Paul Lachine

A Drug War on Auto-Pilot

The "war on drugs" in Latin America has been an abject failure. It is time for a serious reconsideration of the status and regulation of illegal drugs, one that points to selective legalization, as well as to reclassification of the market for drugs as a public-health, rather than a criminal, concern.

THE HAGUE – The war in Afghanistan, now approaching its tenth year, may seem to many to have no end in sight, but Latin America has endured an even longer fight, one that has recently become much more bloody: the “war” against drug trafficking. So rote – and so violent – has that war become that many people in Latin America now wonder which side is suffering the more pathological addiction.

The new strategy that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been promoting to staunch the upward trend of narco-trafficking-related murders – which leaked Mexican government reports put at more than 22,000 since late 2006 – is to build “stronger, more resilient communities.” Ciudad Juárez, a sprawling Mexican border town that is now the homicide capital of the world, would have to be high on the list.

Four bridges and innumerable tunnels and drainage canals connect Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, Texas. Rival cartels sparring for control of a plaza, the name given to any trafficking route, butcher each other and the security forces. There is apparently no shortage of young, unemployed men willing to join the carnage.

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