Ending the Drug War in Mexico
Mexico’s president, Andrés Manual Lopéz Obrador, was elected on the promise of stopping the epidemic of violence in Mexico.
AMLO made a bold first step last month.
On May 7, Mexico’s new populist president, Andrés Manual Lopéz Obrador, announced his country was withdrawing from the Merida Initiative, the regional U.S.-led drug enforcement pact, and will be turning down the aid package offered through the program. “It hasn’t worked,” he told reporters in Mexico City. “We don’t want cooperation in the use of force, we want cooperation for development.”
He’s proposed across-the-board drug decriminalization in both nations and wants to “reorient” the program away from drug enforcement and toward social programs. “We don’t want armed helicopters or resources for other types of military support,” Lopéz Obrador, who’s known as AMLO, declared.
If AMLO's statement looks familiar, that's because Bolivia did something similar a decade ago.
From 1997 to 2004, a US-funded program seeking to eradicate coca in Bolivia by force plunged the Chapare into traumatic conflict...
Wherever you go in the Chapare — one of Bolivia's two coca-growing regions — you hear similar stories of life in the 1990s and early 2000s: narco-slayings, police violence and rapes, and coca-grower protests ending in violence and death.
You also hear gratitude that Bolivia has replaced a strategy of eradication with one of regulated production to meet historic national demand for coca.
...Farmers feel particularly indebted to President Evo Morales, a former firebrand coca growers' leader from the Chapare. Morales expelled the DEA from Bolivia in 2008 after violent confrontations in the region claimed 30 lives and he said he could no longer guarantee the US agents' safety.
"It is different now, the police are our friends," the farmer says. "Before, I would look away when they passed by. I didn't want to catch their eye. Now, we always stop and say hello."
Decriminalization in no way reduces drug production, but it does dramatically reduce the violence.
The lessons of Bolivia are not lost on AMLO.
In his National Development Plan for 2019-2024, President López Obrador (also known as AMLO) outlined the goals of decriminalizing illegal drugs in Mexico and diverting funds used for narcotics enforcement toward "massive, but personalized" treatment programs for drug abusers, CNBC reported.
According to the president's policy statement, such drugs would not become legalized, but authorities would implement enforced medical treatments in place of drug arrests.
The statement also called for cooperation on these issues between Mexico and the US, where over a decade of intense drug war has fueled an estimated 150,000 organized crime-related deaths, and left nearly 40,000 Mexican citizens still missing.
Mexico is already on a set path to cannabis legalization, but AMLO is going far beyond that.
I'm not certain how much success this plan will have, but I am certain that AMLO's critics have no better ideas. Their incremental reform suggestions have no chance of success.