Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Whose War Is It?

A very interesting interview with Charles Bowden at Democracy NOW!. Bowden is discussing the war on drugs and why this is a failed policy by the US. We worry about violence spilling over into the US, which of course it can, but Bowden has this to say;

That’s vastly exaggerated. Last year in Ciudad Juarez, there were 1,607 murders. Last year in El Paso, which meets it on the Rio Grande, there were eighteen murders.

I’ll tell you the real danger in this entire thing we’re financing in Mexico at half-a-billion dollars a year, is we’re slaughtering Mexican citizens. They’re the ones dying. Twelve thousand people have died since December 2006 in this initiative.

Regarding the impact of the Mexican Army:

They’ve moved into Ciudad Juarez, a city of a million and a half, and the murder rate’s exploded there. There’s 8,000 to 10,000 federal troops and federal police now in Juarez. In 2007, there were 300 murders, a record for the city. But in 2008, there were 1,600 people slaughtered. This year, there’s been over 1,200 people slaughtered. That’s the achievement of the Mexican army. Every place they go, they’ve terrified people. The soldiers run amok, do whatever they want.

And, of course, anybody that uses drugs in this country knows the shipments still arrive on time.

Regarding the impact of drugs on the Mexican economy;

Our agencies estimate Mexico earns $30 billion to $50 billion a year in foreign currency from selling drugs. Remittances from Mexican workers here is their number two official source of currency, and that’s about $20-$25 billion. But the drug industry is essential. It’s penetrated the whole culture, and it isn’t going away. And nobody is going to destroy it.

I’ll give you another statistic. The consumption of drugs in Mexico has exploded. Last week, a public health official in Juarez, a city of a million and a half, said there’s at least 150,000 addicts in the city. Think of it this way: trying to eradicate the drug industry in Mexico is like trying to eradicate gambling in Las Vegas. It is the economy. And it’s the unspoken part of the economy.

And there’s one final thing that has to be considered. Forty percent of the federal budget in Mexico comes from oil, from PEMEX. The oil fields are collapsing. The Mexican government, by its own statements, thinks they’ll be functionally gone in nine years. That makes drugs yet more important for the survival of the society.

I keep worrying about exploding immigration when the oil industry collapses, but the real problem may be an expansion of the drug economy. Bowden thinks we need to legalize drugs here, and I am not sure I agree. However interdiction doesn't appear to be working and I have to ponder the impact on local gangbangers who make a living off the sale of illegal drugs.

In any case, Mexico is in trouble and whatever happens there we will feel here in some way.

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