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July 2006
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Prohibition and the destruction of Mexico

Norm Stamper has an outstanding piece at Alternet: How Legalizing Drugs Will End the Violence

… Virtually every analysis of the Mexican “drug problem” points to the themes raised here: the inducements of big money and wide fame; the crushing poverty of those exploited by drug dealers; the entrepreneurial frenzy of expanding and protecting one’s markets; the large, unquenchable American demand for drugs; and the complicity of many in law enforcement.
But something’s missing from the analysis: the role of prohibition.
Illegal drugs are expensive precisely because they are illegal. The products themselves are worthless weeds — cannabis (marijuana), poppies (heroin), coca (cocaine) — or dirt-cheap pharmaceuticals and “precursors” used, for example, in the manufacture of methamphetamine. Yet today, marijuana is worth as much as gold, heroin more than uranium, cocaine somewhere in between. It is the U.S.’s prohibition of these drugs that has spawned an ever-expanding international industry of torture, murder and corruption. In other words, we are the source of Mexico’s “drug problem.”
The remedy is as obvious as it is urgent: legalization. […]

If you want to read more about the failure of prohibition and its impact on Mexico…
The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) last month released a major report by Laurie Freeman: State of Siege: Drug-Related Violence and Corruption in Mexico — Unintended Consequences of the War on Drugs (pdf)

Drug prohibition as enacted and enforced by the United States may be intended to keep drug use low, but there can be no doubt that it also stimulates and nourishes organized crime, both within and beyond U.S. borders. The consequences — richer, more powerful criminal organizations that create mayhem and flout the rule of law — are no less real for being unintended. […]

(I would have used the word “instead” rather than “also.”)

Drug-related violence in Mexico is largely a consequence of the drug trade’s illegality. […]
Like violence, drug-related corruption is a product of the black market.

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