February 28, 2012

Decriminalization of drugs

cocaine abuse

Addictive drugs are bad. There is no doubt about that. The only ones who think otherwise are the ones who are or will screw up their lives by using them. But can or should any government try to protect its people against their own stupidities?

I admit that I'm one of those people who tends to think of things in black and white and have not thought decriminalization of drugs was a good move. However, after seeing seeing things from the viewpoint of what has and is happening in Honduras for the past 10 years, I'm having to rethink that idea.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports on an interview with Guatemala's President Otto Pérez Molina in today's Wall Street Journal. President Pérez is trying to rally other Latin American countries to join him in challenging the "doomed US drug policy". He points out the problem of increased violence in already overwhelmed countries along the drug routes as well as drug money penetrating and corrupting police, prosecutors, and judges, resulting in even more corruption and impunity.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

"In an interview at the national palace here earlier this month, Mr. Pérez Molina told me that he believes at least some of his counterparts in the region are ready to join him in pressuring Washington to rethink an agenda that has fueled a boom in criminality in their countries while doing nothing to contain American drug consumption.

"The president of Mexico [Felipe Calderón], after five years of the effort he has made, has told me that he believes we have to sit down and talk seriously about decriminalization in order to find an alternative approach." The president of Colombia [Juan Manuel Santos] "has more or less" the same view, Mr. Pérez Molina said.

"It is notable that the rhetoric we are hearing against the drug war is not coming from anti-American, left-wing demagogues trying to promote populist, nationalist ideals by stirring up the mob. Today's most vocal proponents of a change in regional drug policy are center-right governments. Their proposals are driven by observing 40 years of failure."

President Pérez joins many ex-presidents of Latin America who have been speaking out for years. One of the most notably outspoken presidents is former Mexican President Vicente Fox who has taken a leading role in this issue.

The article ends with:

"The president (Pérez Molina) says that "as long as you maintain the demand there will be supply," but that's not his only gripe with the U.S. It identifies the cartels and thugs in Latin America. But "who in the U.S. is receiving and distributing the drugs," he asks, and why don't we ever hear about them? Mr. Pérez Molina is not the only Latin American who wants to know."

The Online Wall Street Journal is subscription only but you may be able to access the complete article with this "Free Pass" or by clicking on the link from this google search.

cocaine bustDarn good questions! Honduras confiscates thousands of kilos at a time, as other Central and South American countries do, and the US says they need to do more (and I'm sure they don't confiscate all the authorities know about). I don't keep up with the US news so maybe you all can enlighten me — Are there frequent drug busts in the US where they confiscate tons at a time that made it through Honduras, Guatemala, and other transit points? If not, why not?

I think Honduras should decriminalize drug trafficking and just offer safe passage through Honduras territory and tax the heck out of the pass-through instead. I know that will never happen and the reason is threat of losing US foreign aid to this failed nation.

Let the US deal with the entry of the drugs to the US if that is something the government really cares about — but after 40 years of failure (Republican and Democrat, so don't go there), you kind of have to think that it ISN'T something that the US really cares about. The US spends trillions on other wars. By comparison, the amounts spent on the "war on drugs" has been trivial and is decreasing even more in 2013. 40 years! How can anyone even claim with a straight face that the US has a war on drugs? If the US can't stop major drug trafficking into the US, just how in the heck can they possibly be so hypocritical to think that Honduras can patrol the jungles and large uninhabited areas of its country when they can't even keep their people safe in the major cities and don't even have gas money for police cars in much of the country?

We're brainwashed in the US to believe that Americans are the innocent victims of these brown-skinned, mustachioed narcos — as they are portrayed in the movies — and no one would ever take drugs if it wasn't for these evil people. But the US is or was the most powerful country in the world and if they wanted to stop the entry of drugs, they would have done it long ago. It's time that the US started taking responsibility for the innocent countries who aren't drug producers or users (for the most part) who have been so terrorized and terribly damaged by the US's failure to handle their own drug issue.

Somewhere around 90% of the illegal drugs in the entire world are consumed in the US, so who is really the guilty party here? It's kind of like blaming all the prostitutes but giving the clients a wink and a nod. I see celebrities and sports figures all the time on TV joking about their drug use. At most, they get a slap on the hand and even that is very rare. The US has already effectively decriminalized drug use, at least for the rich and famous, and even the middle class who can generally opt for drug treatment instead of prison time.

A few months ago, the Honduran military was talking about buying ~ $400 million in high tech drug planes. How can anyone who knows there are people starving in Honduras, people suffering and dying for lack of even the most basic health care, schools that barely teach kids how to read, much less think, etc., possibly believe that Honduras should devote more resources to fighting the US drug problem?

By no means do I blame all or even most of Honduras' woes on US drug use. Honduras has a centuries-long culture of corruption, of disregard for the poor, of impunity, and a poor justice system. But crime, violence, and homicide have skyrocketed in the past decade, which coincides with Mexico and Colombia's US-led crackdowns on drug trafficking. While Colombia's homicide rate went from 67 per 100,000 population in 2002 down to 33 per 100,000 currently, Honduras' homicide rate has gone from an already high 34 per 100,000 in 2002 to an astounding 86 in 2011 (compared to a relatively stable ~5 per 100,000 in the US). Like cockroaches, spray in one area and the narcotraffickers scurry to another. Colombia cracked down on narcos and they fled to Mexico. Mexico cracked down and they fled to Honduras and Guatemala. Meanwhile, there has been no perceptible change on drug use in the US.

I don't expect anyone to agree with me, but I hope you'll think a little deeper about what has been happening for the past 40 years and particularly the harm that has been done the last 10 years in Honduras and other Latin American countries because of the US's insatiable desire for drugs — not just damage to the countries, but tens of thousands of deaths, some of them committed with guns that the US government purposely allowed to enter Mexico and Honduras.

More reading on decriminalization:

Time: Mexico's Ex-President Vicente Fox: Legalize Drugs

Miami Herald: Never-ending drug war moves to Central America

Miami Herald: Pro-drug legalization forces are gaining clout

MSNBC: U.S. drug war has met none of its goals

CATO Institute: Mexico and the War on Drugs: Time to Legalize (video of policy forum)

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: Organized Crime in Central America (200+ page study)

Blogicito: Drug trafficking in Honduras (with highlights from the above study, and links to older Honduran narco-related articles)
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