Our War on Drugs has turned Mexico into a real war zone. Five more dead in Tijuana; 685 in one city in the last year; young men in rival cartels are gunned down, tortured, mutilated, beheaded, found in mass graves. Those who can afford to have left town, while the rest of the city lives in terror and economic disaster since Americans will no longer step foot there.
Tijuana is, of course, choosing a familiar solution: Get Tougher on Drugs!
“In cleaning our house, we are going to get dirty.”
“We have decided to fight and that has prompted this violent reaction as a backlash. But we cannot give up now.”
Translation: “We will kill as many of our people as we have to to protect American adults from drugs.”
The city is turning into a police state, replacing much of its corrupt police force with Marines and federal officers, but the money flowing from the cartels is enough to corrupt more officers and government officials every day, just as it does here. The turnover will be constant until there is no more room in Mexican prisons. Don’t be surprised if you see the U.S. private prison industry also offer to step in to help Mexico confine as much its population as it can afford to. Of course, we’re “helping” by dumping $1,600,000,000 on the problem while our own country slides into recession. Will it work? Has it ever?
The corruption and murderous black market is funded in the usual way, by huge profits created by the U.S.’s drug prohibition. Mexico’s sanest solution would be to join the president of Honduras in begging for an end of the war on drugs in the U.S. This would immediately deflate the black market and everyone could go back to treating drug abuse instead of building coffins. Sadly, like most other countries, Mexico is under heavy pressure (and funding) from the U.S. to continue our policies at all cost, and they’re getting familiar with those costs. Drugs are not killing these people; money is. People can demonize drugs, users, and dealers all they want, but real people are still dying, and good people are ending up corrupted in jail as a direct result of us treating drug abuse as a criminal issue. It is, in a word, sickening.
At some point the most popular argument for prohibition (“it sends the right message to kids”) is going to ring hollow as countless parents watch their children gunned down or enticed into a short, voilent life of organized crime. At some point it won’t just be the poor kids either. We’ve been relatively lucky in our upper/middle class neighborhoods to not experience this level of violence, but, as we’re seeing in the border towns and major distribution points, it’s coming.
Those who haven’t learned about the barbarity as a result of alcohol’s prohibition are getting a good education.
Update: Tijuana’s prisons may not be full yet, but its morgues are. This according to the first of a five part NPR series on the U.S.–Mexico border. The number dead from drug violence across Mexico is around 4,500.