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Mexico - Drugs - guerra contra las drogas

In the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, drugs such as marijuana, opiates, and cocaine were commonly used in Mexico, predominantly for medical reasons. Opium derivatives such as morphine and heroin, and pharmaceuticals such as cocaine, coca wines, and marijuana cigarettes, were prescribed by doctors and easily obtained in pharmacies, popular markets, and even hardware stores.

The cultivation of opium in Mexico began during the latter part of the 19th century, primarily in northwestern states like Sinaloa, Sonora, Chihuahua, and Durango. With increased consumption within the Mexican population, authorities put in place regulations to ensure improved production quality in an attempt to protect the consumers. However, the Mexican government at that time did not deem it necessary to prohibit the production and use of these drugs.

The implementation of drug prohibition in the USA in the 1920s created ideal conditions for drug trafficking, with legal commerce on one side of the USA-Mexico border and prohibition on the other.

In the early twentieth century, the concept of “degeneration” helped to turn “drugs” into a problem of national importance in Mexico. By invoking this concept, Mexico's sanitary authorities secured provisions in the Constitution of 1917 which specifically authorized a newly constituted Department of Public Sanitation to lead a nation-wide campaign against drug abuse. That Department then inaugurated Mexico's modern war on drugs when, in 1920, it declared a law governing the import and distribution of the opiates, cocaine, and marijuana nationwide.

In 1947, the Mexican government created the Federal Security Agency, a police force with power to intervene in drug-related issues. The initial investigations of the agency revealed that several politicians within the border regions were directly involved in, and in some cases even in control of, the illegal trafficking businesses. In most border cities, the individuals involved in the drug trade were merchants, including people from all social classes. Later, these individuals and their future generations succeeded in establishing a drug-trafficking dynasty that allowed their illicit businesses to grow and spread nationwide.

The US “war on drugs” policy attempted to tackle the trafficking problems within Mexico. Mexican cartels including the “Sinaloa” and the “Tijuana” cartels were prosecuted. Despite these apparent successes, drug-related violence increased, largely as a result of the new strategies used by traffickers following the dissolution of the Colombian cartels.

The impact of illicit drug markets on the occurrence of violence varies tremendously depending on many factors. Over the last years, Mexico and the USA have increased security border issues that included many aspects of drug-related trade and criminal activities. Mexico experienced only a small reduction in trauma deaths after the enforcement of severe crime reinforcement policies. This strategy in the war on drugs is shifting the drug market to other Central American countries. This phenomenon is called the ballooning effect, whereby the pressure to control illicit drug-related activities in one particular area forces a shift to other more vulnerable areas that leads to an increase in crime and violence.

On November 14, 2018 President-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador presented the National Plan for Peace and Security 2018-2024 [Plan Nacional de Paz y Seguridad 2018-2024].

The prohibition of certain narcotics by the public power is already, from any point of view, unsustainable. To begin with, the power of the State to determine which substances can be consumed by citizens and which are not lacks moral justification and undermines the rights of people to the free development of the personality and its self-determination without interference by authorities. On the other hand, the current prohibitions are so discretionary and arbitrary that, apply to cocaine marijuana, heroin, methamphetamines and lysergic acid, but do not affect the production and marketing of alcohol, tobacco, beverages containing taurine and caffeine and the regulated consumption or not of certain antidepressants and sleeping pills.

In addition, such a ban is ineffective from the point of view of public health: as the prohibition of alcoholic beverages in the United States between 1920 and 1933 did not have an appreciable incidence in the phenomenon of alcoholism, in the most of the countries the various prohibition strategies for narcotics have not translated into a reduction in consumption. Worse, the prohibitionist model inevitably criminalizes consumers, as it pushes them to social marginality, it leaves them at the mercy of the sellers, encourages them to join drug trafficking as active subjects and condemns the use of substances lacking any control of production and quality. In addition, in the paradigm of prohibition addicted people see enormously their chances of reintegration and rehabilitation, because illegal drugs business needs them to maintain and broaden its market.

From a strictly economic perspective, the main business of the drug trafficking does not reside in trafficking in drugs but in circumventing the prohibition corresponding, as it represents various opportunities to add value to their products, well above the actual costs of cultivation / production, transport and marketing: the crossing of borders and checkpoints, bribes to policemen, officials and politicians, the formation of armed bodies and of intelligence structures, communications and money laundering, among others, explain the huge differential between the costs of producing prohibited drugs and their price in the final markets; and explain, too, the huge margins of utility and profitability that characterize drug trafficking.

In contrast, the "war on drugs" has escalated the public health problem which undoubtedly represent prohibited substances until it becomes a matter of public security, in the unstoppable strengthening of criminal groups dedicated to the production and transfer of narcotics, in a violence already intolerable and into a problem of national security, to the extent that the financial presence, firepower, operational capacity and the internationalization of the cartels has increased steadily. The inevitable alternative is for the State to renounce the pretense of combating addictions through the pursuit of the substances that generate them and dedicatein a first instance to keep under control those who already suffer through a clinical follow-up and the supply of doses with prescription for, in a second step, offer personalized detoxification treatments.

Certainly, to the extent that drug trafficking is a transnational business in the that Mexico plays the role of both producer of marijuana, poppy and methamphetamine as transit territory of South American cocaine and, secondarily, from market to various drugs, the idea of lifting the ban on those that are currently illicit has unavoidable international implications. From the outset, Mexico borders the United States to the north, which is the largest consumer of drugs in the world, with 27 million consumers and tens of thousands of deaths per year due to poisoning and overdose.

In the United States, the social costs of addictions, including alcohol, are estimated at more than 400 billion dollars, but federal spending on preventionand treatment (Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant) is only $1.6 billion and only 10 percent of addicts are subject to some kind of treatment. In contrast, the government of Washington annually allocates 4.1 Billion dollars in aid (mainly military) to Afghanistan and $3.1 billion to Israel.

The need to change the approach is obvious: the only real possibility to reduce levels of drug use reside in reorienting in a way negotiated and bilateral resources currently destined to combat their transfer and apply them in programs - massive, but personalized - of reintegration and detoxification.

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Page last modified: 27-02-2019 19:09:30 ZULU