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Separate pieces of a separate peace

9 April 2012

A historic meeting of Latin America’s leaders, to be attended by Barack Obama, will hear serving heads of state admit that the war on drugs has been a failure and that alternatives to prohibition must now be found.

The Summit of the Americas, to be held in Cartagena, Colombia is being seen by foreign policy experts as a watershed moment in the redrafting of global drugs policy in favour of a more nuanced and liberalised approach.

The Guardian (via Raw Story)

While I have argued, repeatedly, that there is no “war” in Mexico, we certainly are deploying the weapons of a war, and have the body count to show for it.  Although the United States supposedly ended the “war on drugs” Officially, the death toll is somewhere upwards of 50,000 (when the government last released figures) … not counting “disappearances” … and the economic and social costs have yet to be reckoned.

In 2009, the Obama Administration said it was no longer going to talk about a “war on drugs”, although it’s obviously still on their collective lips,  more so than ever.  What was meant to be a three year project designed on the U.S. side to transfer government funds to Bush supporters and on the Mexican side to boost the credibility of the Calderón Administration’s claims to be fighting organized crime, the Merida Initiative has been endlessly expanded, without ever quite managing to even start doing what it  is supposed to accomplish.

That is, the funding intended to assist in reorganizing the Mexican justice system, and make criminal prosecutions possible has never come through.  Monies are available, for those things — weapons and “security technology” purchased in the United States and for paying the U.S. spies working in Mexico.  Improving the justice system, making it efficient (or even reasonably certain to impart justice) takes a back seat to throwing armed (and hooded) police with new U.S. trucks and guns at a problem not of Mexico’s making.

With elections this July and a new government taking office in December, it’s clear that no matter which party wins, the incoming Mexican administration will have to redefine its role in this “war”.  The U.S. government seems resigned to this change, and — while continuing to pressure Mexico — is seeking to expand the theater of operations.  Bloggings by Boz, which follows (and supports) U.S. military activity in Latin America wrote recently on statements made to the U.S. House Armed Services Committee by General Douglas L. Frazier, Commander of the United States Southern Command.  Frazier’s “posture statement” includes remarks like:

In many parts of our hemisphere—but most acutely in Central America—transnational organized crime has evolved into a volatile and potentially destabilizing threat to both citizen and regional security.

And [in what Boz considers] probably the most important sentence in the entire 30 pages:

Our goal is to support partner nation and U.S. government efforts to improve citizen safety by reducing the threat of transnational organized crime from a national and regional security threat to a public safety problem.

Or, to strip out the “mil-speak”… having tried unsuccessfully to use force to stop a trade financed by U.S. consumers, and in the process having financed the growth of organized crime… the U.S. now wants to expand it’s military “solution” throughout the region.

It appears the General may face an uphill battle.  Colombia (where U.S. military and mercenary contract employees have been embroiled in the model “drug war assistance” for much longer than anywhere else), which comparatively has suffered the most from drug war “assistance” wants out.  El Salvador is looking at just negotiating a truce with its gangsters (and why not?  The narcotics are not much for internal sales, but mostly for export, and Salvadorians have better things to do than kill each other over this one export) and — most surprisingly of all — old fashioned military politico Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina is openly calling for states to rethink “the prohibition paradigm that inspires mainstream global drug policy today.”  That Perez Molina’s government is simultaneously angling for more U.S. financial and military aid suggests that Guatemala is merely using the U.S. obsession with fighting by proxy this “drug war” that the Obama Administration says is not a drug war to bolster his own regime (as many suspect Calderón was doing when he entered into the Merida Initiative agreement with the Bush Administration).

Whatever his motive was, just by raising the issue, Perez Molina has guaranteed that the drug war, the rationale for it, and the future of it, will be a top priority at the Caracas Summit.  There are alternatives, and to continue with the same program, on an expanded front, is simply not sustainable, and certainly not in the best interests of the affected nations.

One Comment leave one →
  1. 9 April 2012 3:40 am

    Excellent analysis, as always.

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