House subcommittee Wednesday, ...Mexico, with a population of 110 million, remains the deadliest country for journalists in Latin America, with at least 30 journalists killed since President Felipe Calderón took office in December 2006 and declared war on drug cartels. "Mexico is Iraq-like," said Joel Simon, executive director of the Committee to Protect Journalists. "It's deadly. The numbers are simply astounding."

President's appeal in Mexico drug warJune 17, 2010, BBC. (Video report) Mexico's president, Felipe Calderon, has appealed to the nation in a televised address to help combat the escalation of violent drug battles that have rocked the country. His appeal follows a shootout between the Mexican military and members of a drug cartel which resulted in the death of 15 people. 

Government study finds U.S. side of Mexico border area low on violent crimeJune 7, 2010, Dallas Morning News. (E)ven as politicians say more federal troops are needed to fight rising violence, government figures show (that) the U.S.-Mexico border...isn't so dangerous after all. The top four big cities in America with the lowest rates of violent crime are all in border states: Austin, El Paso, Phoenix and San Diego , according to a new FBI report. And a U.S. Customs and Border Protection report shows that Border Patrol agents face far less danger than street cops in most U.S. cities.

June 5, 2010

Mexico Takes Step Toward Consolidating Police ForcesJune 4, 2010, Latin American Hearld Tribune. Mexico’s National Public Safety Council, chaired by President Felipe Calderon, approved on Thursday a plan for all of the country’s municipal police departments to be absorbed by state-level law enforcement agencies. To take effect, the initiative would have to be ratified by Congress and by a majority of the legislatures of Mexico’s 31 states and the Federal District, which includes Mexico City.

Re-organised crime Shifting battle lines bring violence to new parts of MexicoJune 3, 2010, The Economist. Until this year an uneasy alliance held in the State of Tamaulipas, in Mexico’s north-east, between the drug-trafficking Gulf “cartel” and the Zetas, a band of former special-forces soldiers enlisted as hit men by Gulf bosses in the late 1990s. Large-scale violence of the sort seen in Ciudad Juárez, to the north-west, was unknown. But the relationship has soured: the Zetas have outgrown their role as enforcers, and the Gulf leadership has been shaken up by killings and extraditions.... The schism (between the gulf cartel and the Zetas) has made the north-east one of the most dangerous places in Mexico. The border cities in this region are smaller than those further west. But the violence in Tamaulipas state, where Reynosa is located, is now as bad or worse than in Juárez

La Pesadilla (NIghtmare) de Prohibición – Drug Policy and Violence in Mexico, June 3, 2010, Council on Hemispheric Affairs. (Editor's note: This is the clearest, most thorough short history and analysis of the origins and consequences of the drug war and of the impossibility for Mexico or the U.S. to win it that I have read in some time. I highly recommend reading it.The root cause of Mexico’s woes is an ill-conceived and in part racially motivated drug prohibition network which slowly metastasized into a U.S.-led “war on drugs,” an endless global battle against a spectral enemy waged with little hope of victory. .(This article reviews) the history and impact of prohibition and the ways in which U.S. drug policy at least shares responsibility for the current drug-related crisis in Mexico. ... Over the last 40 years, the “war on drugs” has grown far beyond its strategic origins to become a self-supporting ideological entity. It is now a kind of “prohibition-industrial complex” whose false dichotomies many otherwise rational people accept, despite the fact that it clearly does not stand up to reflection. As a public policy, it has been a colossal failure, but in securing funding for itself, it has been a spectacular success.... Mexico does not have the ability to end the drug war on its own. As the chief manufacturer and ‘pusher’ of drug prohibition, the U.S. has largely set the agenda on world drug policy in the last century, and this is particularly true in Mexico. As our southern neighbor, it would be almost unthinkable for Mexico to fully legalize drugs –such an action would be tantamount to a declaration of war against the U.S.

Cartels smuggle U.S. drug money back to Mexico in cashJune 3, 2010, LA Times, More than half of the "breathtaking" ($19 billion to $29 billion annually) earned by Mexican drug cartels in the U.S. and smuggled into (Mexico) dissolves into Mexico's cash-based economy, eluding detection and funding vast criminal operations, according to a new U.S.-Mexican government study released Wednesday.

Troops not militarizing Mexico border: U.S. envoyMay 26, 2010, Reuters. (Editor's note: A good psychological operating principle, when a person feels it is necessary to assert that something is 'Not' the case, is to "take out the 'Not'.) U.S. troops deployed to the Mexican border will take a backseat role to civilian security forces combating illegal flows of drugs and migrants and will not militarize the frontier, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico said on Wednesday. In response to spiraling drug violence in northern Mexico where cartels are battling for smuggling routes, President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday he would send 1,200 more National Guard troops and ask for an additional $500 million to secure the almost 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.But U.S. Ambassador Carlos Pascual said the number of soldiers was tiny compared to the 26,000 immigration, customs and border patrol agents. "This isn't a militarization of the border. In fact the overall share of the military is still relatively small," Pascual told correspondents at the U.S. embassy in Mexico City. He said with the 300 National Guard troops already stationed at the border, the total number would not surpass 1,500. (Editor's note: We'll see or vamos a ver)

May 21, 2010

What will come of President Calderón’s visit to Washington?May 19, 2010, Council on Hemispheric Affairs.
  • It no longer is just Mexico’s drug war as violence and corruption begins to engulf the U.S.
  • No prospect that the U.S. will adequately fund the anti-drug war.
  • Drug battle places a crushing strain on Mexican economy.

  • If and when barriers to Mexico’s ground transports to the U.S. are entirely lifted, a crisis arising from the smuggling of drugs and migrants into the U.S. is sure to follow.

More aid to MexicoMay 18, 2010, Just the Facts. On May 13, the Senate Appropriations Committee “marked up” (agreed upon a draft of) a bill making $58.8 billion in new, or “supplemental,” appropriations for 2010 U.S. government spending. It... includes something not foreseen in the Obama administration’s original... supplemental funding request to Congress (PDF): $175 million in additional aid to Mexico. The assistance, which would be channeled through the State Department’s International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement program, would support “judicial reform, institution building, anti-corruption, and rule of law activities.”

Mexico's Drug War: A Rigged Fight? May 18, 2010, NPR. An NPR News investigation in Ciudad Juarez — ground zero of Calderon's cartel war — finds strong evidence that Mexico's drug fight is rigged, according to court testimony, current and former law enforcement officials, and an NPR analysis of cartel arrests.  In that border city, federal forces appear to be favoring one cartel, the Sinaloa (named after the coastal state in northwestern Mexico), which the U.S. Justice Department calls one of the largest organized crime syndicates in the world.

Is the Flow of U.S. Weapons to Mexican Drug Cartels Increasing Under Obama?May 17, 2010, Newsweek. The Mexican military has discovered a major training camp run by the notorious Zetas drug cartel and stocked with an arsenal of military weapons, including 140 semi automatic assault rifles and 10,000 rounds of ammunition—all of them believed to be purchased in the United States. The discovery .. in the state of Nuevo León, provides fresh evidence for Mexican President Felipe Calderón... to press his case that the U.S. government is failing to crack down on a massive flow of illegal weapons into Mexico. A senior U.S. law enforcement official,... (says) there’s mounting evidence that the illegal trafficking of high-powered U.S. weapons into Mexico is continuing unimpeded and may actually be increasing....

After 40 years, the United States' war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread. Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn't worked.
"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified." This week President Obama promised to "reduce drug use and the great damage it causes" with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment. Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.
The National Drug Control StrategyMay 12, 2010, Just the Facts. The Obama administration released its first National Drug Control Strategy on Tuesday. According to President Obama, it presents a "balanced approach to confronting the complex challenge of drug use and its consequences." ... Critics like John Walsh, from the Washington Office on Latin America, saw some improvement in the new strategy, which "marks a modest but real improvement over past ONDCP strategies ... [and] at least opens the door to the serious debate over drug policy that has been stifled for decades by the din of 'drug war' zealotry." Walsh warns, however, that "the new Strategy is by no means a clean break with that past," as it "continues to dedicate the lion's share of federal spending to domestic and overseas enforcement activities for which there is scant, if any, evidence of success in achieving their basic aim of suppressing illicit drug availability."

May 7, 2010

Drug Trafficking Violence in Mexico: Implications for the United StatesMay 6, 2010, Just the Facts (a guide to US defense and security assistance to Latin America). On May 5th, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley, (R-Iowa) co-chaired a Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control hearing on "Drug Trafficking Violence in Mexico: Implications for the United States." The main topic of discussion at this hearing was the need to prevent drug trafficking-related violence from penetrating furthermore into the United States.

Obama's First National Drug Strategy -- The Good, the Bad, and the UglyMay 7, 2010, Drug War Chronicle. leaked draft of the overdue 2010 National Drug Strategy was published by Newsweek over the weekend, and it reveals some positive shifts away from Bush-era drug policy paradigms and toward more progressive and pragmatic approaches. But there is a lot of continuity as well, and despite the Obama administration's rhetorical shift away from the "war on drugs," the drug war juggernaut is still rolling along.
Mexico sees no quick victory in drug warMay 4, 2010, Reuters. Security Minister Genero Garcia Luna told the Reuters Latin American Investment Summit in Mexico City that his country could not expect a quick victory in the army-backed offensive launched in late 2006 against powerful drug cartels fighting over lucrative smuggling routes into the United States.

International Harm Reduction Conference: The Next Generation of Drug Policy - Decriminalization and BeyondApr. 28, 2010, Transform Drug Policy Foundation, Transform, in collaboration with the International Drug Policy Consortium organised the Tuesday (Apr. 27) plenary session at this years' International Harm Reduction conference in Liverpool. Presentations included Argentina's and Portugal's changes in law.  (full program available here in pdf).

Study links drug enforcement to more violenceApr. 27, 2010, Washington Post/AP. The surge of gunbattles, beheadings and kidnappings that has accompanied Mexico's war on drug cartels is an entirely predictable escalation in violence based on decades of scientific literature, a new study contends. ... "Law enforcement is the biggest single expenditure on drugs, yet has rarely been evaluated. This work indicates an urgent need to shift resources from counterproductive law enforcement to a health-based public health approach," said Gerry Stimson, executive director of the International Harm Reduction Association which is hosting a conference this week in Liverpool, England, where the study was released.

Mexico Senate: Army abuse cases in civilian courts Apr. 27, 2010, Washington Post/AP. The Mexican Senate passed a measure Tuesday to make soldiers accountable to civilian courts for abuses involving civilians, and ensure the use of troops in actions like the offensive against drug cartels is temporary. The legislation now goes to Congress' lower house, the Chamber of Deputies, for consideration.

Apr. 26, 2010

Michoacán security official's convoy ambushed, 4 dead Apr. 25, 2010, AP. Gunmen armed with assault rifles and grenades attacked a convoy carrying the top security official of the western state of Michoacan on Saturday, killing four and wounding 10 in Mexico's second brazen ambush in as many days. Public Safety Secretary Minerva Bautista was among the wounded but was recovering from non-life-threatening injuries, according to the state attorney general's office. She was traveling in a bullet-resistant sport utility vehicle.

Mexico hobbled in drug war by arrests that lead nowhereApr. 26, 2010, Washington Post. URUAPAN, MEXICO -- When soldiers swarmed into city halls (in Michoacán State) last year to arrest 10 mayors for alleged ties to an infamous drug cartel, Mexican authorities and their U.S. government allies boasted that the age of impunity for corrupt Mexican politicians was finally over. ...But one by one, the government of President Felipe Calderón has quietly released the politicians as federal prosecutors dropped their cases and as judges ordered them set free for lack of evidence. The episode illustrates a central challenge faced by Mexico, where law enforcement authorities remain hard pressed to win major conspiracy cases, either because they arrest the wrong people or because prosecutors remain hobbled by incompetence.

U.S. prosecutors rattle, but don't break, Mexican cartels Apr. 25, 2010, LA Times. Using drug and racketeering statutes and extradition agreements, federal prosecutors are sending a steady parade of Mexican drug lords into U.S. prisons. Although that is having a chilling effect on the smuggling cartels, there is no sign that the convictions are breaking the organizations, which are growing more violent, according to U.S. officials and other experts.

Congress: House Border Caucus Wants Half a Billion Dollars to Fight Mexican Narcos Apr. 23, 2010, Drug War ChronicleCongressmen from districts along the US-Mexican border are asking for $500 million in emergency federal funds to fight the drug trade along the border. The request came last Friday in a letter from the House Border Caucus to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to include immediate funding in an emergency supplemental spending package. 

Drug War in Guerrero: A War on the Poor   Dec. 21, 2009. North American Congress on Latin America,  (Editor's note: I just found this group's website, through a link from  the group, Witness for Peace. This article shows the relationship between NAFTA's impact on Mexican farmers, the increase in poppy growing, and Mexico's "War on Drugs." 

The surging presence of soldiers in the La Montaña region, which is one of the principal poppy growing regions in the country, has made it one of the many political landscapes that, from time to time, brings the war into sharp and sudden focus. It is a place where abysmal poverty meets profitable drug trafficking, and where trafficking meets militarization, resulting in a consistent pattern of violence and abuse. When civic groups and communities organize to fight against this poverty and violence, they too become targets.                                 

Mexico death toll in drug war higher than previously reportedApr. 14, 2010, LA Times. The death toll from the Mexican government's three-year war on drug cartels is far higher than previously reported -- more than 22,000, according to news reports published Tuesday that cited confidential government figures. The figure is significantly higher than tallies assembled by Mexican media. They estimate that more than 18,000 people have died since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against drug-trafficking groups after taking office in December 2006.

Apr. 13, 2010

Mexico: Cartels team up to destroy hit men gangApr. 12, 2010, Washington Post/AP. Three Mexican cartels have joined forces to destroy a gang of hit men that has grown into a feared drug trafficking outfit with reach into Central America, Mexican and U.S. officials said Monday. The shift in allegiances is fueling bloody battles along the Texas border. Intelligence reports indicate the Gulf cartel has recruited its former rival, La Familia, to crush the Zetas gang in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, said Ramon Pequeno, the head of the anti-narcotics division of Mexico's federal police. An official with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration said the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's most powerful drug trafficking organization, has also joined the alliance against the Zetas, whose rise to power has come to threaten all three of the cartels.

60 Thousand Soldiers will return to Barracks in 2011(In Spanish)Apr. 11, 2010, Mexico Institute/La Jornada. Members of the National Security Cabinet revealed that in 2011, the Mexican military will be limited to participating in surgical operations to eradicate and interrupt the operations of Narco-Traffickers given that the Ministry of Public Security will be in charge of the fight against organized crime.

Murder City: Failed Solutions for Ciudad JuárezApr. 6, 2010, Latin American Working Group blog. Charles Bowden’s book,Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields, is an unflinching look at the violence on the U.S.-Mexico border and the failing solutions by both countries to address it.  With an intense sympathy for the many victims but also a degree of understanding even for a contract killer who finds God, the author doesn’t let the reader find comfort in anything.  The book, just published by Nation Books (New York: 2010), can be found at your local bookstore or online distributors.  Here are a few selections from this devastating catalog of violence.

U.S. military works with Mexico to fight drug traffickersApr. 6, 2010, USA Today. The U.S. military is strengthening its ties with Mexico's armed forces and using its experience in fighting insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq to assist in Mexico's war on increasingly violent drug cartels. "We've learned and grown a great deal as we've conducted operations against networks of terrorists and insurgent fighters," said Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, commander of Northern Command. "Many of the skills that you use to go after a network like those apply ... to drug-trafficking organizations." 

Beyond MeridaApr. 6, 2010, Woodrow Wilson Center report. The Obama administration has, until now, largely followed the strategy set out in the Merida Initiative but has recently begun to develop a new framework for bilateral cooperation. Led by the Obama Administration’s Ambassador to Mexico,Carlos Pascual, discussions within the U.S. around the new strategy...have begun to take shape around “four pillars” that were first articulated in President Obama’s budget request for fiscal year 2011. The first two pillars represent a refinement of previous efforts, and the final two represent a new and expanded approach to anti‐drug efforts.

Mexican drug lord Ismael Zambada, in a rare interview, says his death wouldn't hurt drug tradeApr. 5, 2010, LA Times. Ismael "El  Mayo" Zambada, a fugitive for years, tells a Mexican magazine that the government's war on drugs is unwinnable. "The problem with the narco business is that it involves millions. How do you dominate that?" Zambada said. "As for the bosses, locked up, dead or extradited, their replacements are already standing by."... The narcotics trade and everything that goes along with it, Zambada says, are inside the society, "as deeply rooted as the corruption."

April 1, 2010

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson sends National Guard to borderApr. 1, 2010, El Paso Times. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson on Wednesday ordered National Guard soldiers to patrol the state's border with Mexico after the killing of a rancher in Arizona. Soldiers will be assisting the U.S. Border Patrol by setting up surveillance in counter-drug efforts in the desert along the border, said a spokes man for the state's National Guard. "Basically, it is just assisting them with observation and giving them a lot more eyes on the border," Lt. Col. Jamison Herrera said.

Marching for peace in MonterreyMar. 30, 2010, LA Times. Another major demonstration of scores of people in white came together over the weekend. This time it took place in the northern Mexican city of Monterrey, and this time its goal was not to press forhuman rights in Cuba but to press for peace and calm in the face of an ever-more violent drug war. A sub-plot battle in Mexico's continuing narco-conflict -- the Gulf cartel vs. the Zetas -- appears to beconsuming Mexico's northeast

In the Drug War, Drugs Are WinningMar. 29, 2010, Reason Magazine. When someone next door is coping with trouble, the neighborly thing to do is help. Mexico has a growing problem with extreme violence. And many people in California have a good idea of how to help.... In November, Californians will vote on a ballot initiative that would make it legal not only to use marijuana but to grow and sell it. ....On a recent trip to Mexico City, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that Americans' demand for drugs helps sustain the Mexican merchants and resolved to address the problem. "We are looking at everything that can work," she said. Well, almost everything. The most viable option is the one that is considered unthinkable. The head of Obama's Office of National Drug Control Policy has said that "legalization is not in the president's vocabulary, nor is it in mine."
No, but failure is.

Five myths about Mexico's drug warMar. 28, 2010, Wahington Post OpEd by Andrew Selee and others of the Mexico Institute of the Woodrow Wilson Center. In Mexico last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lamented the “cycle of violence and crime that has impacted communities on both sides of the border” and pledged continued U.S. engagement. With Washington’s support, the Mexican government has been pursuing an aggressive multiyear campaign to confront criminal groups tied to the drug trade. To understand those efforts’ chances of success, let’s look beyond common misperceptions about Mexico’s plight.
1. Mexico is descending into widespread and indiscriminate violence.
2. The Mexican government lacks the resources to fight the cartels.
3. Endemic corruption allows the cartels to flourish.
4. Drug violence is a Mexican problem, not a U.S. one.
5. Mexican drug violence is spilling over into the United States.

Calderon's dead-end warMar. 25, 2010, LA Times, OpEd by Jorge Castañeda. Mexican President Felipe Calderon's militarized, politicized fight against Mexico's drug cartels has been ineffective.... So what else can Mexico do? And, because this is increasingly as much President Obama's war as Calderon's, what can Washington do? There are at least three options, none of which is perfect but all of which are certainly preferable to a deplorable and unsustainable status quo.

March 23, 2010

U.S. and Mexico Revise Joint Antidrug StrategyMar. 23, 2010, NY Times. Responding to a growing sense that Mexico’s military-led fight against drug traffickers is not gaining ground, the United States and Mexico set their counternarcotics strategy on a new course on Tuesday by refocusing their efforts on strengthening civilian law enforcement institutions and rebuilding communities crippled by poverty and crime.  

Mexico military faces political risks over drug war Mar. 23, 2010, LA Times. As the death toll keeps climbing in Calderon's crackdown on the drug trade, there is a growing feeling that the army has been less than effective as a police force. Brig. Gen. Benito Medina has indicated that the Mexican military cannot succeed alone against a powerful foe whose reach spans national boundaries. "We need the collaboration of the international community," Medina, director of military education at the University of the Army and Air Force, said in remarks published Monday in El Universal newspaper.

Editorial: Is the war already lost? (In Spanish)Mar. 23, 2010, Mexico InstituteMileno. Judging by the results of the survey released yesterday by the Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica, the answer is yes: the war is lost. The statistics are devastating: Who is winning the war?  Organized crime, 59%; the government, 21%; last July the proportion was: organized crime, 51%; government, 28%. Has the war against organized crime raised the level of violence? Yes, 89%What has caused the rise in violence? 50%, that organized crime has taken control of the situation; 34%, that the government is combating criminals with greater force. Does capturing drug leaders end these organizations? No, 79%, because the organizations divide and form new groups.

CENTRAL AMERICA: Cross-Border Cartels Dig in Their HeelsInterPress Service, Mar. 22, 2010. Stepped-up efforts against drug trafficking in Colombia and Mexico are increasingly driving drug mafias into Central America, where drug-related corruption and violence are on the rise. President Álvaro Colom of Guatemala, which borders Mexico to the south, recently summed the problem up like this: "When (Mexican) President (Felipe) Calderón has a success, I have a problem." Referring to the increased participation of the military in the war on drugs in Mexico since Calderón took office, the State Department says in its 2010 International Narcotics Strategy Report that "As Mexico achieves further progress against the criminal organisations operating on its territory…there is growing evidence that Mexico’s drug trafficking organisations are already establishing a presence in these (neighbouring) regions, particularly in some Central American states." 

The War on Drugs Is Doomed Mar. 22, 2010, Wall Street Journal, column by Mary O''Grady. They say that the first step in dealing with a problem is acknowledging that you have one. It is therefore good news that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will lead a delegation to Mexico tomorrow to talk with officials there about efforts to fight the mob violence that is being generated in Mexico by the war on drugs. U.S. recognition of this shared problem is healthy. But that's where the good news is likely to end. Violence along the border has skyrocketed ever since Mexican President Felipe Calderón decided to confront the illegal drug cartels that operate there. Some 7,000 troops now patrol Juárez, a city of roughly one million. Yet even militarization has not delivered the peace. The reason is simple enough: The source of the problem is not Mexican supply. It is American demand coupled with prohibition.

Mexico drug war's toll on Americans grows. Still, deaths of U.S. citizens make up only a fraction of country's killingsMar. 20, 2010, MSNBC.  More Americans in Mexico are falling victim to a wave of drug violence sweeping the country, a change driven home by the recent killing of a U.S. Consulate employee and her husband who were gunned down after leaving a children's birthday party. The number of U.S. citizens killed in Mexico has more than doubled to 79 in 2009 from 35 in 2007, according to the U.S. State Department's annual count. No figures were available for the first two months of 2010. ...The annual murder rate for the estimated 500,000 American citizens in Mexico at any one time has risen — but still remains lower than in some U.S. cities: about 15 per 100,000. Baltimore's 2009 homicide rate was 37 per 100,000 residents.

March 18, 2010

Clinton, Gates, Napolitano to lead top-level delegation to Mexico over killingsMar. 18, 2010, Dallas Morning News. A top-level U.S. delegation will visit Mexico on Tuesday in a major show of solidarity, after the borderland drug war claimed the lives of an American couple and a Mexican man last weekend. The group – including three Cabinet members and the nation's top military and intelligence officials – is weighty enough to signal fresh focus from the White House after years of bloodletting in Mexico.

Senate votes to change cocaine sentencing rules, Mar. 17, 2010, AP.  Legislation approved by the Senate on Wednesday would significantly reduce the disparity in sentences handed out to those convicted of crack and powder cocaine charges. Currently, a person convicted of crack cocaine possession gets the same mandatory jail time as someone with 100 times the same quantity of powder cocaine. That 100-1 ratio has been particularly hard on the black community, where convictions on federal crack laws are more prevalent. Under the measure, approved by a voice vote, the ratio would be reduced to 18-1.

FBI: No evidence Mexico hit men targeted AmericansMar. 16, 2010. AP. Confused hit men may have gone to the wrong party, the FBI said Tuesday as it cast doubt on fears that the slaying of three people with ties to the U.S. consulate shows that Mexican drug cartels have launched an offensive against U.S. government employees.

Mexico Is Warned on Drug DetectorMar. 15, 2010, NY Times. The British government has notified Mexico that a handheld device widely used by the Mexican military and police to search for drugs and explosives may be ineffective, British officials said. Mexico’s National Defense Secretariat has spent more than $10 million to purchase hundreds of the detectors, similar to the “magic wands” in use in Iraq and Afghanistan, for its antidrug fight. Although critics have called them nothing more than divining rods, Mexican defense officials praise the devices as a critical part of their efforts to combat drug traffickers. 

Two Drug Slayings in Mexico Rock U.S. ConsulateMar. 14, 2010, NY Times. Gunmen believed to be linked to drug traffickers shot a pregnant American consulate worker and her husband to death in the violence-racked border town of Ciudad Juárez over the weekend, leaving their baby wailing in the back seat of their car, the authorities said Sunday. The gunmen also killed the husband of another consular employee and wounded his two young children.

Travel Warning, U.S. Dept. of StateMar. 14, 2010. The Department of State has issued this Travel Warning to inform U.S. citizens traveling to and living in Mexico of concerns about the security situation in Mexico, and that it has authorized the departure of the dependents of U.S. government personnel from U.S. consulates in the Northern Mexican border cities of Tijuana, Nogales, Ciudad Juarez, Nuevo Laredo, Monterrey and Matamoros until April 12. 

A U.S. WAR WITH MEXICAN CONSEQUENCESAug. 15, 2009, Cato Institute, Jorge Castaneda....  there has usually been a feeling in Mexico that the United States, because of what Hillary Clinton recently called its “insatiable demand” for drugs, and because of its peculiar gun laws, has created a problem for Mexico that Mexico cannot solve. Mexico puts up the bodies, the boots on the ground, and the money, and Mexico lives with the violent consequences of an American dilemma, which Mexico believes the United States only addresses hypocritically. ... As long as criminalization, its hypocrisy, and serious discussions of the alternatives are banned from public discussion, U.S. drug policy will remain what it has been for the past forty years: a supply-side, foreign-policy, nickel-and-dime war waged beyond U.S. borders. In the case of Mexico, for a series of specific reasons, that policy, as well as domestic Mexican political considerations, have led to a war that cannot be won and should not be waged.

Slowly, states are lessening limits on marijuana Mar. 9, 2010, USA Today. From California, where lawmakers may outright legalize marijuana, to New Jersey, which implemented a medical use law Jan. 19, states are taking unprecedented steps to loosen marijuana restrictions. Advocates of legalizing marijuana say generational, political and cultural shifts have taken the USA to a unique moment in its history of drug prohibition that could topple 40 years of tough restrictions on both medicinal and recreational marijuana use.

Feb. 27, 2010

Mexico Conference Calls for New Direction in Drug Policy, Says Prohibition Has FailedFeb. 26, 2010, Drug War Chronicle. On Monday and Tuesday in Mexico City, political figures, academics, social scientists, security experts, and activists from at least six countries came together for the Winds of Change: Drug Policy in the World conference sponsored by the Mexico City-based Collective for an Integrated Drug Policy (CUPHID). Coming as Mexico's war on drugs turns bloodier by the day, the conference unsurprisingly concluded that current prohibitionist policies are a disaster.

UN Anti-Drug Agency Complains Latin American Decriminalization Trend Undermines Prohibition RegimeFeb. 26, 2010,Drug War Chronicle. In its annual report on countries' compliance with the global drug prohibition regime, released Wednesday, the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) challenged the trend toward the decriminalization of drug possession in Latin America, saying it undermines the three international treaties that define the international framework for drug prohibition. Critics were quick to strike back, saying the INCB was overstepping its boundaries.

Legalization: So Say They Now -- US and Mexican Officials Say No to Debating ItFeb. 26, 2010, Drug War Chronicle. Representatives of the US and Mexican governments meeting at the US-Mexico Bi-national Drug Demand Reduction Policy Meeting in Washington, DC, this week took pains to make clear that neither government is prepared to consider drug legalization. Although legalization wasn't on the meeting's agenda, both Gil Kerlikowske, head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the so-called drug czar), and Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos felt impelled to denounce it. "Legalization isn't a subject under discussion under the Obama administration under any circumstances," said Kerlikowske. Such proposals do not hold up "under (sic) the thinnest veil of scrutiny," he said.

Mexican Bishops Criticize Drug War Strategy, AP/NY Times, Feb. 15, 2010. Mexico's Roman Catholic bishops criticized the government's drug war strategy in a report released Monday, saying the military presence on the streets and a corrupt judicial system raise human rights concerns.

Amid drug war, Mexico less deadly than decade agoFeb. 8, 2010, AP/Washington Post. Decapitated bodies dumped on the streets, drug-war shootings and regular attacks on police have obscured a significant fact: A falling homicide rate means people in Mexico are less likely to die violently now than they were more than a decade ago. It also means tourists as well as locals may be safer than many believe. Mexico City's homicide rate today is about on par with Los Angeles and is less than a third of that for Washington, D.C.

Obama Nominates Drug Warrior Michele Leonhart to Head DEA -- Reformers Gird for Battle Jan. 29, 2010, Drug War Chronicle. The Obama administration announced this week that it is nominating acting DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart to head the agency. Drug reformers responded with a collective groan and are preparing to challenge -- or at least question -- her nomination when it goes before the,  Senate Judiciary Committee for confirmation.

Jan. 22, 2010

What's Spanish for Quagmire? Five myths that caused the failed war next door. Jan. 22, 2010. Foreign Policy Magazine, Jorge Castañeda, The Mexican drug war is costly, unwinnable, and predicated on dangerous myths. Calderón has deployed everything from distorted statistics to bad history as weapons to convince the country, and the world, that the war must be joined. ...Until we in Mexico publicly and collectively confront the tough questions the drug war entails, we will not have a sustainable policy or a viable strategy. And as long as the United States doesn't question our answers, it will also lack a policy for the drug war and, more importantly, for Mexican development. 

From spas to banks, Mexico economy rides on drugsJan. 22, 2010, Reuters. Mexican cartels ...bring an estimated $25 billion to $40 billion into Mexico from their global operations every year. To put that in perspective: Mexico probably made more money in 2009 moving drugs than it did exporting oil, its single biggest legitimate foreign currency earner. From the white Caribbean beaches of Cancun to violent towns on the U.S. border and the beauty parlors of Mexico City's wealthy suburbs, drug cash is everywhere in Mexico. It has even propped up the country's banking system, helping it ride out the financial crisis and aiding the country's economy.

Poll Shows Four Out of Five Support Medical Marijuana, Nearly Half Support Legalization Jan. 22, 2010, Drug War Chronicle. Medical marijuana has public support approaching motherhood and apple pie levels, while nearly half of Americans support legalization for personal use, according to a newly released national poll. According to the ABC News/Washington Post poll, 81% of Americans support medical marijuana, while 46% would be okay with legalizing marijuana for personal use.

Bill to Do Top-to-Bottom Review of Criminal Justice System, Drug War Passes Senate Judiciary Committee Jan. 22, 2010, Drug War Chronicle. The Senate Judiciary Committee Thursday approved Sen. Jim Webb's (D-VA) National Criminal Justice Commission Act of 2009 on a unanimous voice vote Thursday. The bill would create a commission to conduct a top-to-bottom evaluation of the country's criminal justice system and offer recommendations for reform at every level.

MEXICO: Journalists' Options - Silence, Exile or the Grave  Jan. 15, 2010, InterPress News. Journalists are the target of such violence in Mexico that many have been forced to seek refuge in the United States, or to give up their profession. Last year, 13 media professionals were murdered in Mexico, making it the highest-risk country in Latin America for journalists, with a record even worse than civil war-torn Colombia's. Since 2000, 57 journalists have been killed and at least nine more have been forcibly disappeared.  And the outlook at the start of this year is even grimmer for media workers in this country.

Jan. 12, 2010

CA Assembly committee OKs bill to legalize marijuana  Jan. 12, 2010, LA Times. A proposal to legalize and tax marijuana in California was approved by a key committee of the Assembly this morning, over the dire warnings of police chiefs and prosecutors.The Public Safety Committee voted 4-3 to approve AB 390 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), who said the bill would provide tax revenue to the state and regulation of the drug. The new law includes a requirement that users be at least 21 years old.

Mexico Rights Agency: Reporters' Deaths Unresolved Jan. 11, 2010, AP, New York Times. Mexico's National Human Rights Commission says federal and state governments haven't shown results in investigating or preventing the killing of journalists. The commission said Monday that 58 journalists have been killed and nine have disappeared since 2000. It says seven attacks with explosives have been made against media outlets in that time.

American murder toll in Mexico continues to climb Jan. 11, 2010, Houston Chronicle. Preliminary statistics and other sources show 2009 was by far the deadliest year for U.S. citizens in Mexico since the Department of State first began releasing international American homicide statistics in 2002.
Final 2009 data is not yet available,... but by June of last year, 37 murders already had been added to the State Department registry, compared with 50 in all of 2008 in Mexico. Dozens of additional homicides have been reported by the U.S. and Mexican media in the last half of 2009. Most Americans' murders were reported in or near Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and Nuevo Laredo.

Mexico weighs options as lawlessness continues to grip Ciudad Juarez Washington Post, Dec. 27, 2009. Senior Mexican officials have begun a sweeping review of the military's two-year occupation of this dangerous border city, concluding that the U.S.-backed deployment of thousands of soldiers against drug traffickers has failed to control the violence and crime, according to officials in both countries.

Why America is to Blame for Mexico’s Drug WarDec. 11, 2009, Change.org. I attended a debate recently in New York on the role of the U.S. in Mexico’s drug war -- and I was happy to see most of the audience on my side. The U.S. is finally waking up to the destruction our drug war has caused outside of our borders, and we’re moving in the direction of a series of policy shifts that will transform our domestic drug problems and change the way we interact with the countries that supply our insatiable demand for drugs.

Hired by Customs, but Working for Mexican Cartels Dec. 17, 2009. NY Times. (L)aw enforcement officials (are)worried that Mexican traffickers — facing beefed-up security on the border ... — have stepped up their efforts to corrupt the border police. They research potential targets, anticorruption investigators said, exploiting the cross-border clans and relationships that define the region, offering money, sex, whatever it takes. But, with the border police in the midst of a hiring boom, law enforcement officers believe that traffickers are pulling out the stops, even soliciting some of their own operatives to apply for jobs.

Mexico Deals a Blow to a Cartel but Warns of Continued Drug-Related Violence Dec 17, 2009, NY Times. On Wednesday, Mr. Beltrán Leyva, one of Mexico’s three most wanted drug kingpins, was killed during a battle with about 400 special forces troops from the navy and the army, who surrounded a complex in Cuernavaca, where he had an apartment. And although President Felipe Calderón on Thursday called the operation “a convincing blow” against the drug cartels, his government also warned that drug-related violence might not abate and could even get worse.

Dec. 15, 2009

After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation executive summary Fall, 2009, Transform Drug Policy Foundation. There is a growing recognition around the world that the prohibition of drugs is a counterproductive failure. However, a major barrier to drug law reform has been a widespread fear of the unknown—just what could a post-prohibition regime look like? For the first time, ‘After the War on Drugs: Blueprint for Regulation’ answers that question by proposing specific models of regulation for each main type and preparation of prohibited drug, coupled with the principles and rationale for doing so. We demonstrate that moving to the legal regulation of drugs is not an
unthinkable, politically impossible step in the dark, but a sensible, pragmatic approach to control drug production, supply and use.

Huge Signature Gathering Success Sends Pot Legalization to Ballot Dec. 14, 2009, Alternet. The Tax & Regulate Cannabis 2010 campaign has just achieved a major victory in its efforts to legalize marijuana for all adults in California -- they have gathered the signatures necessary for inclusion on the state's November ballot. This win means that Californians will be the first in the nation to decide whether they believe marijuana ought be taxed and regulated for all adults over 21, much the same way alcohol is.

Mexico's drug cartels siphon liquid gold Dec. 13, 2009, Washington Post. Drug traffickers employing high-tech drills, miles of rubber hose and a fleet of stolen tanker trucks have siphoned more than $1 billion worth of oil from Mexico's pipelines over the past two years, in a vast and audacious conspiracy that is bleeding the national treasury, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement officials and the state-run oil company.

US: Reconsidering War on Drugs Dec. 12, 2009, InterPress Service. The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill last week that would create an independent commission to re-evaluate and make recommendations on domestic and international drug policies. This is being seen as an acknowledgement that current strategies meant to control illicit drugs are not working - and have not worked for a while.  

Congress: Budget Deal Includes Series of Drug Reform VictoriesDec. 11, 2009, Drug War Chronicle. Congressional budget negotiators have approved a conference committee bill that ends the ban on federal funding of needle exchange programs, ends the ban on the District of Columbia funding of needle exchange programs, and ends the ban on the District enacting a medical marijuana law approved by voters a decade ago. It also slashes funding for the drug czar's ineffective youth anti-drug media campaign.

Mexico's Military Anti-Drug Offensive Is "War Against the People" Dec. 9, 2009, InterPress Service. In a report released Tuesday, the Mexican chapter of the London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International (AI) stated that in its law enforcement operations, the army has committed numerous abuses, including forced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions. The report was published two days ahead of International Human Rights Day. 

10 Signs the Failed Drug War Is Finally Ending Dec. 4, 2009. Alternet. 2009 will go down as the beginning of the end of the United States drug war. ... There was more debate and movement toward sensible drug policies this year than in the last 9 years combined! Here are 10 stories that contributed to the unprecedented momentum to end America's longest running war.

The Numbers Don't Add Up in Mexico's Drug War Nov. 29, 2009, narcosphere.narconews.com.  La Jornada reports that 16,500 extrajudicial executions have occurred during Calderon's administration.  6,500 of those executions have occurred in 2009. The skyrocketing violence in Mexico can’t even be justified by the drug war’s quantitative results.  According to the US government’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), drug seizures have decreased since Calderon began his war on drugs, and drug production is on the rise.  

Dec. 5, 2009

The Fall of MexicoDecember Atlantic Magazine, In the almost three years since President Felipe Calderón launched a war on drug cartel, ...some 14,000 people have been killed... —the worst carnage since the Mexican Revolution—and part of the country is effectively under martial law. Is this evidence of a creeping coup by the military? A war between drug cartels? Between the president and his opposition? Or just collateral damage from the (U.S.-supported) war on drugs? Nobody knows: Mexico is where facts, like people, simply disappear. The stakes for the U.S. are high, especially as the prospect of a failed state on our southern border begins to seem all too real.

Mexico makes significant border changes Dec. 3, 2009, ABC NewsIt's being touted as a bold new attempt to choke off the supply of guns and cash that fuel Mexico's violent drug cartels. American authorities are hoping that it will cut the amount of drugs entering the U.S. by stopping drug traffickers from getting resupplied with money and weapons. Here is a look at some significant changes on the border, including one that will affect illegal crossers headed north.

Only sliver of aid for US-Mexico drug plan spentDec. 2, 2009, Associated Press. Only $26 million of the $1.4 billion authorized (in the Merida Initiative) to help Mexico and Central America fight organized crime has been spent due to bureaucracy, conditions placed on the funds by Congress and preparations in recipient countries, according to a government report scheduled for release Thursday.

Support for legalizing marijuana grows rapidly around U.S., Nov. 23, 2009, Washington Post. The shift is widely described as generational. A Gallup poll in October found 44 percent of Americans favor full legalization of marijuana -- a rise of 13 points since 2000. Gallup said that if public support continues growing at a rate of 1 to 2 percent per year, "the majority of Americans could favor legalization of the drug in as little as four years."

The Perils of Plan Mexico Nov. 24, 2009, Counter Punch Magazine. (Thanks to member Roger Tucker) Mexico is the United States' closest Latin American neighbor and yet most U.S. citizens receive little reliable information about what is happening within the country. Instead, Mexico and Mexicans are often demonized in the U.S. press. The single biggest reason for this is the way that the entire binational relationship has been recast in terms of security over the past few years. (Analysis of the origins and impact of the Merida Initiative.) 

Mexico: The Law Against Small-Scale Drug Dealing Transnational Institute and Washington Office on Latin America.
The new (Mexican) law undoubtedly represents some significant advances, at least theoretically, in key subjects such as the recognising of and distinguishing between user, drug addict and dealer, which could open a door to the development of the rights of consumers. The law also represents the possibility of initiating a public debate on the subject of drugs consumer rights. Equally important is this law’s inclusion of harm reduction as a state policy, which guarantees obtaining resources for the implementation of the policies. In spite of the above, in this report we wanted above all to stress the negative aspects of this law, given that they are many and that they could signify a threat to the most basic rights of all Mexicans.

Nov. 21, 2009

Murder in the Bronx, Business as Usual Nov. 19, 2009, The New Republic. There is good money to be made by selling drugs on the street, because they are illegal and prosecuted, driving up the profit margin. And that means that details aside, we can all agree that what happened in the Bronx on Monday (teenage girl bystander shot during gang battle) would have been very different if there were no War on Drugs. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have happened at all. ...The simple fact is that if there were no profit to be made in selling drugs on the street, no one would bother. 

MEXICO: State Held Responsible for Three Juárez Killings Nov. 20, 2009, Inter-Press Service. The families of three young women murdered in Ciudad Juárez, in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua on the border with the United States, had to wait eight years for justice, which they finally obtained through the inter-American system. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, part of the Organisation of American States (OAS), found the Mexican state guilty of denial of justice to Claudia González, Esmeralda Herrera and Berenice Ramos, whose bodies were found with five others in November 2001, and to their relatives. 

Fixing Mexico police becomes a priority Nov. 17, 2009, LATimes, Reversing police corruption that has tainted whole departments, shattered faith in law enforcement and compromised one of society's most basic institutions is proving difficult, but not impossible.

The State of Play -- Federal Drug Reform Legislation in the Congress Nov. 13, Drug War Chronicle. Drug policy reform in the US Congress is moving along on a number of tracks. Here's an update on some of the more significant legislation moving (or not) on the Hill. 

US Sentencing Commission to Review Mandatory Minimums Nov. 13, 2009, Drug War Chronicle. The US Sentencing Commission has been ordered by Congress to review mandatory minimum sentencing. The order came via the National Defense Authorization Act signed last month by President Obama. The act contains quietly added language calling on the commission to conduct several tasks, including examining the impact of mandatory minimum sentencing laws and exploring alternatives.

American Medical Association Calls for Review of Pot's Schedule I Status Nov. 13, 2009, Drug War Chronicle. In an historic shift, the country's largest physician group, the American Medical Association (AMA), has reversed its long-held position that marijuana has no medical value. The group instead adopted a new policy position on medical marijuana, calling for a review of marijuana's status as a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The AMA had previously recommended that marijuana be retained in Schedule I.

US-Mexico Task force seeks ban on assault weaponsNov. 13, 2009, Washington Post. A binational task force on U.S.-Mexico border issues will call Friday on the Obama administration and Congress to reinstate an expired ban on assault weapons and for Mexico to overhaul its frontier police and customs agencies to mirror the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.The recommendations are among a broad set of security, trade, development and environmental proposals that come as President Obama and his Mexicans counterpart, Felipe Calderón, move to deepen engagement on issues including economic recovery, climate change, illegal immigration and narcotics trafficking.

Women play a bigger role in Mexico's drug war Nov. 10, 2009, Los Angeles Times. As drug violence seeps deeper into Mexican society, women are taking a more hands-on role. In growing numbers, they are being recruited into the ranks of drug smugglers, dealers and foot soldiers. And in growing numbers, they are being jailed, and killed, for their efforts.

Mexican clergy seek global help as violence growsNov. 10, 2009, Associated Press. Mexico's Roman Catholic clergy, increasingly caught in the middle of the nation's drug war, are meeting this week to draft a strategy for coping with the violence, aided by advice from colleagues who faced similar threats in Colombia and Italy."We have become hostages in these violent confrontations between the drug cartels living among us," said Archbishop Felipe Aguirre, who works in Acapulco, located in Guerrero state where the priest and seminary students were killed in June.

Soldiers wary of often corrupt Mexican police Nov. 9, 2009, The Oklahoman/Associated Press. MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) Confrontations (between the Mexican army and local police) ... are happening with increasing frequency in Mexico's wealthiest city (Monterrey) as soldiers fight corrupt police officers helping drug cartels - in addition to taking on the drug dealers themselves. This year alone, police and soldiers have confronted one another more than 65 times, The Associated Press has learned - a growing and dangerous trend in the war on drugs.

Nov. 7, 2009

RIGHTS-MEXICO: Military Abuses Brought to Inter-American CommissionNov. 4, 20009. International Press Service. A case of rights abuses allegedly committed by the Mexican armed forces is coming up for a hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), where it joins a long list of accusations against the army in this Latin American country.

Medical marijuana access law OK’d  Nov. 4, 2009, Bangor (Maine) Mainers who use marijuana to relieve the symptoms of certain medical conditions will have easier access to the drug after voters approved Question 5 on Tuesday’s statewide referendum ballot. The measure eases access to marijuana for individuals with certain medical conditions. It expands the list of qualifying medical conditions, creates a state-regulated registry of qualified users, and allows for a statewide system of storefront distribution centers.

In Mexico, fears of a 'lost generation'Nov. 3, Washington Post. The number of minors swept up inMexico's drug wars -- as killers and victims -- is soaring, with U.S. and Mexican officials warning that a toxic culture of fast money, drug abuse and murder is creating a "lost generation." Authorities say the cartels are responding to new realities here. They have stepped up recruiting to replace tens of thousands of members who have been killed or arrested during President Felipe Calderón's U.S.-backed war against the traffickers.

Drug smugglers are endlessly creative along border, Oct. 29, 2009. Associated Press. With gadgetry such as custom-built ramps as well as ultralight planes, false doors and good old-fashioned duct tape, smugglers have demonstrated unbounded creativity when it comes to sneaking drugs across the Mexican border. And the U.S. government acknowledges there is only so much it can do to stop the flow.

Mexico nabs man called drug cartel's state leader, Oct. 28, 2009, Associated Press. Police arrested a man Tuesday who they say headed the operations of the "La Familia" drug cartel in the western state of Michoacan. Police said that Oribe, known as "El Clinton," was allegedly the mastermind behind several murders, including the assassination last year of Salvador Vergara, the 33-year-old mayor of Ixtapan de la Sal, a popular weekend retreat.

Oct. 24, 2009

Is Mexico winning its war on drugs?Oct. 23, 2009, CNN. Mexico's arrest of drug cartel suspects has become fairly commonplace. On Thursday, it was six suspected members of La Familia, based in Michoacan. A day earlier, it was a man identified as a top leader of the ruthless Zetas. Whether the arrests are making any difference in President Felipe Calderon's war on the narcotraffickers is another question. Some analysts see them as proof that Calderon was right to declare an all-out fight after taking office in December 2006. Other analysts are not so sure, particularly since more than 12,000 people have been killed since Calderon became president.

More Than 300 Alleged La Familia Cartel Members and Associates Arrested in Two-Day US Nationwide Takedown, Oct. 22, 2009.  Mexico Institute. Over the past two days, 303 individuals in 19 states were arrested as part of Project Coronado, which targeted the distribution network of a major Mexican drug trafficking organization known as La Familia, through coordination between federal, state and local law enforcement. More than 3,000 agents and officers operated across the United States to make the arrests during the two-day takedown. 

'Family values' of Mexico drug gang Oct. 22, 2009, BBC. The "Familia" cartel is perhaps the most extreme example of the paradoxical enemy which Mexico faces as it tries to defeat organised crime. It is a fight which would be much easier if the cartels were simply maverick gangs on the fringe of society. But they are, in many areas, part of society.

Crack Sentencing Reform Getting Closer Oct. 16, 2009, Reason Magizine, Yesterday Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced the Fair Sentencing Act, which would eliminate the unjust, irrational disparity in penalties between the smoked and snorted forms of cocaine. More than two decades after Congress created draconian mandatory minimum sentences that treat crack as if it were 100 times worse than cocaine powder, even Republicans acknowledge that the distinction, which has a disproportionate impact on blacks, makes little sense.

U.S. Lawmakers Agree: “Time to Re-Examine Decades-Old Drug Control Policies” October 16, 2009, Washington Office on Latin America. Today a bill that represents a significant step toward a serious - and overdue - reconsideration of U.S. drug control policy will be marked-up at the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere. The bill-- H.R. 2134-- introduced with bi-partisan support by Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) in April, would create an independent "Western Hemisphere Drug Policy Commission" to recommend how to improve U.S. domestic and international drug control policies, an implicit recognition that the current drug-control strategy is not working. The bill would also assess the impact of Plan Colombia and the Merida Iniciative. 

October 14, 2009

US-Mexico groups urges new US assault weapons ban Oct. 13, 2009, Associated Press. In a report released Tuesday, former officials from both countries said that the United States should reinstate a Clinton-era ban on assault weapons to prevent such guns from reaching Mexican drug cartels, The group, which includes two former U.S. ambassadors to Mexico, also said the U.S. should do more to stop the smuggling of firearms and ammunition into Mexico by stepping up investigations of gun dealers and more strictly regulating gun shows.

Assessing the Mexican Army’s Involvement in the War Against the Cartels  Sept. 29, 2009, RGE Monitor (international economics website) An thorough review of problems in the Mexican army, including desertions, morale, human rights abuses.

Guns from Houston tied to 55 Mexico deaths Oct. 2, 2009, Houston Chronical, High-powered guns purchased at Houston-area stores by a Gulf Cartel cell and smuggled across the border for the syndicate's bloody warfare have been traced to at least 55 killings in Mexico, including the deaths of police officers, civilians and gangsters, federal agents said Thursday.  The federal government contends the Houston area is the No. 1 spot in the United States for buying guns that later are used in underworld massacres and other crimes in Mexico.

Récord de crímenes en septiembre: suman 756 Oct. 1, 2009., El Universal (in Spanish). According to a tally being kept up by El Universal September has (so far) been the most violent month of 2009 in Mexico. Some 757 drug-trafficking related homicides were committed in 2009. Of these, 360 occurred in Chihuahua (which includes Ciudad Juarez), 112 in Sinaloa, 74 in Durango, and 55 in Guerrero, with smaller numbers in other areas of Mexico. On the last day of September, 22 people were killed across the country, including several policemen. 12 of these killings occurred in Ciudad Juarez.

Mexico's 'La Familia' Cartel Mixes Spiritualism, Crime NPR. Oct. 1, 2009. One of the newer drug cartels being pursued by President Felipe Calderon's administration is La Familia — a group that mixes politics, spiritualism and violence in ways never before seen in Mexico. La Familia was born in the rugged, impoverished hills of Michoacan.

The 2009 World Drug Report: A Response From the International Drug Policy Consortium Sept. 2009. An evaluation of the UN 2009 World Drug Report. Our analysis of (previous) World Drug Report(s) have remark(ed) on the strident tones and sweeping generalizations of the UNODC’s current Executive Director’s introductory texts are sometimes given. This year, as noted above, the disconnect between the main body of the Report and the Preface is still more striking in view of the increasingly measured tone adopted in the body of the work. Moreover, the authors of the latter, while remaining firm in their arguments, take care to address those having different or conflicting opinions in respectful terms (p.163), while Mr Costa, as we shall see, continues in the gladiatorial posture he has adopted in prefatory remarks made in recent Reports. This antagonistic tone is exemplified above all in his now-familiar references to the “pro-drug lobby”, but is underpinned by an “us and them” construction of the entire issue which colours his analysis throughout, resulting in inflated claims about the role of UNODC and an attribution of demonic qualities to those pursuing an agenda of change in relation to drug policy.

Sept. 27, 2009

Mexican Public Troubled by Crime, the Economy, Drugs and Corruption Pew Research Center, Sept. 23, 2009. The latest findings from the 2009 survey of Mexico by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with 1,000 adults in Mexico between May 26 and June 2, 2009. Large majorities describe crime (81%) and illegal drugs (73%) as very big problems, and Mexicans overwhelmingly endorse President Felipe Calderón's tough stance against drug traffickers. Also, public opinions on the economy, trade and relations with the US. 

Calls for Drug Policy Reform Grow Sept. 24, 2009, Transform Drug Policy Foundation blog. This month we have seen a plethora or articles in UK newspapers calling for an end to prohibition. There have been so many we thought we’d bring you the best of them in one blog. The articles are written by a variety of people including a former chief constable, a well-known British philosopher and the former President of Brazil not to mention a number of journalists. 

Lack of authority, bad image hinder police in (Uruapan) Mexico Arizona Central newspaper, Sept. 16, 2009. The police force in Uruapan, a city of 280,000 that sits astride a major smuggling route in the Sierra Madre, doesn't have a single detective... Some change is (now) taking place. Because of federal money, Uruapan's officers now have assault rifles and bulletproof vests. 

Gov't: Border fence to cost $6.5B over 20 years Assoc. Press, Sept. 17. 2009. It will cost taxpayers $6.5 billion over the next 20 years to maintain the fence along the U.S-Mexico border, according to a government audit. But ... the Obama administration ...does not have a way to evaluate whether this investment has helped control illegal entries into the country, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Thursday.
The $6.5 billion price tag is in addition to the $2.4 billion that’s been spent to build more than 600 miles of fence segments along the southwest border. As of May 14, there have been 3,363 breaches in the fence, which cost about $1,300 each to repair, GAO found.

Sept. 15, 2009 

In Morelia, where eight people died in a grenade attack at the festivities last year, some events are canceled and new security measures are being implemented.

Between Hypocrisy and Narcoterrorism in Latin America Brookings Institute statement, Sept. 15, 2009. The ... use of Colombian military bases by the U.S. armed forces poses crucial questions about the future of U.S.-Latin America relations. .... There are lessons that the United States would do well to extract from this debate. Counternarcotics policies are the first motive invoked by both the United States and Colombia for the agreement. However, as the situation in Mexico ... shows, this is not just a bilateral issue. Latin American countries are justifiably anxious about the dire implications of the U.S.’ "War on Drugs" for the region. Numerous organizations and individuals... have called for a change in the current strategy which emphasizes forced eradication of illicit crops. 

124 Police detained for connections to drug cartels in Hildalgo, El Pais (Spanish), Sept. 15, 2009 On Monday, Mexican authorities arrested 124 police agents in the center state of Hidalgo for alleged links to Los Zetas, the armed wing of the Gulf cartel.

An injection of common sense The Independent (UK) Editorial, Sept. 14, 2009. 'Harm reduction, rather than mindless prohibition, should be the guiding principle of government policy when it comes to drug addiction.'

For a Better world: Legalise drugs New Scientist, Sept. 11, 2009.Given that drugs are here to stay, how do we limit the harm they do? The evidence suggests most of the problems stem not from drugs themselves, but from the fact that they are illegal. The obvious answer, then, is to make them legal.

Mexico's Hopeless Drug War Wall Street Journal, column by Mary O'Grady, Sept. 13, 2009 By decriminalizing consumption, Mexico is admitting that things are not getting better. It says its hope is to concentrate limited resources in going after producers, traffickers and retail distributors. The aim is to reduce police graft while going after big fish, not little ones. The war on supply is a failure, something any first-year economics student could have predicted. But this plan is unlikely to reverse the situation. It is demand north of the border that is the primary driver of organized-crime terror. And that shows no signs of abating.

Mexico Legalizes Small Quantities of Some Drugs - the View from Tiajuana NarcoNews.com. Shared by a Parentesco group member.