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Legal Commentary: Houston's Clear Thinkers
Ignoring the noise from next door
By Tom Kirkendall
The problems that the obsolescent U.S. drug prohibition policy exacerbate along the Texas-Mexico border are a frequent topic on this blog, so this Mary Anastasia O'Grady/W$J article on the latest developments in the drug war just south of the border caught my eye:
American nonchalance about drug use stands in sharp contrast to what is happening across the border in Mexico. There lawmen are taking heavy casualties in a showdown with drug-running crime syndicates. On Thursday the chief of the Mexican federal police, Edgar Millán Gómez, was assassinated by men waiting for him when he came home, becoming the latest and most prominent victim of the syndicates. [. . .]
It's no secret that the narcotics trade is like a roach infestation. If you see one shipment or dealer, you can be sure that there are many others that go undetected. That's why such brazen behavior at [San Diego State University] should be disturbing to America's drug warriors. The signs of an infestation are everywhere, making a joke of their 40-year claim that any day now they will wipe out American drug use. [. . .]
The upshot: Americans underwrite Mexico's vicious organized crime syndicates. The gringos get their drugs and the Mexican mafia gets weapons, technology and the means to buy off or intimidate anyone who gets in their way. Caught in the middle is a poor country striving to develop sound institutions for law enforcement.
The trouble for Mexico is that, even if it understands that U.S. demand is not going away, it cannot afford to cede large swaths of the country to the drug cartels. Thus Mexican President Felipe Calderón has made confronting organized crime a priority since taking office in December 2006. His attorney general, Eduardo Medina Mora, told me in February that the goal is to reclaim the state's authority where it has been lost to the mafias.
But after 17 months of engagement, while San Diego students party on, victory remains elusive and the Mexican death toll is mounting. Most of the drug-related killings since Mr. Calderón took office seem to be a result of battles between rival cartels. Still, the escalating violence is troubling. The official death toll attributable to organized crime since the Calderón crackdown began now stands at 3,995. Of that, 1,170 have died this year.
Especially alarming are the number of assassinations among military personnel and municipal, state and federal police officers. The total is 439 for the 17 months and 109 so far this year. Many of these victims have been ordinary police officers whose refusal to be bought off or back off cost them their lives.
But as the murder of police chief Millan makes clear, high rank offers no safety. Two weeks before he was gunned down, Roberto Velasco, the head of the organized crime division of the federal police, was shot in the head. The assailants took his car, which leaves open the possibility that it was a random event, but most Mexicans are not buying that theory. Eleven federal law enforcement agents have been killed in ambushes and executions in the last four weeks alone.
If U.S. law enforcement agencies were losing their finest at such a rate, you can bet Americans would give greater thought to the violence generated by high demand and prohibition. Our friends in Mexico deserve equal consideration.
The most troubling aspect of all this is that spillover violence toward U.S. authorities would probably just be met with beefed-up prohibition efforts. Are the vested interests who benefit from the outmoded-but-lucrative prohibition policy simply too entrenched for there to be serious Congressional consideration given to a more humane and cost-effective drug policy?
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