Weekly Immigration Wire: Resurrecting a Failed War on Drugs

by Nezua, TMC MediaWire Blogger

In 2008, a disturbing trend developed in mainstream media regarding Mexico. While Mexico's President Felipe Calderón began his aggression against the Cartels roughly two years ago, the resulting uptick in violence was of no real interest to mainstream media. But when the U.S. Joint Forces Command reportJoint Operating Environment (JOE 2008) was issued in November, 2008, and declared Mexico and Pakistan nations in danger of a "rapid and sudden collapse," mainstream news outlets and certain politicians began broadcasting fears of violence spilling over into the US.

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Weekly Immigration Wire: Obama's Hard Line on Immigration

by Nezua TMC MediaWire Blogger

Last week, President Obama announced his intention to address immigration reform in the next few months in a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The statement came as a relief to many, especially with recent reports of human rights abuses within the U.S. detention system. But, as most of the President's statements seem crafted to appeal to warring political constituencies, his actual intentions are still elusive.

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Blunt But Bankrupt

Suddenly American diplomats are blunt. Pray that they be bold because despite their new found and welcomed bluntness, the policies remain effectively the same old bankrupt policies of the past. Today's outbreak of blunt diplomacy concerns two of the most vexing international problems facing the United States, Mexico and Pakistan.

In Mexico City, Secretary of State Clinton finally admitted what most Latin Americans already know.

"Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," Mrs. Clinton said, using unusually blunt language. "Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians."

Not to minimize the significance of these remarks, but why then does the policy solution largely remain the same? The Obama Administration is proposing more of the same failed policies that American administrations have pursued since 1970s though importantly it will seek stricter controls on the sale of assault rifles. Otherwise, the strategy remains interdiction and eradication.

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Too Many Problems and No Authority to Solve Them

The news never stops. Of course the important stories sometimes get lost in the mix; the news that actually gets through is more than enough for a day's entertainment. After all, isn't that what the news is nowadays, entertainment? I'm going to let you in on what I've read this morning and maybe then you'll see what I'm talking about.

There was an op-ed in the New York Times that decried the ban on chewing coca leaves. The writer explained that his countrymen had been chewing coca since 3000 BC. He claimed it helped give farmers energy and taken in moderation, relaxed them. The piece probably wouldn't have made the editorial page of the New York Times, but it was written by Evo Morales, the President of Bolivia.

There was more news from our neighbors to the South. It seems that the Russian government is seriously considering parking some of their medium range bombers in Cuba and Argentina. The United States can't really object too loudly after parking it's bombers in Karshi-Khanabad Air Base is located in southern Uzbekistan not far from Tajikistan. Poland has offered to host an anti-ballistic missile site on its territory. What's fair is fair according to the participants. This is like a real life version of RISK! Will these missiles and planes actually take up stations in these countries? Maybe not, but it makes for good conversation. These are just distractions, the real problems of today are the economy and the state of  war that exists on the U.S-Mexican border.

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If The War on Drugs Is a Success, What Does Failure Look Like?

Interstate 10

A new drug trafficking route between South America and west Africa has grown so quickly that the 10th latitude corridor connecting the two continents has been dubbed Interstate 10. The amount of cocaine is moved along this route on its way to markets in Europe is estimated conservatively at 50 tonnes a year.

Captain Nemo

Enrique Portocarrero isn't a household name in the United States. He's not a household name in his native Colombia either because everyone knows him by his nickname, Captain Nemo which he earned by designing and building fiberglass submarines to ferry cocaine up the Pacific coast.  Captain Nemo's vessels measure up to 60 feet long and are outfitted with complex ballast, communications and power systems. They are powered by 350-horsepower diesel engines, and the four-man crew had state-of-the-art radio, GPS and satellite telephone communications with a range of 2,000 miles, enough to get from Buenaventura to southern Mexico. Each sub can carry 10 tonnes of cocaine, worth $250 million in street value. Portocarrero gets a cool million per sub.

La Serranía de La Macarena

In May of last year, Colombia sent its Vice President, Francisco Santos Calderon, on a world speaking tour. His message was this:

"This destruction of the rainforest for coca production and coca plantation has gone on under the radar of the environmentalists. We hope that this will be a wake-up call. We hope that the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace will start saying 'what is this?' "

Colombia's coca producers have destroyed 5.5 million acres of rain forest with slash and burn cultivation. About half a ton of pesticides, fertilizers, sulphuric acid and other chemicals are then used to turn every acre of coca into pure cocaine. And this doesn't even begin to take into account the indiscriminate aerial spraying that Plan Colombia sponsors. One of the world's most bio-diverse massifs, La Serranía de La Macarena is being lost. It is a convergence point of six major ecological and geological forces, each exerting its own unique pressure on the local flora and fauna. The end result is a high rate of mutation. The Serranía  de la Macarena has been called a biological hothouse. And this biological hothouse is on fire. The Serranía de la Macarena is in danger of being burnt away.  

Crystal Meth

Nearly 25 million people worldwide are estimated to have used amphetamine and methamphetamine in the past year. This is more than heroin or cocaine, and it makes amphetamine and methamphetamine the most widely used illicit drugs after cannabis. There are approximately a half million crystal meth users are in the United States. In Oregon, meth users account for 85 percent of burglaries. And yet, crystal meth rarely broaches our national conversation.

Afghanistan's Opium Trade Revived

Since the Taliban were removed from power by the American-led invasion in 2001, Afghanistan has once again become the world’s leading producer of opium. By some estimates, more than 90 per cent of the world’s heroin originates in the opium poppy fields that can be found in approximately 20 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. The vast majority of Afghanistan's opium poppies are grown along the border with Pakistan, in five southwestern provinces with a Taliban presence. Helmand Province alone, a Taliban stronghold, accounts for half of the country's opium and "has become the world's biggest source of illicit drugs, surpassing the output of entire countries like Colombia (coca), Morocco (cannabis), and Myanmar (opium) -- which have populations up to twenty times larger." And while production did drop in 2008 from 2007, opium poppy production in Afghanistan is still at levels twice that of 2005 and represents a $4 billion trade whose profits are diverted to fund arms, munitions and other supplies for the Taliban. By way of comparison, the annual budget for the Karzai government is about $750 million.

Ciudad Juárez

Last year in Ciudad Juárez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, more than 1,600 people were killed in drug-related violence, often assassinations carried out in daylight. 250 people were killed in February of 2009 in drug-related murders including at least six policemen kidnapped from their police post, their heads showing up a few days later dropped off at the police station. The city boasts a modern $15 million morgue and crime lab. Plans are under way to double the morgue's size next year. It also is expected this week that the Mexican government will have the military take over the city's policing functions. And yet incredibly, Mexico's Attorney General, Eduardo Medina Mora, said at the end of February that even though more than a 1,000 people across Mexico have been killed in the first eight weeks of this year, he believes the drug violence has reached its peak and that Mexico is winning the drug war. He's not alone in that belief. John Walters, the Bush drug czar, affirmed that view in a Wall Street Journal op-ed.

These are just a few of the data points that I could point to as the United Nations prepares to hold a summit on drugs in Vienna starting on Wednesday. Ten years ago, many of these same representatives met in New York at the United Nation's General Assembly's Special Session on Drugs (UNGASS). The meeting was dominated by the slogan: "A Drug-Free World: We Can Do It". If the above is success, what does failure look like?

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