Mexico is a major source of heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine
for the U.S. market as well as the principal transit and distribution
point for cocaine coming in from South America. For years, people both
inside and outside Mexico have worried that the country might descend
into the maelstrom of corruption and violence that has long plagued
the chief drug-source country in the Western Hemisphere, Colombia.
There are growing signs that the “Colombianization” of Mexico is now
becoming a reality.
That tragic prospect is a direct result of Washington’s policy of drug
prohibition. A prohibitionist strategy inherently creates a huge blackmarket
premium for trafficking in illegal drugs. The enormous potential
profit also attracts the most violence-prone criminal elements. It is a
truism that when drugs are outlawed, only outlaws will traffic in drugs.
If Mexico goes down the same path as Colombia, the consequences
for the United States will be much more severe. Colombia is relatively
far away, but Mexico shares a border with the United States and is
closely linked to this country through the North America Free Trade
Agreement. Chaos in Mexico is already spilling over the border and will
adversely impact the United States – especially the southwestern states.
There is still time for Mexico to halt and eventually reverse the Colombianization
process, but for that to occur Washington must make dramatic
policy changes. For more than three and a half decades, the
United States has pursued a vigorous war on drugs that has produced
major social pathologies both here and abroad. It is time to rethink the
entire prohibitionist strategy.