Pubdate: Fri, 16 Jan 2009
Source: Tucson Citizen (AZ)
Copyright: 2009 Tucson Citizen
Author: Raul Yzaguirre
Note: Raul Yzaguirre is executive director of Arizona State 
University's Center for Community Development and Civil Rights. For 
30 years he was head of the National Council of La Raza.
Bookmark: (Opinion)


We're Also Major Source for Weapons Smuggled There

As the eyes of the world remain riveted on violent conflicts in the 
Middle East, one of our closest international allies is under siege.

Mexico is embroiled in a widening war with our hemisphere's most 
powerful drug cartels. That's the message Mexico's President Felipe 
Calderon delivered during a visit to Washington this week.

More than 5,500 people were killed in 2008 in Mexico in the wake of 
an unprecedented campaign to take down the kingpins who have been 
operating criminal empires there with virtual impunity for years.

Tragically, Calderon's noble and resolute quest is a quixotic one. To 
paraphrase an old saying, Mexico's closest ally in this pursuit, the 
United States, also happens to be its worst enemy.

The growing power of Mexico's drug cartels is directly related to the 
huge demand for drugs in the United States.

Our fellow Americans are the cartels' best customers and, 
consequently, the financiers of the ongoing slaughter of law 
enforcement personnel and innocent bystanders in Mexico.

The U.S. also is a major source of the increasingly powerful weaponry 
being used by drug traffickers, who experts say have more powerful 
and sophisticated weapons than the federal troops and police assigned 
to combat them.

Ninety percent of guns Mexican officials confiscate are purchased at 
U.S. stores and gun shows, then smuggled into Mexico.

Last month, outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and 
remaining Defense Secretary Robert Gates pledged that the U.S. will 
redouble its efforts to supply money, training and equipment to help 
Mexico "confront these criminals and protect our citizens" as part of 
the Merida Initiative.

The initiative is the latest in a series of unsuccessful efforts to 
stem the flow of illegal drugs into the U.S., and it is expected to 
cost about $1.4 billion.

This week, President-elect Barack Obama announced that he supports the program.

Unfortunately, as with every other U.S.-backed international 
anti-drug initiative that's come before it, the Merida Initiative is 
doomed to fail.

Mexico's cartels are now the main suppliers of illegal drugs into the 
U.S. That wasn't always the case. Our southern neighbor earned this 
dubious distinction after the United States helped cripple the 
powerful Colombia-based cartels of the 1980s and 1990s.

So even though we won some battles in Colombia, we're losing the war in Mexico.

The Merida Initiative will fail because the root cause of this crisis 
is not international drug trafficking.

It is drug addiction and drug abuse in the United States, both 
fundamentally public health issues.
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