Tag Archives: heroin

Mexico’s Drug War Hits New Depths

17 May

This is crazy stuff even by the standards of Mexico’s out-of-control drug violence. In recent weeks, brawling drug gangs have taken over entire parts of Monterrey, the country’s wealthiest city,  previously a haven of calm. As the LA Times reports,

“drug gangs repeatedly blocked off city streets, snarling traffic and preventing police and soldiers from patrolling. Regular gun battles in and around Monterrey…  claimed 164 lives this year as of May 7, almost the same number as in the two previous years combined. The dead included two popular engineering students caught, apparently, in crossfire at the gates of their prestigious university.

On April 21, 50 gunmen overran the downtown Holiday Inn, a high-end hotel popular with business travelers, forced the receptionist to ID guests and yanked four men and a woman from their fifth-floor rooms.”

It’s bad enough when you have drug gangs shooting each other by the dozens in border towns and drug-growing areas. But when they can shut down traffic in the middle of a major city, or take over an entire upscale hotel long enough to find a few people they’re looking for, you’ve really lost control. This isn’t over-the-top crime, it’s a breakdown in state authority on the level of a full-fledged insurgency.

What’s interesting about Mexico, though, is that the government isn’t fighting a group dedicated to seizing state power or at least keeping the state out of its own fiefdom, as in Afghanistan or Congo. The drug gangs aren’t interested in taking over the government; they just want to be left alone to keep doing business. I’m not sure if that makes them a more or less difficult problem.

Obama: Smarter on Drugs

13 May

The Obama administration just came out with their first formal strategy on illegal drugs, and for the first time in at least 40 years, the federal government is taking steps in the right direction. It’s a long way from a wholesale revamp of the disastrous War on Drugs that has helped send America’s prison population skyrocketing while doing nothing to reduce the drug trade, but it does put more emphasis on treating drugs as a health issue rather than a criminal justice one. That’s an approach that has paid off in places like Vancouver, Canada.

And it’s just the latest refreshingly common-sensical reforms Obama has supported. As the Boston Globe sums up:

“Obama [repealed] a two-decade old ban on the use of federal money for needle-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV. His administration also said it won’t target medical marijuana patients or caregivers as long as they comply with state laws and aren’t fronts for drug traffickers. Earlier this year, Obama called on Congress to eliminate the disparity in sentencing that punishes crack crimes more heavily than those involving powder cocaine.”

The folks at the Drug Policy Alliance break it all down – and point out some ways Obama could go further.