Losing The War on Drugs

Why has America's war on drugs been so unsuccessful?

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Following Obama's North American summit this week in Mexico, experts are evaluating a defining element of U.S.-Mexico relations: the war on drugs. While they mostly agree that it has been unsuccessful thus far, pundits differ on how to change course.

A Time Out  Juan Gabriel Tokatlian and Colombian presidential nominee Rafael Pardo warned in the Christian Science Monitor against "yet another losing war on drugs." The authors said the goal, "to deter both potential consumers and producers from entering the drug market," has "failed." Crack-downs in Central and South American countries have only led to "shifted production" and caused "negative effects on human rights, civil-military relations, the environment, and the rule of law – all very fragile in Latin America." Tokatlian and Pardo advocated a one-year break, during which an independent commission of "leading experts from the Americas, nongovernmental organizations, policymakers, and the media" would reevaluate how to retool the war on drugs.

Focus on Honuras  The Wall Street Journal's Mary Anastasia O'Grady argued that Obama should disavow deposed Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, who she said remains connected to FARC, "the most important South American supplier of illegal drugs to North America." O'Grady criticized Obama, and especially Mexican President Felipe Calderón, for supporting Zelaya. "Even if Messrs. Obama and Calderón don't care about the freedom of Hondurans, they can't ignore the likelihood that the establishment of a chavista government in Honduras would raise the cost, in blood and treasure, of their war on drugs," she wrote.

Shut Down the War  Diane Francis of the Huffinton Post, in a column titled "U.S. War On Drugs is Killing Mexico," called the war on drugs "a total failure." Francis wrote that "instability and corruption is metastasizing in Mexico, driving more Mexicans out of the country or into crime." She noted, "Last year, 4,000 important civic officials from police chiefs to mayors and judges were assassinated by the country's powerful drug cartels." She argued that "Americans must recant, and abandon, their drug Prohibition policies and adopt European or Canadian-style health care to deal with the problem." Improved health care would, she said, help fight "the myth that addicts are criminals, not sick persons."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.