The annual ritual of US "certification" of other countries in the drug war has always drawn fire from the Latin American press.
But this year, both in the days leading up to the March 1 certification deadline, and in the analysis offered after, Mexican commentaries have begun to say aloud what had only been whispered before: the solution is to legalize drugs.
During February's closing of the annual certification show, a Mexican presidential candidate - Porfirio Muñoz Ledo of the PARM, or Authentic Revolutionary Party of Mexico - and a candidate for governor of Mexico City - Tere Vale, of the Social Democracy Party - called for open debate of legalization, and for mobilizing a Pan-American alliance in the cause.
After the "certification" of Mexico (an annual fait accompli that has little to do with drug policy for reasons explained in the Narco News opening statement) various journalists, columnists and policy experts addressed the theme.
One national weekly magazine that has consistently allowed this viewpoint is La Crisis, directed by veteran journalist and El Universal columnist Carlos Ramírez.
In this article, Rodrigo Rodríguez interviews two experts in US-Mexican relations, Luis González Souza -- who is now being persecuted by the new rector at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM, in its Spanish acronym) where he works -- and Jorge Chabat:
Translated excerpts from
La Crisis, Mexico City, March 4th-10th, 2000
"Anti-Drug Combat, the US Excuse to Convert Mexico into a Colony"
"It's the perfect soup to feed Washington's historic appetite for national territory"
By Rodrigo Rodríguez
"To González Souza, investigator for the National University and national coordinator of the organization Citizen Political Cause, it is clear that the recent declarations of Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow, who was initially considered to have "good vibes, a joker and receptive," shows that really he is only one more of the diplomats what is here to do his job: "Apply pressure in the anti-drug fight."
"Admitting that Davidow doesn't act in the tradition of the traditional pressures based on Mexico's motive to gain certification, that was approved without problems, but rather to synchronize the changes of government in both countries with the goal of turning the screw one time more so that our country ends up being a US colony.
" .González Souza concludes that we must unite forces with other nations like Bolivia, Peru and Colombia and create a species of Contadora Group for the antidrug fight, that would head a genuine, non-military, fight that deals with the roots of the problem.
"He considers that the legalization of the consumption of drugs is an important variable. Without delay, it is evident that the United States has no intention to end the business in which its governing teams are also involved . Jorge Chabat agrees with González Souza that the US is the first to refuse the legalization of the consumption of drugs, although in a few years it may be seen as the only solution before the growing deterioration of the government structures in both countries at the hands of the drug barons."
Meanwhile, the other expert interviewed in La Crisis, further elaborated his evolution on this issue in the monthly Letras Libres....
The Mexican monthly Letras Libres of March 2000 dedicated its cover and texts to the theme of "The Power of Drugs." This issue includes long essays by David Huerta, Hugo Vargas, an interview with Michael Massing - who says he is in Mexico researching the drug war - and a significant new essay by Jorge Chabat.
Chabat, considered by some to be Mexico's leading expert on drug trafficking, had, for years, resisted the idea of legalization. At the December 1998 border conference of Periodistas de Investigación (the Mexico City based arm of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.) Chabat declined to support legalization. But in his own words in Letras Libres, for the first time, he appears to not only consider legalizing drugs anew, but also calls the policy change inevitable. Chabat warns that drug prohibition is destroying the very fabric of the nation-state, and thus, of society itself.
The Impossible War
By Jorge Chabat
"Finally, a third option is to legalize the production, traffic and consumption of drugs. This is an option that has not been supported in the United States basically because it does not resolve the problem of consumption that affects that country. But it is a fact that in some years, given the growing deterioration of Mexico and other Latin American states, the White House will consider seriously this possibility. We only hope that when this occurs, if it happens, the states of the region will still exist ."
The following is a translation from the March 2000 issue of Nexos magazine, a leading national monthly with a strong base in Mexican intellectual circles:
"Legalize or Not?"
"Nexos magazine invited various personalities from the worlds of culture, art, politics, sports and academia and asked the following question: "Should drugs be legalized or not and why?" Nexos also invited the candidates for president of Mexico from the PAN, the PRD and the PRI parties. Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas declined to respond. The interviews were conducted by Yeri Correa."
"We must be opposed to the consumption of drugs in Mexico. We must change the law so that we are clearly against the consumption of drugs. In Mexico, the consumption of drugs is legalized, in that it is not prohibited; specifically, there is no punishment for those who have small quantities or those who consume the drugs . There must be an initiative to punish the consumer."
"No. My personal position, always, is that the consumption of drugs is an evil that we must attack, because it robs the health and freedom of the youth and degrades the values of society . Upon becoming president of the Republic I promise to impose a culture of strict respect for the law and absolute refusal of drug consumption . I am not afraid to take drastic and severe measures over this or any other problem . I believe that there is no means of fighting against this grave social cancer that can be taken unilaterally, by only one government or country. It is a cancer that affects many countries and they must work together. "
"To say yes or no would be a simple response to a complex problem that has many factors: poverty, the consumer market, the complicity and corruption, that permit the drug traffic to flow; misery provokes a situation in which farmers find the cultivation of drugs to be the last resort, because it guarantees conditions of life that are less difficult.
"The legalization of the consumption of drugs is a theme of global importance that cannot be decided by one country alone. It's evident that we must combat what this crime has generated, which is the consumer market. The fundamental point is that without consumers this market wouldn't exist, with its environment of impunity and complicity that it has been permitted to grow.
"In the specific case of Mexico it is evident that if we adopted a policy that doesn't coincide with the rest of the planet, it would be absurd . Drug traffic is a crime that crosses the entire planet and, evidently, the decision would have to be global."
"Drugs should not be legalized. I don't have medical reasons to support my opinion. It's simply a question of common sense; every alteration of consciousness is a mistake. All artificial moderation of the state of consciousness is damaging, with ethical and moral consequences, because these values vary with the use of drugs and have grave consequences.
"I cannot make political opinions about this problem, but I believe that to consume drugs is not an individual decision and the State has an obligation to monitor and prohibit it. Maybe for therapeutic use, in terminal illness, the drugs would work, but I'm not certain of their analgesic properties."
NOTE: The same Salvador Elizondo gave an interview this month with the magazine Letras Libres in which he answered the question: "Do you agree with the legalization of drugs?" His answer came out a little bit differently:
"No, because that would put them at the disposition of everyone. Although it is not known what is worse because, for example, in the United States, when they prohibited alcohol there was a lot of illegality and crime. I cannot answer this question in a definitive manner, considering that I don't know how to answer it. To control drug trafficking it might possibly be worth it to legalize. Nevertheless I believe that there always will be traffic even if it is legalized because there will be those who make it available less expensively."
"In the face of a problem with such devastating impact, it would be impossible to think in simple answers. I believe that the current anti-drug policies are a clear failure, and that the exporting countries have paid, exclusively, for the consequences of the so-called "war on drugs." I suppose, like many people, that the legalization of consumption of drugs would rid us of the criminal element (but only legalization on a global level, which I see as highly improbable). It seems to me that whatever decision to legalize would have to happen together with a profound educational campaign, led first and foremost to the youth. As we've never succeeded in this kind of campaign in favor of responsible consumption of alcohol or tobacco, for example, I don't know if legalization would necessarily bring an increase in accidental deaths, as with the great number of youths who die each year from drunk driving. I suppose, but I'm not at all certain of this, that this policy change would make for less problems with hit-men, guerillas, police, soldiers and innocent civilians who die each year in Colombia in the fight to deter, dominate or interrupt the avalanche of dollars that illegal drug traffic produces."
"It would be a good idea, as a measure, to legalize them; it would eliminate the most terrible problems of the world. We've already seen that the judicial system can't control drug trafficking. Up until now it has not worked at all, we are at the same point or worse. The most grave punishments have not worked and today there are more consumers and dealers.
"Prohibition has proven to be an incentive for drugs. That which is prohibited draws more attention. The youth, in place of being involved in better things, makes its living from selling and distributing drugs and believes the world is a terrible destructive place. We have as en example the executions in Tijuana.
"Currently, the situation is similar to the prohibition of alcohol with Al Capone. Maybe to tolerate the consumption would permit us to go, step by step, toward combating the distribution and consumption and free the youths of this evil. Maybe the decriminalization of consumption of drugs would widen the market and the drug traffickers would then pay taxes."
"I believe that the consumption of drugs should be legalized with restrictions similar to those regarding alcohol. I also believe that they will not be legalized anytime soon. It's a matter of bad publicity in the places where the consumption is high. In the United States there is still not one politician who puts on his electoral agenda the legalization of drugs. All of them traffic in fight against the use and dealing of drugs. I have heard an interesting argument against legalization: the United States is a population that already consumes an enormous quantity of drugs. If the use of drugs is legalized, virtually the entire population would become drug addicts, and this could become a major public health problem. Legalization, to be effective, must be on a global scale. Until the United States advances in this matter, legalization will be impossible. Drugs, like alcohol, can be hell. But they also can be a paradise. It's really a matter of the freedom of man. I place my bet for liberty in all cases, with all its risks."
"As I understand it, as addiction is above all a health problem and a question of customs, the consumption of drugs should be decriminalized and at the same time regulated, even considering the great danger of certain drugs to health and also their impact in the most vulnerable sectors (youths, children). But, at the same time, it would have to be a matter of international agreements such as with environmental problems . The problem has not even begun to be debated seriously."
"Drugs should be legalized, because while there is prohibition the trafficking of drugs will always exist. It produces violence, assassinations, and imprisonment. To decriminalize drugs would also permit us to end the exploitation that those who work in the business suffer like mules. Alcohol, taken in industrial quantities, is damaging enough to health but no one has suggested imposing a dry law. I'm not in favor of the consumption of drugs, but I believe it is a question of individual responsibility. If drugs are permitted, the family, the schools, the medical doctors would have to participate. As for the so-called psychotropic drugs, these substances should be permitted with medical supervision. The policy that Holland has would be much better."
"We would have to specify which drugs. I don't hesitate at all about the legalization of marijuana, which, when compared to alcohol or tobacco, produces less damage, including among minors. Legalization of drugs, for society, would be beneficial. To eliminate the prohibition, without a doubt, would lessen a great number of the problems of power and corruption because the prohibition is a great source of enrichment and power that benefits the drug dealers and the politicians.
"Also, the individual is an autonomous being and can consume drugs whenever he does no damage to others."
"Once the battle against drugs is accepted as lost, it seems more logical to accept other solutions. To defeat the prohibition of the consumption of drugs, together with a good education program and promoting of greater conscience about what it means to take drugs, we would open a horizon very different from that which we have today. Right now, drug trafficking has acquired a grand power, as with the phenomena associated with it: violence, death and corruption.
"We could begin gradually: some countries are trying this with marijuana. Consuming drugs is an individual decision, but it can't be seen as a personal matter. It's a theme of international importance that lands at the feet of the individual."
"Yes, because that which is prohibited is wanted. This doesn't mean that we're all going to end up stoned if drugs are tolerated. This is the experience of Holland, where drugs are controlled, where they can be obtained in "coffee shops." Prohibition benefits a very small sector of society; for those in power it is a very successful business.
"It's already proven that to end the prohibition there would be better control over consumption and more maturity to confront this problem on the personal and family level. We should not permit all drugs - the synthetic drugs are risky and damaging. But nevertheless, legalization should be enacted together with a campaign of conscience about what it really means to consume these substances, a campaign with responsibility as its nucleus.
"In soccer it's all exaggerated: you can't consume an Alka Seltzer or aspirin, because they accuse you of seeking to obtain a sporting advantage and alter your talent. The great myths about drugs have led to excessive and absolute control."
"To legalize drugs would be the same as permitting suicide. Drugs are a fast path to death. I can't imagine that this solution would give us any benefit. Drugs damage the mind, dry up the neurons, so that they never heal. What's more, the abundance of means of escape - I don't know what would happen to a drugged society in the arena of decision.
"Drugs derived from the poppy and of synthetic character should be prohibited: morphine, heroin, crack and all those that require chemical processing. But substances like mushrooms and marijuana don't enter this category and don't cause a problem. These drugs could be legalized and sold with a medical prescription to those who need them, like terminal patients and addicts in treatment, but not for general consumption."
Also from the same issue of Nexos:
(Here, the magazine quotes from the platforms of the political parties in Mexico that have presidential candidates. The ruling PRI and the "domesticated opposition," the PAN, have fiercely prohibitionist platforms that sound much like those of the Democratic and Republican platforms in the US. Six other parties, including five-party alliance led by the PRD -- which since 1997 has won, electorally, five state governments and has been in the past decade the fastest growing political party in Mexico -- have more interesting things to say about drug policy):
Alliance for Mexico: candidate Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas (the PRD together with the Labor Party, the Convergence for Democracy, the Social Alliance Party and the Revolutionary Labor Party).
"Only the defeat of the PRI and its allies in the election of 2000 can open the doors to a new majority in Congress that changes the political regime toward transition to democracy, economic recovery and fair distribution of the national wealth, the bettering of life for all, and the fight against organized crime and drug trafficking.
"The Mexican state has failed in its fight against organized crime and what's more is that some politicians and PRI members have allied themselves and constructed networks of institutional complicity with the mafias. Drug trafficking corrupts politics.
"It is necessary to combat organized crime, the corruption and expansion of social violence because these are threats to democracy, social good and public security, and turns Mexico into a Narco-State and a paradise for the robbery of autos, contraband and kidnapping, dismantling the structural conditions of the economy of crime.
"The free circulation of capital and merchandise in the world not only consolidates big business but also immense criminal operations and transnational mafias; that this country has allowed so rapidly its globalization permits higher profits for the criminals, principally the drug traffickers.
"Anti-drug cooperation with the United States should not be a means to our subordination. The best mechanism to avoid unilateral certifications and the violation of national sovereignty is to impose the signing of an International Convention to combat drug trafficking and organized crime, in the style of international cooperative agreements through the United Nations and the Organization of American States among other international organizations."
Social Democracy Party (of presidential candidate Gilberto Rincón Gallardo, longtime social activist and, for three years in the '60s and '70s, a widely celebrated political prisoner in Mexico):
"The Social Democracy Party understands the necessity to distinguish between drug consumption and drug trafficking. The first must be combated through education and a culture of personal responsibility, while the second must imply different strategies that have been utilized up until now.
"It is necessary to differentiate between the problem of the supply and the problem of the demand.
"The combat against drugs begins with a campaign of information - not of scandal - in which in light of its illegal traffic, it is necessary to remove incentives from the black market, possibly requiring the progressive decriminalization of these drugs. With this, we would succeed in regulating and controlling better the consumption and would dismantle the great power of an economic activity that is highly profitable for criminals.
"The combat against the supply of drugs has only served to add to the profits of the black market and has elevated the social cost of the immoderate consumption of drugs.
"The Social Democracy Party considers this global phenomenon as an economic, political and social problem that surpasses all national borders and makes the security of nation-states and the world community more vulnerable. As such, the problem must be confronted and coordinated nationally and internationally. On the international level, it is clear that the issue serves to disguise political pressures by some countries over others, and because of that the Social Democracy party will seek to eliminate these pressures with a more integral approach to this issue.
"The Social Democracy Party will always respect individual liberty and will try to end the force of the black market of colossal dimensions on a world level, that is solely determined by the law of supply and demand and does not respect any other law."
NOTE: Two other parties have not yet formulated their platforms. The Center-Democratic Party, with Manuel Camacho as its candidate, and the Authentic Mexican Revolutionary Party of Porfirio Muñoz Ledo. The latter candidate has recently spoken in favor of decriminalizing drugs.
Now, click here, for Martha Chapa's polemic that, for us at Narco News, sums it all up...