Will Mex­ico’s New Pres­i­dent Le­gal­ize Drugs and Save Mex­ico?

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Large por­tions of Mex­ico are ruled by crim­i­nal gangs who won't hes­i­tate to kill any­one who gets in their way or might pose a threat to their prof­its and hold on power. These crim­i­nals are fu­eled mostly by the drug trade, which is Mex­ico's largest in­dus­try and sup­ported by the coun­try's oli­garchy and the CIA.

More than 200,000 peo­ple have been killed in Mex­ico's drug wars and just last year there were 23,000 mur­ders.

Mex­i­cans have long had their fill of drug vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion but it has proven ex­tremely dif­fi­cult to push back against those in power.

When U.S. DEA agent An­drew Ho­gan was track­ing the lo­ca­tion of Mex­ico's lead­ing drug lord, El Chapo Guzmán, he was re­peat­edly thwarted by the CIA and the Mex­i­can fed­eral gov­ern­ment. Only when he kept plans to cap­ture Guz­man from leak­ing to the CIA was he suc­cess­ful.

Since it is im­pos­si­ble to take out the rogue el­e­ments within the CIA and in­ter­na­tional oli­garchy that ben­e­fit from the drug trade, the only vi­able op­tion for Mex­ico has been to sim­ply le­gal­ize il­licit drugs and elim­i­nate the profit mo­tive. But un­til re­cently no one in power was will­ing to openly pro­pose such a heresy.

Pres­i­dent-elect An­dres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s (AMLO) pro­posed min­is­ter of the in­te­rior, Olga Sanchez, is re­port­edly open­ing a de­bate about the pos­si­ble le­gal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana and poppy cul­ti­va­tion as a means of re­duc­ing the ex­ten­sive drug crime and sys­temic vi­o­lence na­tion­wide.

Ms. Sanchez is a for­mer supreme court jus­tice with a long-stand­ing be­lief in the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of drugs as a path to get­ting rid of both the drug gang vi­o­lence and the cor­rup­tion fu­eled by il­licit drugs.

Dur­ing a con­fer­ence en­ti­tled “Vi­o­lence and Peace, Ne­glect, Truth or Jus­tice” that took place re­cently at the Cole­gio de Mex­ico (Colmex), Sanchez told her au­di­ence, “(AMLO) knew per­fectly well of my press con­fer­ence, and above all, of my writ­ten ar­ti­cles on the de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of drugs. He told me ver­ba­tim: ‘carte blanche, what­ever is nec­es­sary to bring peace to the coun­try. Let’s open de­bate”.

Dur­ing the elec­tion, AMLO made it clear that he wanted to do some­thing rad­i­cal to deal with crime. In a coun­try where ev­ery fif­teen min­utes a per­son is killed, adding thou­sands more po­lice, guns and vi­o­lence to the mix would only make things worse – just as it has for many years. As he said dur­ing a cam­paign speech, “The failed strat­egy to tackle in­se­cu­rity and vi­o­lence will change. More than us­ing force, we will at­tack the causes that cre­ate in­se­cu­rity and vi­o­lence. I’m con­vinced that the most ef­fi­cient and most hu­mane way to con­front these evils nec­es­sar­ily de­mand the com­bat­ing of in­equal­ity and poverty.”

In her speech, Sanchez firmly backed up the Pres­i­den­t­elect’s po­si­tion. She said that, “No one can deny that in the last 10 years the state has been in­ca­pable of stop­ping vi­o­lence. It is time that the gov­ern­ment to stop pre­tend­ing noth­ing is hap­pen­ing and that there is a hu­man rights pol­icy”.

What Sanchez is propos­ing in­volves mul­ti­ple parts. First there is de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion of mar­i­juana and poppy cul­ti­va­tion as ma­jor of­fenses. Then the plan in­volves:

• A Tran­si­tional Jus­tice Pro­gram. This will al­low for amnesty and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion for those who have com­mit­ted lesser crimes be­tween 2006 and 2018. There is also a plan for what to do with the back­log of many pend­ing cases in the courts. This would in­volve the con­tro­ver­sial idea of re­duc­ing penal­ties just to get cer­tain in­ves­ti­ga­tions mov­ing. With­out it, Sanchez feels the sit­u­a­tion will stay as a stale­mate for all par­ties. “We have very few sen­tences in the coun­try, the cause, modus operandi, ma­te­rial and in­tel­lec­tual au­thors, whether they are part of the state ap­pa­ra­tus, pri­vate sub­jects or both have not been in­ves­ti­gated.”

• Truth Com­mis­sions. Modeled to an ex­tent af­ter what hap­pened in post-apartheid South Africa, com­mis­sions would be set up to al­low the truth about who com­mit­ted what crimes as a path to­wards pos­si­ble rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the public and large. They would be con­vened for cer­tain spe­cific cases where the events were bad enough to re­quire some struc­ture for the process, such in the no­to­ri­ous Ay­otz­i­napa mas­sacre. (This was the dis­ap­pear­ance of 43 male stu­dents from Ay­otz­i­napa Ru­ral Teach­ers’ Col­lege in 2014. The stu­dents had headed out to com­mem­o­rate the an­niver­sary of the 1968 Tlatelolco Mas­sacre, then van­ished. A com­mis­sion at the time con­cluded that lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and po­lice kidnapped the stu­dents and turned them over to the lo­cal Guer­reros Unidos crime syn­di­cate, which then pre­sum­ably killed them all.) Hear­ings would be held and con­sid­er­a­tion would be made for those who opened up rather than stayed silent. The plan Sanchez is propos­ing would in­clude amnesties and “a na­tional plan for repa­ra­tions to the vic­tims”.

• Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. With de­crim­i­nal­iza­tion in place, amnesty per­haps of­fered for lesser crimes, and Truth Com­mis­sions hav­ing brought out what re­ally hap­pened, the next step would in­volve find­ing ways to bring all par­ties back into the main­stream of life. Such moves would also in­volve, ac­cord­ing to Sanchez, “public poli­cies to re­cover so­cial and eco­nomic spa­ces” Beyond this is next the need to deal with in­equal­ity and poverty across the coun­try. What Obrador plans to do about both is un­clear, but he does be­lieve both must be dealt with quickly and per­haps equally as rad­i­cally as the ap­proaches to deal­ing with cur­rent and past crimes. The fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ple AMLO is ap­ply­ing here is that if these can fes­ter or just get bet­ter grad­u­ally, any short-term gains in peace would de­te­ri­o­rate rapidly into a sit­u­a­tion sim­i­lar to what it was in the past.

For both AMLO and Sanchez, the ap­proach to gov­ern­ing will be us­ing the power of so­cial­iza­tion and com­mu­nity to bring peo­ple to­gether. While this is an im­por­tant step, it won't dis­lodge the deeply en­trenched crim­i­nal class that rules both sides of the Mex­i­can-amer­i­can bor­der.

AMLO'S ideas are so dras­ti­cally dif­fer­ent than the past decades of us­ing brute force as the fun­da­men­tal plan that it will take time for peo­ple just to get used to the ideas. The amnesty pro­posal, for ex­am­ple, has al­ready raised crit­i­cism from the mil­i­tary, po­lice and for­mer can­di­dates for the Pres­i­dency, de­spite that amnesty will not be al­lowed to ap­ply to the most se­ri­ous vi­o­la­tions of hu­man rights.

De­crim­i­nal­iz­ing Mex­ico will take much more bold and ef­fec­tive mea­sures than just re­duc­ing poverty and le­gal­iz­ing some drugs. Most so­cio­pathic nar­coter­ror­ists can't be re­ha­bil­i­tated.

The most ef­fec­tive way to ad­dress Mex­ico's prob­lems would be to dig­i­tize the cur­rency us­ing blockchain tech­nol­ogy, ban cash and con­tract with mul­ti­ple in­de­pen­dent third par­ties to audit the gov­ern­ment's fi­nan­cial records with boun­ties paid for the dis­cov­ery of cor­rup­tion. This would elim­i­nate the op­por­tu­nity for cor­rup­tion and crime and cre­ate a much-needed tax base.

If Mex­ico adopted a re­gional peo­ple's cur­rency such as the AMERO it could use grants to elim­i­nate poverty and fund es­sen­tial de­vel­op­ment.

With le­gal­iza­tion of pot in some U.S. states and in Canada, many mar­i­juana grow­ers have al­ready moved north to where they can op­er­ate legally and serve both the le­gal and il­le­gal mar­kets with­out the risk of trans­port­ing prod­uct and cash across the bor­der.

AMLO clearly has the back­ing of the peo­ple to try some­thing very dif­fer­ent and just maybe they are not just an­other fa­cade of the crim­i­nal class and not un­der the con­trol of the CIA. If so, maybe Mex­ico has a chance to move for­ward.

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