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This House believes the United States is responsible for Mexico’s drugs war.
This House believes the United States is responsible for Mexico’s drugs war.
Almost no one now believes that the ‘War on Drugs’ has been a success. In the United States, the initiator of the conflict, only 10% of people believe that the policy has been a success while 66% consider it a failure. Richard Nixon first declared a ‘war on drugs’ back in 1971 and the war has been raging ever since. Much of this war has involved action outside the United States, most famously in Columbia. The United States itself has been slowly turning to alternative approaches internally and such approaches are having some impact on cutting drug use and crime.
However outside the United States, and particularly in Central America, the war rages as fiercely as it ever has. Mexican cartels now dominate the flow of drugs into the United States with 90% of cocaine entering the U.S. transiting Mexico the cartels are ideally placed. There has been conflict between cartels since at least the end of the 1980’s but Mexico’s drug problems only became a war at the end of 2006 when then newly elected President Felipe Calderón having been elected on a law and order platform sent federal troops into the state of Michoacán in an attempt to end drug violence. The actions by the government however did not end the violence but rather escalated it to the point that in 2010 Calderón was worried that the cartels “seek to replace the government. They are trying to impose a monopoly by force of arms, and are even trying to impose their own laws." In the first nine months of 2011 12,903 people were killed in drug related violence up 11% from the same period in 2010 and some contend the figures could be even higher. However with Presidential elections in July a shift in strategy may finally be on the horizon with candidates hoping to reduce violence in Mexico and withdraw the army from the fight.
The United States obviously has a major role to play in any drugs conflicts in Mexico as it is the biggest market for drugs transiting Mexico but should the blame for the conflict primarily lie with the United States?
|Points For||Points Against|
|U.S. demand for drugs||Weak Mexican government is to blame not the U.S.|
|U.S. supplies the guns used by drugs cartels||Violence creates a downward spiral of violence|
|U.S. anti-drugs policy focuses on the supply of drugs not the root problem of demand||Mexico is poor; it is the economic conditions that drive conflict not the U.S.|
|U.S. policies have helped create the cartels|
Remember to choose a winning argument!
U.S. demand for drugs
It is the rich US that creates the demand for drugs in the first place. Without this demand the price of drugs would be low and the profits of drugs trafficking through Mexico to the USA would disappear. In 2010 an estimated 22.6 million Americans aged 12 or over were illicit drug users. And this immense drugs market was estimated to provide Mexican cartels with earnings between $13.6 and $48.4 billion. Drugs are therefore a problem that is best dealt with from the perspective of reducing demand. Hillary Clinton accepted this when she said “Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade”. However the US' answer to the drugs problem has so far been the 'war on drugs' concentrating massive investment on trying to reduce supply and this includes funding the Mexican government in its war as well and at the same time as making this admission Clinton was giving $80 million to provide Mexico with Blackhawk helicopters.
 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, ‘Results from the 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Summary of National Findings’, NSDUH Series H-41, HHS Publication No. (SMA) 11-4658. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2011.
Mexico has its own problems with drugs consumption so the demand problem can’t all be blamed on the US. Mexico City's former chief of police, Gertz Manero has said there are now 4.5 million crimes a year committed in Mexico. "90% of those are stealing or are related to stealing. And 90% of those are for less than 8,000 pesos (about US$727). Mostly this is for drugs." Unemployment due to liberalisation of the economy has led to mass drug consumption so drugs would continue to flow into Mexico and enrich the cartels even if the U.S. drugs market dried up.
U.S. supplies the guns used by drugs cartels
While the US complains about the Mexico’s inability to stop drugs flowing north the USA seems equally unable to stop guns and weapons flowing south into Mexico. As Clinton says “Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.” Clinton argues that one problem is that the bad guys outgun the law enforcement officers and so is supplying Mexico with better equipment such as night vision goggles, however at least in the short term the only result can be an arms race and more violence as shown by the increasing violence in 2010 and 2011. So long as the cartels are able to easily buy guns then the problem will not be solved. Here again the United States is to blame. The United States has 54,000 licenced gun dealers while Mexico only has one heavily guarded compound so the cartels smuggle their weapons in from the U.S.
This is claiming exactly the opposite of the previous point on U.S. demand for drugs; is not Mexican demand for guns as much to blame for guns in Mexico as U.S. supply? The US has put considerable effort into making sure that the Mexicans are able to counter cartels armed with guns with U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers training Mexican army commandoes. Similarly the Marine Corps also is working on an exchange program with the Mexican Marine Corps that will include sharing experiences on urban warfare. The US also arms the Mexican armed forces to prevent them being outgunned by the gangs.
U.S. anti-drugs policy focuses on the supply of drugs not the root problem of demand
For the last two decades the USA has been focused on the supply side of reducing the drugs trade. Making it a 'war on drugs' forces a fight back from the drugs cartels leading to gunfights and instability in the countries en route. This happened in Columbia, in Peru and now in Mexico. The focus on supply, or else the containment of drugs in Mexico, is shown by the Obama's US-Mexico border policy press release that devotes a lot more space to extra boarder security to catching the drugs as they reach the US compared with one small paragraph on demand. The U.S. war on drugs focusing on supply and transit routes has clearly failed and has been failing for decades. Back in 1992 Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori declared the war a failure while claiming that between 1980 and 1990, when the U.S. was engaging in military efforts to stop production and transportation, coca production increased tenfold.
There will always be two ways to solve the problem of illegal drugs, focusing on demand and focusing on supply. Focusing on supply is a valid strategy, as the US pushes the price of drugs on US streets up so it pushes the drugs beyond the ability of most people to afford the drugs and will as a result mean less drug addicts in the United States. This in turn could result in a drop in supply.Improve this
U.S. policies have helped create the cartels
A change in US immigration law in 1996 meant that non-citizens and foreign born citizens sentenced to more than a year in jail are deported. This moved the problem from the USA’s cities to cities in Central America creating new gangs that were already bound by ties created in the US. Effectively gangs created in the US thrived in central America where they were able to overwhelm the local government and spread north to Mexico and back into the USA helping create the network of gangs and drugs traffickers that plague Mexico today. Similarly the problems in Mexico represent the success of the US in cutting of the routes through the Caribbean used previously by drugs traffickers. Colombian criminals as a result simply switched routes and began smuggling cocaine and heroin through the Central American isthmus and Pacific routes. Both smuggling routes led through Mexico. The successes of the war on drugs in Columbia has reduced the size of the drugs groups in Columbia reducing their ability to control the whole route to the USA making room for the Mexicans to take the role of middleman through Central America.
These were alien criminals who should never have been in the United States in the first place. The blame for these people being able to create drugs cartels in Central America should not lie with the United States for deporting these people but with the Central American states for not then monitoring and controlling these returnees.Improve this
Weak Mexican government is to blame not the U.S.
When there is an internal conflict such as this it is almost always a weak government that is to blame for not preventing an escalation of violence. The government is to blame as it is meant to have a monopoly on the use of force, conflicts such as this drugs war occur when that monopoly on violence is broken. In Mexico the election of Vicente Fox as president may have been a democratic triumph for ending the 70 year one party rule by the P.R.I. but in terms of the effectiveness of the central government it was not a success. The National Action Party has been weak in the lower house and senate so unable to advance a legislative agenda. An inability to legislate significantly reduces the ability of the federal government to respond to the drugs crisis. This reduces the ability of the Federal government to step in and sort out local problems. There has been an upsurge of social unrest of all types, not just drugs violence but protests, riots and strikes as well.
Drugs traffickers have taken over many local areas, the local government, police and even some of the army has been penetrated by the drugs traffickers. This leaves the local government unable to do anything against the traffickers. It was not the drugs traffickers who created the institutional problems that allowed the government to become penetrated in the first place; corruption, inefficient police forces and a weak judiciary were already a problem.
Mexico’s government is no weaker than any other government. The country in Central America which has the lowest homicide rate is Costa Rica, a country which has no standing army. Yet it suffers from many of the same disadvantages that Mexico has, for example, like Mexico it is on the drugs route to the United States. This implies that at the very least having a weak government is not the whole cause of Mexico’s conflict.
Yes there is a weak government in Mexico, particularly at the local level, but we need to ask ourselves how the government becomes so subverted. The answer is money. There have been allegations that President Vicente Fox allowed the most powerful drug lord to escape prison in 2001 in return for $20 million. If the very top of the governmental hierarchy can be subverted for money then the rest is as well.
Violence creates a downward spiral of violence
Just as the United States cannot be blamed for weak governance in Mexico it cannot be blamed for the spiral of decline that occurs as a result of that weak government. Once the police and local government are infiltrated it becomes very difficult to stop the violence. The gangs gain enough control and power that they can no longer be stopped without a massive investment by the central government. Any who do stand up to the traffickers are killed as, for example, was Alejandro Domínguez when appointed to serve as the city police chief of Nuevo Laredo. Domínguez made it clear that he would not negotiate with the cartels. As he was leaving his office on June 8 2005, his first day on the job, he was ambushed and killed by gunmen.
A culture of fear exists in Mexico, as in other countries where the government fails to suppress gang warfare. Fear within the government and police force paralyses both into inaction Municipal and state officials insist that the problem is not theirs to solve, since drug trafficking is a federal crime, or they engage in denial, claiming that the situation is improving and that the violence will soon end. While journalists report the death and violence they fear to report on who caused them, the background or the causes of the violence; the media self-censors itself.
The United States can be blamed for the downward spiral. There would not be a downward spiral of fear and violence if the United States was not a source of arms for the cartels.Improve this
Mexico is poor; it is the economic conditions that drive conflict not the U.S.
Declining real income drives social unrest and instability. Real incomes for workers in Mexico's manufacturing sector declined by a cumulative 2.6 percent between 1995 and 2005. It is likely that the decline in the informal economy is larger. The Government keeps a tight control over the minimum wage preventing it from rising. Although this does not affect many Mexicans directly a lot more have their wages set at a multiple of the minimum wage. At the same time there has been high unemployment and lower benefits. In 1994-5 Mexico was hit hard by a financial crisis known as the ‘peso’ or ‘Tequila’ crisis. The peso depreciated by 47%, inflation went up to 52% and GDP fell by 6% not reaching its 1993 level until 1997. Unsurprisingly household income fell substantially; by 31% between 1994 and 1996, those in poverty rose from 10.4% of the population to 17% Since 1996 although Mexico has experienced growth not only has it been slower than most developing countries this has been significantly cut into in real per capita terms by population growth. Mexico has large disparities in income between urban and rural areas and the gap between rich and poor has been widening. The inequality leads people to be more willing to engage in the potentially lucrative drugs trafficking and the informal economy. Unemployment meanwhile makes them more likely to take drugs themselves as an escape.
As Mexico’s biggest trading partner the United States always has a major role in the state of the Mexican economy. The United States is also partially to blame for the Peso crisis. Wall St in particular played up a ‘Mexican miracle’ helping to create a bubble, and idea that was also boosted by the US government which was making the case for the North American Free Trade Agreement at the time.
We should also not be too quick to blame the economy as there is always some uncertainty in the figures; using different statistical methods you get different results. A study implies a growth rate of household income for Mexico of 4½-5½ percent per year in 1984-2006, which is substantially higher than the 2 percent implied by standard methods. If this was the case then a poor economy could not be seen as much of a factor in the increase in violence and drugs trafficking.
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