New Year's Resolution for the Americas: End the drug war; give peace a chance

Government policies secured by violence have proven only to empower narco-barons

The New Year starts a new count for Juarez, Mexico.

For the just-completed year, the old counted ended at 2,657 — the total number of homicides in 2009, according to the Mexican newspaper El Diario.

That marks a 63 percent increase over the murder tally in 2008, the newspaper reports.

Molly Molloy, a researcher and librarian at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, points out that the 2009 homicide total for Juarez, according to El Diario, includes 163 women and 66 Mexican law enforcers — the latter figure down slightly from the 71 mark recorded in 2008.

Through her frontera-list group e-mail service, Molloy tracks Mexican and U.S. news coverage of the drug war in Juarez and elsewhere along the border. In addition to informing subscribers of the final murder tally for Juarez in 2009, via the El Diario story, Molloy also shared this analysis:

If this number is correct (2,657), then Juarez ends the year with a MURDER RATE of 177 per 100,000 population — by all of the comparison numbers I've found, it is the highest in the world.

That reality demonstrates the futility of the drug war, particularly as practiced by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who has turned to his nation’s military to battle the so-called drug cartels. The problem with that approach is that the military itself is part of the problem, with corrupt elements actively participating in the narco-trade, as Narco News reported in a story in 2008.

In a Dec. 8 frontera-list e-mail push, Molloy also points out an interesting trend revealed in an article in the Mexican publication El Universal:

This article, also in today’s El Universal, provides details on the pattern of abuses by federal forces [the military] working in Operation Conjunta Chihuahua [the build-up of Mexican troops in Juarez to fight the “drug cartels”]. It includes many details from interviews with Gustavo de la Rosa, the Chihuahua human rights attorney who is now living in exile in El Paso because of direct threats he received in September.

Of 170 documented cases [in Juarez since April 2008] of abuse, including kidnapping, torture and murder, that were referred to the military court responsible for investigating and prosecuting the cases, only one has received some indication that it would be investigated.

A partial list of these cases, 39 of them, was finally able to be delivered to high-ranking military officers and this list was also turned over to El Universal this weekend. Of these 39 files, 4 are for torture, 14 for forced disappearance and the rest for homicide. In 8 of the cases, those responsible for the crimes are identified and in another 8 cases, there are indications that point to the intellectual author of the crimes.

And even as the violence escalates in Juarez, the drugs that are supposedly the target of Calderon’s war on the cartels continue to flow in abundance into the United States — where an ongoing recession surely has only escalated demand for a product that serves misery and returns a healthy profit in the bargain.

Narco News’ Kristin Bricker, in a story published in late November, did the research to provide the proof of that law of supply and demand:

The skyrocketing violence in Mexico can’t even be justified by the drug war’s quantitative results.  According to the US government’s International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), drug seizures have decreased since Calderon began his war on drugs, and drug production is on the rise.

And for those who might not fully grasp the process of how a recession feeds the violence and profits of the drug war, a story that appeared in the London Observer earlier this month — and distributed through Molloy’s frontera-list — is worth a read.

Among its revelations: The bulk of the estimated $352 billion in annual drug profits were sucked up by the world banking system in 2008 to help maintain its solvency during the global financial crisis.

Antonio Maria Costa, head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, put it this way, according to the Observer:

"In many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital. In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor. … Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities.... There were signs that some banks were rescued that way."

And so, when facts like these are lined up, we begin to see some patterns in the so-called drug war.

Violence only enhances the bargaining position for the distributors (primarily Mexican narco-trafficking organizations in this case), given that retail demand in the U.S. remains constant and increased delivery risk/cost linked to the violence tends to inflate the distributors’ take and create downward pressure on the wholesale suppliers’ cut (Colombian cocaine producers, for example), further fueling production to maintain wholesale supplier profits. It’s a type of railroad-baron effect playing out in the drug trade.

In addition, the opportunities to legitimize illicit drug profits by laundering the cash through the global financial system are only enhanced during a recession, given the increased demand for liquid capital on Wall Street and elsewhere in the above-ground economy.

That is the drug war our leaders have brought us, and the war they seek to promote through failed policies like the $1.6 billion counter-narcotics effort dubbed the Merida Initiative, which only promises to spur more violence, and hence more profits — for narco-traffickers and a host of private companies that trade in the tools and services of violence.

And so we begin 2010, a new decade in a new century, with an old war that in 2009 inflicted a record number of murders in the border town of Juarez even as the drugs and illicit profits continued to flow through the arteries of commerce that feed Mexico and the United States.

Maybe it’s time to end the war, and give peace a chance?

Happy New Year … and stay tuned….


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