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September 10, 2012

"A father's plea: End the war on drugs"

120904063158-sicilia-la-procession-2-story-topThe title of this post is the headline of this new commentary by Javier Sicilia appearing at CNN.  Here is how it begins:

Why was my son murdered?  He was 24, and he had never tried drugs.  He didn't even smoke. He had paid half his university costs with a sports scholarship and was working as administrative staff at a cardiac clinic in Morelos, Mexico. Why then was my son suffocated by hit men from the Gulf Cartel?  Why did his six friends, just like him, die at his side?

The answer, you may tell me, is obvious. "Because drug traffickers are bad, and must be stopped." The answer, however, is not that simple.  If it were I would not be leading a caravan for peace across the United States.  Let's pose the question differently.  If Mexico's President Felipe Calderon had treated drug abuse as a question of public health rather than a matter of national security, might my son and his friends still be alive today? If instead of declaring war on drug trafficking, Calderón had pursued a bilateral agenda with the United States to decriminalize drugs and regulate their use, is it possible that they and tens of thousands of other young people killed in the last six years would be still be with us?

Declaring a war obliges one's enemy to build up defensive armies.  And if the principal tactic of that war is identifying and taking out crime syndicate leaders, it leaves their decapitated, but ever profitable, organizations adrift.  President Calderon went on the offensive against cartel "capos." The result was a proliferation of criminal gangs.

My son, Juan Francisco, and his friends were kidnapped, tortured and killed by one of those new splinter gangs, who did the hit for just $25,000 and two pickup trucks.

Why? One of the young men killed with my son had complained about a theft in the valet parking of a bar that turned out to be managed by one of the criminal gangs untethered after drug lord Beltrán Leyva was killed and his lieutenants scattered.  "Comandante H," a former Beltrán Leyva confidante, was recently apprehended by authorities, telling his captors, "I was quite outraged when they murdered Sicilia's son and his friends.  Murdering innocent people is not our business.  Our business is drugs.  But I was fleeing, and I could not do anything."

The horrific story of my son and his friends is one of thousands like it in our country.  More than 60,000 people have been killed and 20,000 have disappeared because of the myopic war strategy Felipe Calderon and the Mexican security forces have pursued since 2006. Some murder estimates are even higher.

That is why I stopped writing poetry and took to the streets with thousands of other grieving Mexicans to make my son, and other victims like him, visible.  Now, I'm traveling across the United States with members of dozens of families broken by violence to seek common cause with Americans whose communities, especially the African American and Latino communities who have so warmly hosted us, that have been battered by the violence and the criminalization that this same counterproductive war inflicts on the U.S. side of the border.

September 10, 2012 at 10:09 AM | Permalink

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" If Mexico's President Felipe Calderon had treated drug abuse as a question of public health rather than a matter of national security, might my son and his friends still be alive today? If instead of declaring war on drug trafficking, Calderón had pursued a bilateral agenda with the United States to decriminalize drugs and regulate their use, is it possible that they and tens of thousands of other young people killed in the last six years would be still be with us? "


NO, NO, NO. This man's suffering is understandable, but don't let it blind us. Drugs must remain illegal. This is capitalism. Enormous profits from this (like your Prohibition period) support me and and my family and my army of supporters in Mexico. I have luxurious haciendas, beautiful women (and handsome men); and spectacular boats and cars. Killing innocent people is not good, but I must protect my source of income. I will fight to the death to keep drugs illegal. Join me and visit my hacienda!!

Posted by: Pablo Miranda Escobar | Sep 10, 2012 1:51:00 PM

I just saw that Judge Richard A. Posner, a Chicago law school professor and Reagan-appointed jurist on the Seventh Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, said a few days ago the criminalization of marijuana is “really absurd,” explaining that he sees no difference between the currently-criminalized substance and cigarettes. He said " “I don’t think we should have a fraction of the drug laws that we have,” speaking to an audience at Elmhurst College in Illinois. “I think it’s really absurd to be criminalizing possession or use or distribution of marijuana. I can’t see any difference between that and cigarettes.”
Posner added that he’s also “skeptical about the other drug laws,” saying it’s not “sensible” to apply criminal law to solve the problem of addiction.

NO, NO, NO. Posner is a hack, as Federalist would say. Do not listen to him.
Join me and Bill Otis: KEEP DRUGS ILLEGAL--ESPECIALLY MARIJUANA.

Posted by: Pablo Miranda Escobar | Sep 10, 2012 2:23:52 PM

"" especially the African American and Latino communities who have so warmly hosted us ""

Whilst I cannot fully appreciate the depth of the grief of Sr. Silicia, one should not 'racialise' this issue lest a major inconvenient fact surfaces therewith:

In 2010, "Most industrialized countries had homicide rates below the 2.5 mark."
In 2011, the homicide rate excluding minorities in the

U.S. is 2.0 (1.98),
Asia is 3.1,
Europe is 3.5 ;

with minorities,
U.S. is 4.2,
Africa is 17.0.

(UNODC murder rates most recent year) http://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/Homicide_statistics2012.xls
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 10, 2012 2:49:27 PM

For perspective, Selected others per 100,000:

Honduras 91.6
Jamaica 52.2 (2010)
Argentina 45.1 (2010)

Puerto Rico 26.2 (2010)
Dominican Republic 25.0
Mexico 22.7 (2010)
Brazil 21.0 (2010)

Russian Fed. 10.2
Lithuania 6.6 (2010)

Finland 2.2
Israel 2.1

Belgium 1.7
Sweden 1.0
Iceland 0.3 (2010)

Posted by: Adamakis | Sep 10, 2012 2:52:42 PM

This is what the article says: "One of the young men killed with my son had complained about a theft in the valet parking of a bar that turned out to be managed by one of the criminal gangs untethered after drug lord Beltrán Leyva was killed and his lieutenants scattered."

Of course it could just as easily read: "One of the young men killed with my son had complained about a theft in the valet parking of a bar that turned out to be managed by one of the criminal gangs untethered after human trafficking lord Beltrán Leyva was killed and his lieutenants scattered."

Willingness to engage in sadistic, criminal violence like this has less to do with pot (or heroin -- wanna legalize that too?) than with pure evil.

For those of you who don't believe in evil, wake up.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 10, 2012 6:13:29 PM

I hope that people will laugh at and ignore this silly poet and his pathetic crusade. Drugs should remain illegal always. And you should not buy your drugs from that snake Pablo Miranda Escobar. His marijuana is stinky ditch weed and his cocaine is full of old laundry detergent.

My drugs, on other hand, are top notch, grade A primo number one narcotics. Distribution is a problem sometimes. Last week, for example, I tried new route to bring drugs to good-paying American customers, but Pablo, his workers blocked my delivery trucks. And killed the drivers. So, I make law suit on Pablo.

Haha! That is my little joke. Everyone knows you cannot sue drug business rivals in court of law. Soon I pay a little visit to one of Pablo's packaging centers. Hopefully, no innocent person gets in way of my, shall we say, "process servers".

Viva la war on drugs!

Posted by: Alvaro Nunez Cabeza de Vaca | Sep 10, 2012 9:15:34 PM

Bill,

I am 46 and spent the first half of my life on the border in El Paso across from Ciudad Juarez. The drug trade was as big then as it is now. Yet. Mexico and Ciudad Juarez were much more peaceful places back then. The reason for the relative peace is that the government was in bed with the cartels then. This sleeping with the cartels was s de facto legalization and is historical proof that the cartels, left to carry out their trade, unimpeded, would not engage in this kind of random violence much less condone it or allow it to happen.

The author of the article is correct. The heightened violence in Mexico occurred at the moment the Mexican government began a policy of removing the heads of the cartels. In so doing they removed those who effectively kept the peace. This is an excellent case of policy blowback. The rampage will not stop until a new set of capos takes control or until Mexico decriminalizes the drug trade.

Posted by: Jardinero1 | Sep 10, 2012 9:43:39 PM

Jardinero1 --

I have no doubt that you can buy peace with corruption and surrender. It works -- in the short run.

In the long run, those who were proud of the "wisdom" of surrendering will be done in with the very spoils they gave to their enemies.

This may be the oldest story in history.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Sep 10, 2012 11:25:41 PM

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