Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Size of the Problem

I can't understand "the war on drugs". Seems to me Prohibition was a test case that proved that such "wars" only established big strong drug gangs. So why has the US been in a 30 year losing "war on drugs"?

Here is a bit from a posting by Tomas Kellner and Francesco Pipitone on the blog:
As the Mexican cartels expanded their control over the drug supply chain, revenues exploded. There are no precise historical figures describing the size of the business. But, by any account, there was an enormous amount of money to be made. In 2002, former U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft described the size of the U.S. drug market, reporting that Americans spent $62.9 billion on drugs in 2000. More than half ($36.1 billion), was spent on cocaine -- of which an estimated 90 percent transits through Mexico. In 2009, the U.S. National Drug Intelligence Center estimated that Mexican and Colombian drug trafficking organizations generated somewhere in the range of $17 billion to $38 billion annually in gross wholesale proceeds from drug sales in the United States. By comparison, Google’s worldwide revenue in 2009 was $23.6 billion.
I don't understand the fascination with drugs. But I don't understand the US government's role. To an outsider it appears that the US has a vested interest in making the problem bigger not smaller. I don't see any positive progress and I certainly don't see any honest assessment of how badly things have gone nor do I see any admission that a new direction needs to be taken. Bizarre.

And the incompetence and corruption of Mexican authorities is incredible:
Outside of Aguascalientes, ordinary Mexicans have tried peaceful tactics as a way of standing up to violence. In May 2009, an armed group kidnapped a 17-year-old Mormon youth, Erick Le BarĂ³n, in the town of Galeana in the state of Chihuahua, and demanded a $1 million ransom. It was the eleventh kidnapping the Mormons had endured in just eight months. (The community, which numbers some 1,000 members, was perceived as relatively well off, which made it a target.) They decided to push back. Led by Erick’s outspoken older brother, Benjamin, they marched to Galeana’s central square and demanded that the state authorities find and free Erick. The Mormons were joined in their public protest by local Mennonites, another religious group that has suffered from extortion and violence. Together, several thousand people spent the night protesting on the square. They publicly declared that they would not pay the ransom. Erick was released several days later, without any money being paid. But such examples of public bravery are rare and their outcome far from certain. Two months later, Benjamin was taken from the home he shared with his wife and five children, along with his brother-in-law. They were both shot and killed.
As I read this sordid story about drugs and Mexico, I can't help thinking of the growth of piracy off the coast of Somalia. The US and other major nations have not responded. Instead, they allow a culture of piracy and violence to fester and deepen. Why?

One wonders how deep the culture of corruption is inside the police and judicial authorities in the US are to allow this situation to develop:
Despite the proximity to the United States, the Obama administration has been providing only modest support to its southern neighbor. Mexico will largely have to make do with $1.4 billion in funds over three years appropriated under the so-called Merida Initiative, a program launched by President George W. Bush aimed at buttressing border, maritime, and air control from the U.S. southern border to Panama. But some officials are concerned that this will not be nearly enough.

In October 2009, former drug czar McCaffrey told Congress that Merida, was “a drop in the bucket.” “The stakes in Mexico are enormous,” McCaffrey said. “We cannot afford to have a narco-state as our neighbor... It is not inconceivable that the violent, warring collection of criminal drug cartels could overwhelm the institutions of the state and establish de facto control over broad regions of Mexico... [The Mexican government] is not confronting dangerous criminality -- it is fighting for survival against narco-terrorism.” Indeed, most of the Merida funds earmarked for Mexico have yet to find their way there. Instead, they have ended up funding American defense and security contractors -- who have refused to disclose how they are being used in the drug interdiction program.

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