Experts Gather to Talk About the Mexican Drug War

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On Nov. 14, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences with the University of Utah’s Latin American Studies and UVU’s homecoming week co-sponsored a panel discussion on the Mexico drug war.

The panel consisted of Dr. Michael Minch as the moderator from the Philosophy and Peace and Justice Studies departments, Dr. Lynn England, History department, Dr. María Eugenia De la O, CIESAS, Guadalajara, México and Mark Alvarez, attorney and legal consultant on immigration for Telemundo.

Dr. De la O began the presentation by saying that it must be understood that there are very complex relationships at work in Mexico, and that the drug issue involves the country of Mexico as well as the international community. She continued by saying that Mexico is a peaceful country; the problem is the border with the U.S. and the corridors where the drugs get transported.

In 2006 President Filipe Calderon was elected to office, and quickly changed from the “jobs president” to the “drugs president.” He declared a war on the drug cartels and engaged the military in this endeavor. The ensuing battles in the streets led to a middle of the road estimate of 120,000 dead in the space of a few years.

“The military was one of the few Mexican institutions that had the trust and support of the people,” De la O said. “I don’t know if that is the case now.”

She concluded by pointing out that the “narco culutre” has rapidly grown and become very popular in Mexico, despite the governments best efforts to ban it. Churches and cults have been created around some of the “Narcos,” the drug dealers. Even the local music in the form of “narco corridos” or drug runs, espouses the virtues of the life of a drug dealer.

Mark Alvarez was the next to speak. The first thing he said was, “There are many Mexicos.” He continued by mentioning that he lived in Mexico City for some time and before he left Mexicans and Non Mexicans constantly told him, “You’re going to be assaulted.” He was not assaulted, but at the end of his stay one of the things he had learned was, “If you want to find something in Mexico City, you’ll find it.”

He expounded upon Dr. De la O’s comments by saying that the violence from the drug war has been glorified in many places in Mexico. In January and February of 2009 alone there were over 1,000 people executed.

“And where is the market? The U.S. Where do four-fifths of the cartel’s weapons come from? From the United States…Doing what has always been done will not bring results.”

He pointed out that many communities face a difficult decision: Silence and complicity, or violence and decay.

He continued by pointing out that often times in this type of war the countries involved end up merely fighting themselves, and that for many who are targeted as the suppliers, “Marijuana is just a plant, no different than sugarcane.” He concluded with a quote from President Calderon, “We will get more from 10 miles of road with one mile of wall.”

The last speaker was Dr. England. He began, “I called up a few of my friends in Mexico to see what they would have me say to you, for them. They said, ‘Tell them that Mexico is not the drug war. Tell them that Mexico is a vibrant colorful society where we can be free to raise our children.”

Dr. England pointed out that his aim was to point out that it is a mistake to call it the “Mexican drug war” and that we as a nation need to take some responsibility. He pointed out that the biggest consumer in the world of illicit drugs is the United States.

“This is capitalism in its purest form. There is a large demand with large financial resources. As long as there is this demand, it will be filled.”

He points out that it is partially our fault that the issue has moved to Mexico. England talked about how thousands of dollars in troops and equipment was sent into places like Colombia to take care of the issue and it moved it away from Colombia to Mexico

“In any business, if one source of product stops producing, you close it down and move to another source. Burn the cocoa in Colombia, they’ll move to the Caribbean, or Africa and destroy those societies as well.”

England quoted the report from the Global Commission on Drugs saying, “The global war on drugs has failed, with devastating consequences for individuals and societies around the world. Vast expenditures on criminalization and repressive measures directed at producers, traffickers and consumers of illegal drugs have clearly failed to effectively curtail supply or consumption. Apparent victories in eliminating one source or trafficking organization are negated almost instantly by the emergence of other sources and traffickers.”

England suggested that we end the criminalization, marginalization and stigmatization of people who use drugs but who do no harm to others. Challenge rather than reinforce common misconceptions about drug markets, drug use and drug dependence.”

He finished by saying he hopes that we can make progress in shifting the focus on drugs to change from a criminal issue to a health issue. It is only in that way that we can let people get the help they need and teach them without the stigmatization of crime and punishment.

The conference ended with with a quote by Porfirio Diaz, “Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States.”