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“Saving Mexico”

26 December 2009

The more than slightly paternatistic headline on David Luhnow’s Wall Street Journal article on the U.S. narcotics import market and it’s effects on this country (20 December 2009) begins with the assumption that the United States  has to “save” Mexico from a problem that originated in the United States… which frankly is like demanding “protection” from the gangsters that have already beaten you up… and then being expected to be grateful for it.

That said, an unnamed Mexican official, quoted by Luhnow makes a valid point that is not often seen in the U.S. press:

“Economically, there is no argument or solution other than legalization, at least of marijuana,” said the top Mexican official matter-of-factly. The official said such a move would likely shift marijuana production entirely to places like California, where the drug can be grown more efficiently and closer to consumers. “Mexico’s objective should be to make the U.S. self-sufficient in marijuana,” he added with a grin.

The Wall Street Journal is, of course, a business publication, and quite rightly looks at the narcotics export industry as a business issue.

If the war on drugs has failed, analysts say it is partly because it has been waged almost entirely as a law-and-order issue, without understanding of how cartels work as a business.

For instance, U.S. anti-drug policy inadvertently helped Mexican gangs gain power. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the U.S. government cracked down on the transport of cocaine from Colombia to U.S. shores through the Caribbean, the lowest-cost supply route. But that simply diverted the flow to the next lowest-cost route: through Mexico. In 1991, 50% of the U.S.-bound cocaine came through Mexico. By 2004, 90% did. Mexico became the FedEx of the cocaine business.

Today, the world’s most successful drug trafficking organizations are found in Mexico. Unlike Colombian drug gangs in the 1980s, who relied almost entirely on cocaine, Mexican drug gangs are a one-stop shop for four big-time illicit drugs: marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and heroin. Mexico is the world’s second biggest producer of marijuana (the U.S. is No. 1), the major supplier of methamphetamines to the U.S., the key transit point for U.S.-bound cocaine from South America and the hemisphere’s biggest producer of heroin.

This diversification helps them absorb shocks from the business. Sales of cocaine in the U.S., for instance, slipped slightly from 2006 to 2008. But that decline was more than made up for by growing sales of methamphetamines.

In many ways, illegal drugs are the most successful Mexican multinational enterprise, employing some 450,000 Mexicans and generating about $20 billion in sales, second only behind the country’s oil industry and automotive industry exports.

All true (though I’m not convinced the transfer of the narcotics trade from unstable Colombia to stable NAFTA partner Mexico was “inadvertent”… see “Iran-Contra Affair”), but what’s in it for Mexico … and how U.S. legalization (or even Mexican legalization) will “save” us from dependency on U.S. market forces.  Would Mexican farmers be better off if the United States Congress was lobbied by the Marijuana Growers Association of California for protection from cheaper Mexican produce?  Would Mexican labor be better off with foreign corporations taking control of the “legitimate” market, or would they still be screwed over?  Is it healthy for the Mexican environment to become more dependent on single-crop agriculture?  And, is it in Mexico’s interest to continue depending on exporting luxury (or, rather, inessential to national industry) commodities to the United States, rather than developing agricultural markets within Latin America for essentials — corn, wheat, chiles, etc.?

The narcotics trade is affecting other parts of the Mexican economy (and, as the New York Times points out, not a lot of the profits are actually returning to Mexico, but instead are being sucked out of the country after a quick rinse here) which simplistic solutions like “legalize marijuana” don’t begin to address.

I sense that Mexico would be much better off, in terms of national security, economics and personal safety, NOT so much if it waits for the United States to change its drug laws, but if it the present administration were to stop trying to be “saved” by the people who have created the market, and at the same time are trying to “save” us from the marketeers and just did what is in the national interest.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. 28 December 2009 4:25 pm

    Legalize it all and teach your children well. Make Chemistry and Biology every-year subjects for school grades 1-12 to prepare them for future employment, Otherwise drug abuse will be the least of their problems.

  2. 28 December 2009 9:44 pm

    And that would be good for Mexico, and the Mexican economy how?

  3. Maggie Drake permalink
    29 December 2009 4:05 pm

    Well Richard I left a comment on the Wall Street Journal article, you probably won’t like it.

    But you know we were talking about this, and here is Wall Street, the place where the big bankers basically brought down and caused the world economic crises which as you know, is a reverberating across Mexico.

    So could it be that these people at the Wall Street Journal, who are and always have been opportunists, see a big opportunity to make mucho dinero off the dope in the United States if the prohibition was ended? I don’t trust them.

    Well, you can call that paranoid, but the fact is is that not once in the article or in the commentary was any reference made to how to compensate, or help the Mexicans set up jobs for their people who would be completely disenfranchised by a move like this. (Not to mention the fact theses people are heavily armed)

    So like is Wall Street really concerned about the Mexican society or are they really concerned about their pocketbooks?

    Here is the Victor Clark Alfaro link in case you didn’t receive it through the email on the “other” issue:


  4. Maggie Drake permalink
    29 December 2009 4:35 pm

    Ok here is a link from six years ago, and since then the problem has increased. BTW, I noticed on google you can actually contact Victor Clark Alfaro. you might want to try that, heh that would be cool for you to interview him.

    And Richard, this is just Tijuana, not Rosarito, Ensenada, Tecate, Mexicali or even Baja Sur. A problem which has gone completely unaddressed, and everyone knows it.

    “The Ice Economy: Methamphetamine Addiction Soars in Tijuana”


  5. 31 December 2009 10:00 am

    In reply to, richmx2 ‘And that would be good for Mexico, and the Mexican economy how?”

    Full drug legalization ( legalize the Table of Elements and all combinations thereof) would remove the profits that are used to kill people and well as remove food from the tables of many Mexicans. The solution to Mexico’s economic problems is not simple, however, better education would help. Educated Indians flood the IT sector in the U.S. Some of those jobs would go to Mexicans if they were better educated, particularly in the English language.

    As far helping the Mexican jobless now, what effective remedies has the U.S. used to reduce its own joblessness?

    Nobody mentions the rampant glue and paint thinner sniffing in Mexico, which really destroys brain tissue. Perhaps there would be less use of glue and paint thinner if other drugs were more available and cheap. I’d bet that there has been a drop in sales of Resistol (sniffing glue, 45pesos per can) in Tijuana and Playas de Rosarito as the use of other drugs (sold as low as 50 pesos a bag) increased.


  1. Malcolm in the muddle « The Mex Files

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