Mexican Drug War, A Desperate Measure

Mexican Drug War, A Desperate Measure
Posted by CN Staff on April 29, 2006 at 21:08:41 PT
By Manuel Roig-Franzia, WP Foreign Service
Source: Washington Post
Mexico City -- Sixteen months after President Vicente Fox declared "the mother of all battles" against drug trafficking, Mexico is increasingly awash in drug violence and is now turning to a new, and controversial, approach: decriminalization.Fox is expected to sign a bill passed by the Mexican legislature last week that decriminalizes possession of small amounts of some of the most popular illegal drugs.
Under the law, penalties would be erased for possessing 500 milligrams of cocaine, 5 grams of marijuana, 5 grams of raw opium and 25 milligrams of heroin, among other drugs. The measure, which has surprised and angered anti-drug groups in the United States, is intended to further shift the focus of Mexico's sputtering drug battle from users to traffickers.In an interview Saturday, Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, the largest U.S. border city, said the timing of the measure could imperil efforts to reform immigration law in the United States: "This really stirs things up," he said. Sanders, a former San Diego Police chief, called the law "appallingly stupid, reckless and incredibly dangerous" and predicted that it would lead to a flood of teenagers trying to sneak into his city from Mexico with illegal drugs.U.S. government reaction was more measured, with State Department spokesman Janelle Hironimus citing cooperation between the two nations in the battle against drugs."Preliminary information from Mexican legislative sources indicates that the intent of the draft legislation is to clarify the meaning of 'small amounts' of drugs for personal use as stated in current Mexican law," Hironimus said.Some advocates of drug law reform in the United States applauded Mexico's decision."Mexico is trying to make the right choices. . . . The Mexican legislation will go a long way toward reducing opportunities for police corruption and harassment in their interactions with ordinary citizens," Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, said in a statement. The group advocates ending the war on drugs.Fox's anti-drug efforts, undertaken with the enthusiastic support of the United States, have led to a series of highly publicized arrests. But the drug cartels have responded brazenly.Almost every week another assault by drug gangs, each more audacious than the last, generates headlines. Grenades have been launched at law-enforcement offices. Four undercover drug agents were shot to death last month in Nuevo Laredo. Two police officers were decapitated 10 days ago in the resort city of Acapulco, not long after they took part in an operation against a drug gang. Their heads were dumped beneath a sign that warned: "So that you learn to respect."The escalating conflict has claimed more than 1,500 lives -- including police, rival drug traffickers and civilians -- in the past year, more than double the number in the previous year, according to Mexican researchers. The death toll has risen despite increased enforcement efforts in Mexico and by U.S. authorities across the border. The police killings, in particular, are believed to be retribution for a crackdown on cartels in Mexico undertaken at the urging of U.S. officials, said Jorge Chabat, an expert in Mexican criminal justice.The violence also coincides with the remarkable growth of Mexican cartels, which have seized a greater share of the drug market as some of Colombia's drug kingpins have been arrested."Mexico is becoming the second Colombia," said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tex.), whose district includes Laredo, across the border from Nuevo Laredo. "This is a serious and a ruthless situation."Mexico's drug cartels have grown bolder as their profits have grown larger, Chabat said. Mexican drug traffickers generate as much as $10 billion a year by funneling South American cocaine into the United States, as well as by producing methamphetamines, heroin and marijuana, he said.Mexico has had some successes in combating cartels. In the past five years, the leaders of the powerful Sinaloa and Gulf cartels have been arrested. But those victories have been muted by the failings of the Mexican justice system, Chabat said. The leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman, escaped from prison in 2001, and the leader of the Gulf cartel, Osiel Cardenas, is suspected of running his criminal organization from the prison cell he has occupied since his arrest in 2003."The Mexican government has been very effective in making arrests, but the rest of the criminal justice system -- the prisons and the judiciary -- is very inefficient and very corrupt," Chabat said.The imprisonment of Cardenas set off a struggle between the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels for " la plaza " -- Mexican slang for drug turf. Each cartel is suspected of co-opting law enforcement officials -- and killing or intimidating those who don't go along -- to achieve their goal of controlling lucrative smuggling routes. But with Cardenas in prison, the Gulf cartel is at a disadvantage."The arrest provoked an imbalance, and now they are trying to reach an equilibrium," Chabat said. "There is clearly a war for control -- it's been a complicated war because after 1 1/2 years there has been no winner."Cuellar applauds Mexico for responding with forceful measures, such as sending troops last year to quell drug violence in Nuevo Laredo. But with the violence persisting, he accuses Mexico of not being receptive enough to recent U.S. offers to help train police and prosecutors."They've started to work with us -- the question is: Can we get them to work with us more?" said Cuellar, who has pushed through legislation to boost border drug enforcement.There have been signs that the two nations are collaborating more closely. Last month, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff flew to Brownsville, Tex., on the Mexican border, to announce a plan to increase cooperation with Mexican drug authorities.Just two weeks later, the four undercover drug agents in Nuevo Laredo were killed. The killings were seen here as a setback for Mexican drug authorities. But they were soon eclipsed by the shock of the beheadings in Acapulco.The heads were discovered April 20 outside a government building not far from the beaches that draw tens of thousands of U.S. tourists each year. The killings, coupled with grenade attacks on police stations in neighboring cities, were graphic reminders that drug-related violence has spread beyond the border and into the port and beach towns where drugs enter the country before being funneled north."We can't believe this is happening," said Mario Nuñez Magaña, spokesman for the Acapulco police. "This used to happen just up at the border. Here, we were only about tourism."The slain officers, whose bodies were found wrapped in plastic miles away from their heads, had participated several months earlier in a shootout that left four suspected drug gang members dead. On Tuesday, less than a week after the gruesome discoveries, the Mexico City newspaper Excelsior posted a video on its Web site that it said showed one of the officers killing a gang member execution-style during that shootout.The newspaper's scoop was a big deal for a few hours. But soon there was more suspected drug violence to talk about: another police officer gunned down in Nuevo Laredo.There was no comment from Nuevo Laredo's police chief because there is no Nuevo Laredo police chief. The interim chief, named after his predecessor was assassinated last year, quit a month ago. No one else wants the job.Note: Limited Legalization Sharpens Focus on Traffickers Rather Than UsersSource: Washington Post (DC)Author: Manuel Roig-Franzia, Washington Post Foreign ServicePublished: Sunday, April 30, 2006; Page A12Copyright: 2006 Washington Post Contact: letterstoed washpost.comWebsite: Related Articles & Web Site:Drug Policy Alliance Mexico To Decriminalize Some Drugs Proposes Decriminalizing Pot & Cocaine
Home Comment Email Register Recent Comments Help

Comment #34 posted by Toker00 on May 01, 2006 at 05:28:56 PT
You have a good point. That "uninformed entourage" could have been the white flag of surrender in the War on Drugs. Maybe they told Mexico to go first, to save face. Watch Mexico, then let Canada go second, then with all this FALSE relenting, the US. They (DEA FDA ONDCP) know very well that "we" have exposed them for all their false glory. Saving the Children? My Ass. Not unless they admit that the Korporations Are The Children! They know morality can't be legislated in the first place. Prohibition 1 was their textbook on this. What was the answer for black market prostitution in Nevada? LEGALIZE IT! What was the answer for black market alcohol in the US? LEGALIZE IT! So, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to solve the problem with black market cannabis. LEGALIZE IT! It would work for all the other drugs, too, but I'm trying to not seem greedy. Think about it. Mexico legalizing MOST drugs might make it easier for the US laws against one drug, cannabis, to be changed. Which, in time, might lead to the realization that the answer to ALL black market drugs, is what, class? LEGALIZE THEM! Stop the Fascism and end the Harm.Wage peace on war. Realize, then Legalize. END CANNABIS PROHIBITION NOW!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #33 posted by mayan on May 01, 2006 at 03:23:37 PT
Strange Days Indeed
The American entourage that wasn't "informed" could have spawned the idea. Don't assume anything. I find it hard to believe that Uncle Sam didn't have any say in this deal. The reality of this news has yet to set in.  
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #32 posted by whig on April 30, 2006 at 18:39:47 PT
I snorted it once, a few years ago, and do you know when my sinus infection started? Yep. That was what did it.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #31 posted by charmed quark on April 30, 2006 at 14:43:34 PT
GW - British Columbia
I found British Columbia to be a wonderful place. It has the West Coast laid-back attitude combined with the Canadian politeness and just overall niceness. Great weather and beautiful scenery, too. If I ever decided to leave the USA, that's where I would go. I particularly liked Vancouver Island.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #30 posted by runderwo on April 30, 2006 at 14:33:32 PT
missing the point
This article needs to replace all occurrences of 'drug violence' with 'prohibition violence'.Also, I disagree with the thesis that legalization on the demand side will reduce violence on a still-criminal supply side. The only way violence would be reduced is if demand is reduced. But demand side legalization can only reduce demand in one circumstance: if the attraction to drugs in the first place was because of their forbidden-fruit status. I think that can be true in isolated groups, but not as an overall trend. Of course, legalizing the demand side is the only moral thing to do in my opinion. But in order for that to work, a regulated, legal supply side must also be put in place.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #29 posted by global_warming on April 30, 2006 at 12:55:32 PT
27 with best regards
that sounds like a nice place,unlike this terror prison here in the USA
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #28 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 12:51:26 PT
charmed quark 
My mother grew opium poppies when I was a child. We lived in a suburban development and it was ok and I remember they were very pretty. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #27 posted by charmed quark on April 30, 2006 at 12:46:19 PT
In the netherlands, possessing small amounts of any drug is essentially legal. And the cannabis trade is "look the other way" legal, seperating this trade from the other drug trades.Since this started, heroin use has fallen so that it is now seen as a depressing drug used by old people. I was visting near Victoria in BC Canada a couple of years ago. Next to the house we were staying in, an elderly lady was growing a whole yard full of opium poppies. I asked if they were ornamental or medicinal, and she said she harvested the pods. She would make a tea of them and drink when her arthritis got really bad. While we were talking the local police officer came by to say hello and remarked that her poppies were doing better than average this year. We sat around drinking coffee and discussing arthritis. What a wonderul place.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #26 posted by global_warming on April 30, 2006 at 11:37:33 PT
so when
will this madness end,victims who made mistakes,must they they further punished,I am not talking about crimes,I am talking about mistakes,serious and deadly mistakes,has our society evolved to be so punitive?It was a big mistake,People like the Ansingers and the like,Created this Prohibition,It is time,to end the massacre,it is timeto restore human decency and kindness,it is time to end this counter productive prohibition,whose price is not only in costly tax payer dollars,but in this punitive and destructive behavior,how much can you punish a person?when his mistake was only to inhale or inject,into 'his own body,how much do you want to punish this fallen soul?
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #25 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 11:11:01 PT
JR I Understand
I am well aware of young soldiers getting addicted to Heroin that were in Vietnam. It hits home big time for me too.We will see current soldiers strung out I think.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #24 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on April 30, 2006 at 11:07:42 PT
Not just shooting
Heroin has gotten more pure lately, which means people no longer have to shoot it, they can snort it to get high. This has brought a whole new market for heroin - many people who wouldn't inject it because that's repugnant to them have no problem sniffing it. My brother-in-law has been in and out of rehab and jail for many years now because of this pure-enough-to-sniff heroin.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #23 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 10:56:57 PT
JR That's True
I can't justify shooting drugs. I lost my brother in law from a heroin overdose. Heroin totally consumed him. He was a Navy Seal in Vietnam and he had such a future. His wife died from a heroin overdose before he did. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #22 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on April 30, 2006 at 10:41:29 PT
Don't forget, Eric Clapton was a heroin addict for many years, as was Ray Charles. Looking it up on Wikipedia reminds me to add Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Keith Richards, and most of Guns N Roses. Unusually pure black-market heroin was responsible for the death of Lenny Bruce. Whoever says "I don't care about a junkie ODing" probably has someone they like on that list... There was an excellent biography of Humphrey Bogart which dealt briefly with his parents heroin addiction. His father was a doctor and would get his supply through his work. He would inject himself and his wife before an evening on the town. Society didn't exactly approve of their behaviour, but they didn't have to worry about having their house and children taken away, nor did they have to buy product of uncertain purity from criminals.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #21 posted by Dr Ganj on April 30, 2006 at 09:58:29 PT
Plants Verses Powders
Charmed Quark is correct on all his points!
Vicente Fox wanted this reform back in 2004, and it has now made its way through their House, and now their Congress. The timing appears suspect, but it probably is not intentional. It is a bold step, and I really feel positive things will come of it. There will be more discussions now, and people will see that their fears of drug-crazed teens staggering back to the US will be unfounded. Remember, more people die from legal drug use than all illegal drugs combined. (see link below) 
As to heroin use, it is a known fact that if an addict is given pure heroin daily, that person can function in society just like anyone else. That is called heroin maintenance. Did Jimmy Page rob any 7-11's to pay for his heroin? No, because he had plenty of money in which to maintain his addiction. The problem here is not the drugs themselves, it's the PRICE of the drugs! One dollar a day for heroin, and the negative problems are erased.
So to say addicts should be jailed, or euthanized, is the wrong approach. We all have the right to live free in this world, and if we have an addiction, there should be the proper avenue in which to go. That avenue is a legal, and regulated supply of drugs, and more rehab centers in which to finally wean addicts off their drugs.
As to the plants, they are all beautiful, and if you look at the indigenous people of Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia, you'll see the consumption of coca leaves is legal, and causes no social harm. We should all take a look at what really happens when you make a plant illegal. It forces the plant to be refined and strengthened, and to be more easily smuggled for monetary gain. Remove that incentive, and we will have things as they used to be. So simple, yet so many people/nations just can't grasp that fundamental concept.
At least Mexico is trying, and I'll wager other countries will follow.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #20 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 09:58:10 PT
Everything is fine as long as they never talk about it or seriously show it on the tv news. I mean pros and cons and no good open and honest debate. If anyone thinks that we have a free press keep looking and soon you will see what we know all too well.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #19 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 30, 2006 at 09:46:55 PT
Though it was kept pretty quite, notice the quiet coming out of Washington about this new law in Mexico. Almost like they're afraid of a public outcry. Nothing except astonishment.It will be interesting to see how the law translates into enforcement. I can imagine police officers leaving people alone even if they have a little more than the specefied amounts.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #18 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 09:35:09 PT
You sure got that right! LOL!
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #17 posted by OverwhelmSam on April 30, 2006 at 09:29:42 PT
True Brass
At least the Mexican government has balls.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #16 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 08:51:25 PT
The Poppy Plant
If they showed the pretty Opium Poppy Plant to try to convince mainstream america that it would help with our drug problem rather then someone shooting up would be a good beginning. Plants aren't scary to people. They always show dumb pictures of people smoking cannabis. If they just showed a pretty plant it would be understood better. They don't show a slobbering drunk ( just pretty people and pretty mixed drinks ) when it comes to alcohol. They don't show a person hugging the toilet. It's wrong the way they do it.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #15 posted by Had Enough on April 30, 2006 at 08:34:03 PT
Clute narcotic evidence missing — again
Clute narcotic evidence missing — againBy Jen SansburyThe FactsPublished April 28, 2006
CLUTE — The Clute Police Department once again is missing cocaine and prescription drugs, which were to be preserved as evidence in seven narcotics cases.In each of the cases, former narcotics officer Joe McElroy had signed a logbook indicating he was removing the drugs from the narcotics evidence locker, Chief Mark Wicker said.“We don’t know if he took it, lost it, misplaced it or what happened to it,” Wicker said. “They never made it to the lab. … We have searched everything we can possibly search.”A current phone number for McElroy could not be foundand……….
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #14 posted by Had Enough on April 30, 2006 at 08:25:44 PT
Drug Dogs Sweep High School Parking Lot
Drug Dogs Sweep High School Parking LotApril 28, 2006The rather sad news is that police drug dogs were used to check out cars in the parking lot of North Star High School in Lincoln.
The encouraging news is that, except for one pipe, the dogs didn’t find anything.
What does it say when school and law enforcement administrators agree that sweeping school parking lots for dope is a good idea?and….No drugs were found in the seven cars that were checkedand.....
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #13 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 08:22:59 PT
charmed quark 
That's a good talking point. The natural plants people can understand but when they are made into a chemical compound it makes it different. You can't shoot up a plant so that would take the sting out of a heated debate.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #12 posted by global_warming on April 30, 2006 at 08:19:08 PT
a little clue
Article published Apr 30, 2006
A lesson for area schools on drug testing's limitsThe Nettle Creek School Board needs to educate itself on the limitations of student drug-testing. Student involvement in after-school activities like sports has been shown to reduce drug use. They keep kids busy during the hours they are most likely to get into trouble. Forcing students to undergo degrading urine tests as a prerequisite will only discourage participation. Drug testing may also compel marijuana users to switch to harder drugs to avoid testing positive.Despite a short-lived high, marijuana is the only illegal drug that stays in the human body long enough to make urinalysis a deterrent. Marijuana's organic metabolites are fat-soluble and can linger for days. More dangerous synthetic drugs like methamphetamine are water-soluble and exit the body quickly. If you think drug users don't know this, think again.Anyone capable of running an Internet search can find out how to thwart a drug test.Drug-testing profiteers do not readily volunteer this information, for obvious reasons. The most commonly abused drug and the one most closely associated with violent behavior is almost impossible to detect with urinalysis. That drug is alcohol, and it takes far more student lives each year than all illegal drugs combined. Instead of wasting money on counterproductive drug tests, schools should invest in reality-based drug education.Robert Sharpe,Washington, DC 
A lesson for area schools on drug testing's limits
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #11 posted by charmed quark on April 30, 2006 at 08:17:55 PT
Talking Point
I firmly believe that, without the drug war, few people would be shooting up heroin. There might be people smoking opium and drinking poppy tea, but the widespread use of heroin is more a drug war thing. People began shooting it up to get the maximum "benefits" from it as the prices went up after it was banned. Before then, they used very pure forms of heroin by snorting it or simple drinking it in tonics.If you look back in history, when it was legal there wasn't much direct widespread use of it. The problem is that narcotics of all sorts were often parts of tonics people took. Because there were no labeling laws, they often became addicted without knowing it. Of course, these addictions caused only minor social problems as there was no drug war.The pure food and drug act was to force labeling.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #10 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 08:13:24 PT
JR Not My Opinion 
I am aware of what you are saying but many people really don't care if a person dies from shooting heroin. They deserve to die. Maybe it is because of living where I do but that's how the majority of people would respond.Here on CNews we are preaching to the choir but out there it's a whole different ball game.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #9 posted by charmed quark on April 30, 2006 at 08:10:07 PT
Fox was in favor then switched
3 or 4 years ago, Fox said he was in favor of decrime. Then he joined up with the drug war to tighten relations with the USA. My guess is that he now sees Bush as a weak lame duck president and so sees no need to further the drug war, which has had the standard negative effects ( more crime and violence) since Mexico started really getting going on it. There is probably a lot of pressure on him from various Mexican states to back off on the drug war to reduce the violence, so he's returning to his original stance. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #8 posted by JR Bob Dobbs on April 30, 2006 at 08:07:44 PT
Talking point
Heroin is bad, but prohibition is not helping. If someone is going to stick a needle in their arm, wouldn't you prefer that it contains the drug they expect it to be and at a known purity level?
Bad batch of heroin in Illinois
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #7 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 08:02:42 PT
charmed quark
I don't know but I know I won't have any talking points with my conservative family over people shooting heroin since it has started to take a hold in the town where most of my family lives.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #6 posted by charmed quark on April 30, 2006 at 07:59:18 PT
Not tied to immediate situation
Fox stated quite a while ago that he was in favor of this legislation. It's taken quite a time to get through the Mexican legislation process. I don't think it has any immediate connection with the latest undocumented worker flap.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #5 posted by FoM on April 30, 2006 at 07:56:46 PT
The more I try to figure this whole thing out the more confused I become. The immigration issue is getting heated up. Why show people shooting up Heroin like they did at least yesterday on the news? Marijuana isn't even mentioned really. Why do they want to make Americans angrier with Mexico right now? What is the political motive by flipping mainstream America out with legalizing hard drug use? It seems so out of the right timing for anything this extreme.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #4 posted by John Tyler on April 30, 2006 at 07:20:09 PT
what is the real reason?
I was wondering if the Mexican thing is in retaliation for some kind of Bush administration failure to deliver on some deal or promise. Fox seemed to have been a strong supporter of the Drug War. This is an abrupt change of policy.  It is a good move in the direction of personal freedom, but not for the right reason. I will take it though. Karma works in mysterious ways. 
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #3 posted by charmed quark on April 30, 2006 at 07:08:54 PT
This won't cool down Mexico's drug war
As long as people aren't allowed to "produce" their own drugs, the violent, criminal drug cartels will still operate. If Mexico allowed people to legally grow small amounts of cannabis, opium poppies and coca, perhaps this would reduce demand on the illegal drug markets. Even better, allow people to grow enough to sell small/medium quantities. That would probably destroy the cartels. Keep it small, though, so the farms don't get taken over by new cartels.Also, if they could get people to switch from the powerful, extracted drugs ( cocaine, heroin) to the natural products, they would probably reduce the amount of addiction and other negative social impacts of cocain and heroin use.But it is a start, I suspose. I'm sure the USA is going to start yelling about how this will somehow impede the drug war. I'll be looking forwared to the nonsensical rationals offered. I guess the DEA, like the White Queen, starts each day by believing six impossible things before breakfast. So at least this might be entertaining.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #2 posted by lombar on April 29, 2006 at 21:53:35 PT
Mr. Fox
Perhaps when the Fox tried to hide in the Bush, the Harper started playing. ;)Perhaps Mr. Fox heard something from Mr. Bush that he did not like. Of all the things a country could do, decriminalising drugs is a major divergence from the drug war and thumbing ones nose at the USA. It could be a ploy to wring a better deal out of Washington in the upcoming FTA meetings.
[ Post Comment ]

Comment #1 posted by whig on April 29, 2006 at 21:31:32 PT
Sanders, a former San Diego Police chief, called the law "appallingly stupid, reckless and incredibly dangerous" and predicted that it would lead to a flood of teenagers trying to sneak into his city from Mexico with illegal drugs.That is stupid. Why would people be sneaking out of Mexico with minuscule amounts of drugs that they could use legally in Mexico?
[ Post Comment ]

Post Comment