A report from government officials in Mexico stunned the world today after it was announced that over 28,000 people had been killed in a four year period. The shocking fact; all of those deaths were violent drug related killings. President Felipe Calderon is now considering a serious debate regarding the legalization of drugs in light of these figures. This steep rise in drug related deaths started after the 2006 crackdown on cartels instigated by Calderon. The international illegal drug trade is a multibillion dollar business, and in a country with a massive poverty rate, the drug trade offers a diabolical way out.
Since the inception of the cartel crackdown, $411 million in U.S. currency and roughly 84,000 weapons have been confiscated. These figures were reported by Guillermo Valdes, director of Mexican Intelligence. The statistics were released during a meeting between government officials and prominent business leaders. The meeting’s purpose was to find a way to improve Mexico’s tarnished and failing anti-drug strategies. Even Valdes is giving the legalization of certain drugs serious consideration. “It’s a fundamental debate in which I think, first of all, you must allow a democratic plurality (of opinions),” he said. “You have to analyze carefully the pros and cons and the key arguments on both sides.”
Former presidents, from other Central and Southern American countries, have urged neighboring countries to at least consider the legalization of marijuana in an attempt to undermine a major source of cartel income. The issue has also found its way to the floor of the Mexican Congress. While Calderon, once opposed to legalizing drugs, is open to exploring the subject of legalization, he is not completely committed. With the death toll rising at a steep rate, he may have no choice.
For many young men and women, the future consists of barely getting by. In a country whose poverty levels are extremely high and job prospects stunningly low, the idea of “making fast money” is appealing, even knowing that a high percentage of drug traffickers die in the service of their cartel employers. It’s a question of the raw and desperate economics of survival. Taking dangerous chances is often the only way out of poverty.
The numbers of violent deaths directly related to the drug trade was originally brought forward by the press, who kept their own statistics. While the government often skirted the issue of cartel related deaths, the free press in Mexico relentlessly publicized drug related crimes. Many journalists have been killed trying to shed light on this once hidden issue. However, even the cartels couldn’t silence the press. The numbers out of Mexico are staggering. July, with 1,234 violent drug related deaths, was the worst month yet. The numbers, published on a regular basis, are forcing Calderon’s hand. Critics of Calderon’s government say that suppression of the numbers is typical of a government trying to bury the facts.
It may be that Mexico has finally reached its breaking point. With economic troubles and political doors be shut on our southern neighbor, a change of strategies regarding the drug epidemic may be Mexico’s only hope of surviving an uncertain future. Critics have also pointed out that the bigger problem is the financial arm of organized crime. Unlike the United States, who uses legal devices such as the RICO Act, to financially cripple organized crime, Mexico has no similar statutes in place. If Mexico is to survive the war on drugs, something drastic has to happen.