An American’s perspective on the War on Drugs in Mexico: a travel memoir

Mexico City

[dropcap]I[/dropcap] breathed in the brisk the cool mountain air as we drove down the jam packed roadways of bustling Mexico City.  I was indulging in the pace of this thriving metropolis when I came face to face with my first machine gun.  A large and open flat bedded truck made Mexico’s military presence known as riders of this armed vehicle pointed their weapons intimidatingly at other cars as they passed.  When I got to my friend Mariana’s apartment, we went up to her building’s rooftop which overlooked the skyline of Mexico City.  It was filled with various skyscrapers.  Some appeared to be brand spanking new, and reflected the bright February sunshine off their shimmering panel windows.  Others looked old and decrepit, covered in graffiti, as if they’d been neglected and not properly maintained.

Mariana’s mother told me about how dangerous it was to have marijuana in Mexico City. It was not so much the police she was afraid of; it was the gangs she feared most. She went on to describe, in depth, the seriousness of the problem generated by the illegal drug industry and indiscriminate cartel warfare.  It was not so much an issue of people dying from the use of drugs themselves, especially in the case of marijuana. It was the cold hard fact that people were being brutally murdered for the purposes of illegal trafficking and control of the market.  Innocent people, men, women, and children, were caught in the crossfire every day.

“It’s not that we shouldn’t be allowed to do drugs,” she explained, “people are going to do drugs no matter what.  However, we should be aware of the violence that our demand is inciting. It is crucial that we take responsibility for our recreational desires by calling for legalization and regulation. Only then will there be peace.”

The whole conversation reminded me of American probation era. During the 1920’s, alcohol became illegal in the United States.  As a result, the illegal trafficking of liquor generated violent crime and gang warfare.  Thousands of people were killed.  Perhaps the most famous of warlords was the notorious Al Capone, who terrorized the streets of Chicago in an attempt to dominate the black market by savagely violent force.  It wasn’t until the Great Depression that alcohol prohibition was finally reversed, partly as a means for generating additional market revenue in a struggling economy.

According to the Wall Street Journal’s “Have We Lost the War on Drugs?” (Jan. 4, 2013), since 2006, more than fifty thousand people have been killed due to drug related violence in the country of Mexico alone. To put this perplexing statistic into better perspective, that is more than three times the amount of American casualties from the Vietnam War.

The War on Drugs has created turmoil in Central America, a genocidal tragedy where thousands of individuals from the lowest rungs of society are swept away into the horrors of black market warfare.  All this must occur so that the privileged can unwind from the stress of prosperity by consuming mind altering substances without need to consider the people who suffer.

There is a price to pay when the government steps in to prosecute the proprietors of this multi-billion dollar, and violently competitive industry.  The market is strengthened by criminal sanctions, because the value of this product is directly proportional to the risk involved.  So long as they are addictive, the demand for drugs isn’t going to magically disappear. Why not consider an alternative, and legal market where profits are made based on sensible trade and regulation?  This would in effect remove violent criminals from controlling an industry that, in a legal setting, has the potential to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

The illicitness of the drug trade only generates greater profits for bellicose tyrants, along with duress for control, in an industry driven by the more elite populace who are so far separated from the horrors of the drug war that they fail to recognize the contention they’re inciting.  It is the privileged consumers who are in a position of power.  Many of the criminals involved with the Central American drug war are merely guilty of trying to survive.  It is the responsibility of society, especially those who have access to choice and political clout, to demand drug regulation and legalization from our lawmakers.

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