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  • Losing the Mexico Drug War: One Protest at a Time

    Galvanized by the brutal slaying of his 24-year old son on March 28, Mexican poet and intellectual Javier Sicilia has become the loudest voice of discontent in the ongoing war against criminal organizations in Mexico.

    The murder of Juan Sicilia and six other youth is only a snapshot of the violence that has claimed more than 35,000 lives since 2006. Sicilia’s cries of frustration are justified, capable of awakening the Mexican people to the necessity of fighting crime at every level of society.

    Unfortunately, in his rage he has lost sight of who and what to truly challenge.

    In an open letter to the Mexican people, Sicilia lambasts the Calderon administration for “launching a war without realizing the consequences” and clinging to a strategy that is “badly planned, badly carried out and badly led.” He rails against self-interested politicians and corrupt officials that create an environment of impunity and fail to hold the people’s confidence.

    While he calls criminals “subhuman, demonic, and imbecilic,” Sicilia spends more time criticizing Calderon than the criminals who killed his son and commit the vicious atrocities that are tearing the country apart. There is blame to share, to be sure. Former U.S. ambassador Carlos Pascual was pushed aside for reporting in a secret State Department cable that the Mexican army is too risk-averse and inefficient. Corruption and impunity have left operating room for traffickers and gang members for decades, and U.S. aid for institution building has been slow in delivery under the Merida Initiative.

    However, the government that is fighting the crimes and the criminals themselves are not moral equivalents. Calderon responded tersely to Sicilia’s complaints by saying, “Let’s not confuse ourselves: Those who are killing are the criminals.”

    Nor are the Mexican government’s efforts as fruitless as Sicilia would care to depict them. Ironically, he criticizes criminal impunity, yet unlike in the cases of many victims, Mexican officials promptly detained a key suspect in his son’s murder. Not long after, General Gaston Menchaca was also fired from his position of the Head of Public Security in Morales.

    “It may seem contradictory, but the unfortunate level of violence is a sign of success in the fight against drugs,” said U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michele Leonhart. They “are like caged animals, attacking one another.”

    On April 6, Sicilia spearheaded a demonstration of 40,000 people in Morales, all united by the rallying cry “Stop the war! Not one more death!” They were joined by 10,000 demonstrators in Mexico City and smaller crowds in 35 other Mexican cities.

    Sicilia’s call for President Calderon to stop using military and law enforcement to fight drug traffickers and his belief that legalization of drugs will help the situation are reflections of powerful divisions within Mexican public opinion. While he is correct in arguing that a strategy to combat organized crime must continue to be multifaceted and not rely solely on the use of force, he is wrong to establish a moral equivalence between Mexico’s lawless and its government.

    Just as Mexico’s criminal organizations seek further entry into the U.S., the Obama Administration struggles to define and defend its strategy for dealing with a worsening situation in Mexico and Central America. It must balance a “stay the course” approach with disturbing signs that President Calderon is losing control of the narrative and the support of the Mexican people. All of this, of course, is to the delight of Mexico’s criminal organizations, whose goal is to disseminate fear and uncertainty on both sides of the border.

    Ashley Mosteller is currently a member of the Young Leaders Program at the Heritage Foundation. For more information on interning at Heritage, please visit: http://www.heritage.org/about/departments/ylp.cfm.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    16 Responses to Losing the Mexico Drug War: One Protest at a Time

    1. O. B. Server, Canada says:

      Nary a word about Legalization? Tsk tsk. Doing our best to re-frame the issues away from the "L" -word: I do understand. Let's avoid bringing up legalization, let's sidestep the issues of personal freedom, traditional rights, ownership of one's own body. No, let's re-frame away from that, chiefly because we're politically shrewd enough to not panic our true political bases: the police state, drug war camp followers, and usefully misguided moralists. Let's not talk about restoring freedoms that all Americans once shared. No, the power and money is too seductive to do any of that. I understand, I understand.

    2. Heather Druktenis says:

      This Author is completely clueless! Have you ever even been to Mexico?

    3. Henderson Claude, Bu says:

      Unfortunately it is a "war" without end, and cannot be won. When this will become clear to the moral crusaders who are waging isn't obvious, though one imagines that five more years of failure should bring about policy changes. There are really only two alternatives: dry up demand for drugs in the United States (not very likely) or end prohibition. Terrorizing entire societies and allowing tens of thousands of people to be killed for an unrealizable policy objective cannot be sustainable, and Mr. Sicilia's reaction is perfectly correct, reasonable and predictable. More and more Mexicans are likely to follow his lead as the futility of their government's efforts becomes apparent.

    4. malcolm kyle says:

      Ashley Mosteller, If you had bothered to do some independent research then you would have come to the obvious conclusion that the Mexican Government is actually protecting the Sinaloa Cartel, and that Mexico's Civil War is the fruit of our failed policy of Prohibition.

      Accusations of a "corrupt" Mexican government protecting certain cartels have been around for decades. Investigative reporters say they have solid evidence showing that authorities are going after other cartels, but not targeting the largest one which is the Sinaloa cartel.

      “There are no important detentions of Sinaloa cartel members, but the government is hunting down [Sinaloa's] adversary groups and new players in the world of drug trafficking. “

      – Diego Osorno, an investigative journalist and the author of a book on the Sinaloa cartel published in 2009.

      Edgardo Buscaglia, a leading law professor in Mexico and an international organized crime expert, has analyzed 50,000 drug-related arrest documents dating back to 2003, and said that only a tiny fraction of the them were against Sinaloa members, and low-key ones at that.

      "Law enforcement [statistics] shows you objectively that the federal government has been hitting the weakest organized crime groups in Mexico."

      "But they have not been hitting the main organized crime group, the Sinaloa Federation, that is responsible for 45 per cent of the drug trade in this country."


      Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman – one of the most wanted criminals in the world – runs the Sinaloa cartel. Arrested in Guatemala in the 1990s and transferred to a maximum security prison in Mexico, Guzman escaped in 2001 and has amassed a $1bn fortune by trafficking cocaine, heroine and meth to the US.

      Mexico's civil war is a product of our failed policy of drug prohibition.

      The second biggest business during alcohol prohibition in Detroit was liquor at $215 million a year and employing about 50,000 people. Authorities were not only helpless to stop it, many were part of the problem. During one raid the state police arrested Detroit Mayor John Smith, Michigan Congressman Robert Clancy and Sheriff Edward Stein.

      When it comes down to business, the Mexican Cartels, just like their 1920s American counterparts, also like to be nonpartisan. They will buy-out or threaten politicians of any party, make deals with whoever can benefit them, and kill those who are brave or foolish enough to get in their way. The entire annual budget of an average Mexican municipality equals one fishing boat filled with drugs — and from many ports such vessels head north several times a day.

      Total Body Count for 2010: 15,273

      Total Body Count for 2009: (approx.) 9,600

      Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

      Total Body Count for 2007 (approx): 4,300

      Total Body Count for Calderon's drug war through 2010: 34,849

      When pure pharmaceutical grade Bayer heroin was legally sold in local pharmacies and grocery stores for pennies per dose the term "drug-related crime" didn't exist, and neither was the United States the most incarcerated nation in history.

      Nobody is suggesting that drugs are harmless and certainly youngsters must be educated about and deterred from their use. However the current system of prohibition does nothing to protect children and criminalizes the users who would be otherwise law abiding citizens. Prohibition was expected to rid the world of drugs by now, but the illegal drugs trade, which is reckoned to be the second largest world trade after oil, is totally in the hands of criminals. To continue with present policies is to accept and effectively tolerate, strengthen even, the existence of the criminal gangs and terrorists that control the trade.

    5. Pete, Houston Texas says:

      The Federal government should back away from the drug issue. States should either legalize or illegalize certain drugs. Then the federal government should maintain the border security to support the states that exist along the border. We have states that have dry counties and wet counties next to each other and we manage alcohol in that manner. This country needs less federal governmental oversight and more state control. I want to live somewhere in which cocaine and heroin are not freely available. However, if someone wants to live in commune in California with a bunch of pot/opium heads sitting around being unproductivve to the society so be it. I am good with it as long as I don't have to pay for their lifestyle choice. If they get lung cancer or behavior issues due to extended drug use, it is the freedome of their choice that results in the consequences.

    6. AWM -NW Indiana says:

      O. B.-

      Want to talk legalization?

      I say okay: but only after we take away the government's capability to involve itself (and us!) in addiction services or other such security-net type programs.

      Legalization now, would just provide our present governing body and its armies of beaurocracy with another opportunity to increase its size and regulation outreach.

      Unless legalization was part and parcel of a policy recognizing that in order to excersise liberty, each individual must take ownership of their actions, and assume personal responsibility for the outcome of their choices.

      "Restoring freedoms" in a piece-meal fashion will only place greater burden upon those who already take responsibility for their behavior, their actions, and their lives.

      Continuing to allow government to select which rights are allowed- and which rights they "feel" they can infringe upon- has brought us close to what could be a point of no return……

      They deprived us of liberty by taking it away one small bite at a time….

      a return to the inalienable freedoms we are endowed with requires that we make demand that they return it- in whole, and without delay!

    7. TYC says:

      It's a simple choice…drugs will be distributed and used.

      Either the drug gangs distribute the drugs or the gov't does the distribution.

      The gov't estimates that the drug business is about $40 billion a year. Who do you want to control a $40 billion a year industry? You may not like the choice but that's the only choice.

      Personally, I would like to do business inside the store but if you want to keep it illegal, I'll just do business in the parking lot. Doesn't matter…business will be done.

    8. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Does anybody else feel like Deje Vous? As the Death Toll in Mexico approaches that of the United States in the Viet Nam War, I can't help but notice it could go the same way! Give up just before the victory! Amazing to me that Mexico has let Lawlessness go to its inevitable conclusion and of course, it is all our 'fault!' The 'other un-war' is American Neighborhoods being destroyed nation wide because Mexicans never bothered to educate their People! Democracy is about Education! And I mean real education on Justice and Constitutional principles! Decency and values! Civilization and Civil Society!

      Let us count the tens of thousands of Gang Murders in the USA. The cost of Lawlessness is terrible! Then, I say for us Americans, the Lawlessnes of Not Hanging Traitors is the root of all the Lawlessness in America! That's why we have a Domestic Enemy taking over our Government and seeking Unconstitutional Powers! Dictatorship! Our Universities have failed us! We will lose our civilization because of it! We used to laugh about the Mexican Police, how they took bribes! Well! Do that for a hundred years? The Rule of Law no longer exists! We never hang Traitors! We will lose America. It is the same thing!

      The only difference is our Gangsters come from Chicago!

    9. Perry, OK says:

      Another saga of truth (The Good,the Bad and the Ugly).I personally support legalizing drugs.Just tax them hard and heavy. Oh yes when you use you lose the right to medical treatment unless you have cash on the barrrl head for you treatment now and the future.I am tired of supporting welfare and junkies.it is time for all to accept responsibility for their actions.

    10. Carol,AZ says:

      "Pres. Calderon is losing control of the narrative and the support of the of the MX people."

      It's called," empirial evidence" which HLS has known for months, withheld form you.

      It's called: anarchy, genocide, and terrorism.

      The New Mafia-Part 1

      The New Mafia-Part 2

      The New Mafia-Part 3


      The New Mafia-Part 4

      This website is updated every day.It didn't lie.

      Thank You, O.B., Heather, and Henderson for believing us .

      We have never had it wrong here on our border for all evidence we have truned over to HLS, ICE, ATF and other Federal Agnecies sworn to protect all of us.

      The new evidence and investagation that's on-going is with ATF. This corrupted arm of our thug leadership on this issue, has evidence of Lg straw purchases of semi- and automatic weapons sold here in the USA to cartels in MX.

      One weapon has been traced to the murder of Border Agent, Brain Terry, killed on USA soil, shot in the back by, AK-47.

      I wonder how the Dept of Justice, will explain that?

    11. Daniel Sprankle, Los says:

      The only solution to this problem is the one neither Republicans nor Democrats will admit–legalization. Even William F. Buckley ended up supporting that position. It is very simple: if drugs are legal, there is no black market. No black market, no violence. (Does anyone remember Prohibition?)

      I grew up on the Texas/Mexico border. I've known people who have been killed over there. The tragedy is the typical negligence of the Mexican government and the typical obtuseness of the U.S. government. The Drug War failed long ago. We must admit defeat and move on. Legalize–it is not my government's right to tell me what I can ingest.

    12. Pingback: Kids Say the Darndest Things | Marijuana & Ganja

    13. Wayne, Brooklyn, NY says:

      "However, the government that is fighting the crimes and the criminals themselves are not moral equivalents"

      What does it matter if the government is or isn't the moral equivalent of the criminals?

      PROHIBITION HAS CREATED THIS VIOLENCE and the death tolls will continue to mount until we end prohibition.

    14. PabloKoh, Merida, Yu says:

      The People of the Yucatan would like to thank the American taxpayers for stripping us of our civil liberties here in Mexico through the funding of the Merida Initiative. The multiple ineffective police checkpoints to and from work on a daily basis are getting old. Shouldn't your government fund police checkpoints in your own country first?

    15. S Bayley says:

      Wow. I am stunned by this author's level of ignorance. If she's a "Young Leader" then she needs to lead herself to an education.

    16. Pingback: Mexico marches to "end the war on drugs" - Grasscity.com Forums

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