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No Easy Answers to Mexico’s Drug Wars


Photo: Fickr

By RICARDO CASTILLO

The Mexican presidential hopefuls are haggling over everything – from the price of corn tortillas to fuels. But there is still one issue that remains that is crucial for them to make a definition on, and that’s the recent Internal Security Law (LSI), approved by Congress but sent by President Enrique Peña Nieto to the Supreme Court for revision of at least 14 articles that the United Nations deemed as potential human rights violations.

At least two of the so-called pre-candidates now stomping all over the nation, however, have made a definite pronouncement as to their position on the Internal Security Law.

On the one hand, the pre-candidate of the National Regeneration Movement (Morena), the Labor Party (PT) and Social Encounter Party (Pes), Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), has promised to solve drug trafficking to the United States and gunrunning from the United States by negotiating directly with cartel leaders. AMLO foresees that in so doing, by midterm (if elected) he would have significantly toned down the lethal violence that the volatile drugs-for-guns cocktail has brought into the nation. He would call for some fashion of amnesty (undefined in the new LSI), promote legalization (at least of marijuana) and encourage the cartel bosses to invest their immense fortunes in legal business. Many of those bosses are now in jail.

“That’s inconceivable,” retorted Institutional Revolutionary Party candidacy hopeful José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, warning that freeing all culprits from jail would only bring more violence to the nation, He also contended that “the citizenry wants us to use combat against weapons, take the money away from the criminal organizations, they want the criminals not to be on the streets and for citizens to enjoy security.”

In response, AMLO said that this is exactly what has been the policy of the last two administrations (Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto), and it has not helped at all to diminish either the trafficking of drugs nor weaponry. Infact, he said, to the contrary, it has led to the impoverishment of more Mexicans and the nation has seen the murder at gunpoint of more than 200,000 Mexicans involved in drug trafficking. Not only that, he added, but all Mexico’s penitentiaries are filled to the brim and there is systemic corruption of the country’s public officials, police chiefs and military.

That policy, added AMLO, has only served to increase the number of criminal organizations.

A third candidate in Mexico’s presidential running is that of the coalition of the National Action Party (PAN), Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) and Citizens’ Movement political parties, Ricardo Anaya, who has been cautions to not outline what policy he would follow. Most likely Anaya is now pondering what path to take. But very soon, Anaya will have to draw a line as his neither-here-nor-there-nor-the-contrary status does not respond to the people’s demand for options to the violent activity of criminal organizations.

The real problem at hand is the failure of the Calderón and Peña Nieto administrations to implement a reasonable policy. Both have decided to pull the Armed Forces under the National Defense Secretariat from the barracks and onto the streets. But in reality, the Mexican people do not feel comfy seeing soldiers wielding loaded weapons and patrolling public roads.

But the objective of the LSI is precisely to give the National Defense Secretariat (which is a military and not a police organization) all the legal rights to operate as police under restricted circumstances and under the supervision of state and municipal officials.

Yet, soldiers are soldiers and not cops, and they are trained for storm-trooping, not dealing with civilians. And this is where the United Nations sees the LSI as a potential threat to human rights because under the new version passed by both houses of Congress and signed by Peña Nieto, but again, being revised by the Supreme Court, soldiers would become police.

Meade wants to continue with this policy, while AMLO wants to keep the soldiers where they belong, in their barracks and not on the streets acting as police officers.

The reality nowadays is that there is no easy answer to this quagmire. Obviously, pre-candidates are debating as to what to do to bring about an end to the insane drug wars going on in many parts Mexico and that fill up police blotters on a daily basis.

More of the same? Amnesty for criminals? Legalize at least marijuana to begin with? Pacify Mexico when it isn’t at war except with itself?

Like the old Supremes rock ballad says: “Love don’t come easy.”

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Categories: Mexican politics, Mexico, OpinionTags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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