Mexico's former president Vicente Fox wrote on his blog Aug. 8 that "we should consider legalizing the production, distribution and sale of drugs"—the most far-reaching stand for legalization yet in Mexico, where more than 28,000 people have died during the current administration's war against drug cartels. The proposal is sparking the predictable backlash from hardliners, as AP reports...
Fox belongs to the same conservative National Action Party (PAN) of current President Felipe Calderón, who said last week that he is open to a debate on legalizing drugs, even though he opposes the idea. Mexico decriminalized personal quantities of all illegal drugs last year.
The US State Department said Aug. 9 that "the question of debating the legalization of drugs is for Mexicans to decide." But a State Department spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity that the department's position is that "we don't believe legalization is the answer." A nice way to appease gringo hardliners without offending Mexico's leadership.
A similar view was expressed by Mexico's anti-crime Citizen's Council for Public Safety. "The legalization proposal is mistaken, because it shows a lack of understanding of Mexico's problem and avoids the main cause, which is quite simply the government's loss of the monopoly on the use of force," the group said, referring to cartels that confront security forces with grenades, assault rifles and now car bombs.
This is an example of the logical fallacy known as "circular reasoning" or "begging the question." The "main cause" of the problem of the government's loss of the monopoly on the use of force is identified as.... "the government's loss of the monopoly on the use of force."
What nobody wants to acknowledge is that Mexico's narco economy (with attendant violence) has exploded in the years that NAFTA has been in effect. As Global Ganja Report editor Bill Weinberg recently told the East Bay Express' Legalization Nation column, "it has got to do with free trade":
[T]he economic measures which were in place — officially derided as "protectionism" — protected to a certain degree the social security of the poor throughout the Western Hemisphere. That's been dismantled in the name of free trade, and the narco-economy is filling the vacuum.
As tariffs were dropped, Mexico was flooded with cheap agribusiness corn from the United States, forcing peasant producers from their market niche. Simultaneously, communal peasant lands, which had been constitutionally protected in pre-NAFTA Mexico, were privatized. Campesinos had no choice but to grow marijuana and opium, or to abandon the land and become traffickers, in order to survive.
Meanwhile, militarized enforcement programs like the US-backed Merida Initiatve ("Plan Mexico") merely drive up prices, raise the stakes, and set off a scramble for control of the cartels.
A better analysis is provided by Charles Bowden and Molly Molloy in a July 23 article for The Nation, "Who Is Behind the 25,000 Deaths In Mexico?" While they fail to mention the critical role of NAFTA in creating the crisis, they do recognize the futility of the current militarized enforcement model:
Here is the US policy in a nutshell: we pay Mexicans to kill Mexicans, and this slaughter has no effect on drug shipments or prices.
Fox deserves creds for trying to inject some realism into the debate—even if he is only doing so now that he is out of office, after having played along in the vicious cycle during his six years in power.