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Opium dream?

9 October 2018

Add to the list of those seeking to legitimize the opium business in Mexico a surprisingly new convert… Secretary of Defense, General Salvador Cienfuegos.  What makes it so surprising is not so much that the General is a walking stereotype of a scary Latin American military hard-ass… and is (unlike in the United States, the defense secretary here is a serving military officer), but that after overseeing and defending the “war against drugs” for the last six years, he’s adding his voice to those making the same call in the name of defending human rights: like Bishop Salvador Rangel Mendoza of Chilpancingo-Chilapa, and incoming Home Secretary and retired Supreme Court Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero.  The General may have unquestionably followed the dictates of outgoing President Peña Nieto, but he has had enough of a fruitless war that cannot be won, that has all but destroyed the reputation and honor of the Army, and not Mexico’s war to fight… certainly not when the casualties are mostly civilian “collateral damage” in the tens of thousands.

That Mexico has been commercially growing opium poppies since at least the 1880s, was ignored by the 1953 New York Opium Protocol, which only permitted six counties (Bulgaria, Greece, India, Iran, Turkey, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Yugoslavia) the “right” to produce opium.  The more important 1963 Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs modified the 1953 agreement, again by-passing Mexico as a legal producer, despite it’s position as the third largest producer world-wide, and largest in the western hemisphere.

Despite the wide variety of pain relievers and pallatives for terminal illnesses produced from opium, unable to sell opium for legitimate use by Mexico producers has led to a lucrative business in heroin. Although the heroin trade goes back over a century (Pancho Villa was advised to sell heroin to US consumers to finance his revolutionary government, but rejected the idea, not only because he wanted to maintain relations with the United States overnment, but because he was personally abstentious, with a moral opposition to recreational drug and alcohol use). During the Second World War, Sinaloan farmers were encouraged by the United States to grow more poppies, not just for the legitimate morphine market, but to supply the small “black market” need for heroin and other addictive drugs… wartime police being better employed tracking down saboteurs and spies than investing resources in jailing junkies.

As it was, addicts in Mexico… for a short time during the Cardenas administration and a bit after… were simply given prescriptions for heroin or morphine. The Mexican position at the time was similar to that of many in the United States who fret over the high rate of heroin overdoses among those whose pain relievers are unavailable, or have become addicted… it is a by-product (and a risk) of opium use… or, today in the United States of opiode use.

That is, with artificial opium replacement available (at a high cost) from pharmaceutical firms, the United States has especially been keen to keep natural opium products off the market. HOWEVER, despite the sense that such pain relievers are over-prescribed in the United States, pain relievers of any sort, let alone at an affordable cost, are in short supply in the global south.

This is where Sánchez Cordero, Rangel Mendoza, and General Cienfuegos see a way to get out of the “drug war”. Sánchez Cordero is already in conference with the United Nations to work out some sort of loophole to that 1962 agreement, while the Bishop has been openly meeting with the growers and the (illegitimate) heroin manufactures to at least stop the violence inherent in any illegal trade, and the General wants to lower the body count (both of his soldiers and the civilians). Surprisingly, even some PAN leaders have come around to the idea, and this afternoon, both the Senate and Chamber MORENA leaders have announced they will be introducing legislation to legalize, or at least decriminalize, opium and opium products for medical purposes (and possibly “recreational use” as well).

How the United States will react… now there’s the rub.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. norm permalink
    11 October 2018 8:16 pm

    It is a bit backward to put any person in jail for vice .

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