Latin America does not have a drug problem

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

Latin America does not have a drug problem, Fred Reed explains:

It has a United States problem. The problem is that Americans want drugs. The US is a huge, voracious, insatiable market for drugs. Americans very much want their brain candy. They will pay whatever they need to pay to get it. All the world knows this.

Why, Mexicans wonder, is America’s drug habit Mexico’s problem? If Americans don’t want drugs, they can stop buying them. Nobody forces anyone to use the stuff.

Ah, the rub is that Washington doesn’t want Americans to have drugs. All right, say Mexicans, that is a problem between the American government and the American people. Let America solve it.

Why, Mexican’s ask — read this sentence carefully — should Mexico tear itself in pieces, lose thousands of dead annyally, and turn into a war zone to solve a problem that America refuses to solve?

Think. Why doesn’t the American government run sting operations at, say, Berkeley and Stanford, and Rice and George Washington U., and put those students caught using drugs in the slam for two years per? How about a sting at your daughter’s high school, with a year in some nasty reformatory, which is to say any reformatory, for those caught? It could be a family sort of thing. You could visit her and hear what fascinating things she had learned about compulsory Lesbian sex.

The reason of course is that any effort to punish large classes of politically influential people would result in a revolution. You can’t jail Harvard. So Washington doesn’t. Instead it expects Mexico to do something about drugs.

Now, on the off-chance that you live in an impermeable bubble, and don’t know who uses drugs, I will tell you. I note that I am not speculating about this. I spent eight years working as a police reporter from Anacostia to South Central, and know whereof I speak.

Blue-collar people use drugs — crack, for example. I’ve spent whole days arresting down-scale beauticians in rattletrap Chevys as they bought the stuff from black dealers in the grubby satellite towns outside Chicago. High rollers in Houston use as much powder as they ski in (and it happens to my certain knowledge on Capitol Hill). White professionals have bags of grass in the garage. So, most likely, do their children: In the suburban high schools of metro Washington, e.g., Yorktown and Washington and Lee, kids have easy access to Mary Jane, acid, shrooms, nitrous, Ecstasy, crystal. Good ol’ boys in Texas make, grow, and use drugs. Country kids in Virginia have a few plants out in the woods. And so on.
Which is to say, as Mexicans know, drugs are about as illegal in the US as is the downloading of music. It is punished by very light sentences for first-time users (which of course means first-time caughters). High-school kids get a week of “community service,” perhaps, which they regard as both amusing and a badge of honor. In general, little real effort is made to apprehend respectable white transgressors.

In short, the WOD is a fraud. In America the drug racket is a mildly disreputable business, tightly integrated into the economy, running smoothly, employing countless federal cops, prison guards, ineffectual rehab centers and equally ineffectual psychotherapists, and providing bribes to officials and huge deposits of laundered money to banks. Narcos in the US do not engage in pitched battles with the army because they have no reason to. The government barely inconveniences them.

So why should Mexico fight this war for Washington?

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