Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Mexico Fights Back Against the Drug War

Levent Akbulut considers the recent rallies in Mexico against the drug war and suggests what they mean for our movement.

Just last week something amazing happened in Mexico. Tens of thousands of Mexicans took to the streets to call for an end to President Calderon's War on Drugs.

Since 2006 when Mexican authorities decided to crack down on the growing illicit drugs industry by bringing in the army, the violent reaction of the drug lords and their minions has skyrocketed. It turns out that people are willing to fight and commit horrendous acts when they live in poverty and there are few lucrative job options available. There are now over 30,000 Mexicans who have died since the conflict flared up and the murder rate does not seem to cease.

Mexico is a key transit and production point in the global underground illicit drugs trade. The demand of Northern countries for drugs in an unregulated market coupled with readily available weapons from the North and the violent reaction of the authorities to a growing market have all made their contribution to the bloodshed. When corruption is rife, and the people live with few options and then there is an easy source of cold hard cash the unintended consequences of the drug war make sense. More and more mass graves are found every week in this country and when at first children were usually exempt from the firing line of the drug wars and increasingly they are now targets. The only more shocking fact is the complete intransigence by many of the world’s leading powers to even consider the legal regulation of drugs.

In February last year, we joined our partners across the globe to highlight the murder of young people at a house party in the world’s most dangerous city, Ciudad Juarez,
Candle light vigils were held at university campuses, cities and in homes everywhere from Toronto to Mexico City to DC and to London. These actions were picked up by the world media, including the Guardian.

The answer to the problem may not be as simple as legalising drugs, but it must at least be considered as part of the solution. It is the failure of our societies to regulate drugs that has contributed to this plague of violent crime that has been crippling producer and transit nations for so many decades.

Is it moral for us to expect the people of Latin America to continue dying, to continue having their economies and lives destroyed? All to perpetuate this false impression of protecting the kids of Northern countries from the harms of drug use.

We know that the demand of drugs does not predominately correlate with their availability. People use illicit drugs for much the same reasons they use legal drugs like alcohol, because they can be fun, they use them to escape and when they use them to escape they are more likely to be socio-economically disadvantaged or damaged in some other way.

This is where our challenge lies- the Mexican people have started calling for an end to the War on Drugs. Like pro-reform advocates either side of the Atlantic, they are not so sure what the end goal should look like but that ultimately it would involve fewer lives being lost, less harms caused by drugs and the freedom to live in a society without having to worry about being shot in a gangland shooting.

On our campuses, in our communities and every opportunity we have we must tell people what our drug policies are doing to the people of Mexico and all other nations and communities caught in the crossfire of this dreadful war. Students for Sensible Drug Policy UK will continue to campaign alongside our allies across the globe for the right of the Mexican people to be free from drug war violence, which we believe will most likely be achieved when prohibition is ended.

Whether you are a member of SSDP, personally affected by the drug war or just a concerned citizen, tell you friends and family about it. Tell your member of parliament what our policies are doing. Let them know that you do not share the views of papers with a prohibitionist agenda. So that one day it will be acknowledged that the young people of Mexico and the young people of the UK caught up in gang violence were all victims of the War on Drugs and that we will never repeat the same mistakes again.

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