Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Mexican Drug War: Year of the Dead

Below is a video of a recent talk about the Mexican drug war at the Conference on World Affairs at the University of Colorado given by Sanho Tree, a drug policy analyst from the Washington based Institute for Policy Studies (and occasional Transform blogger). Incisive and informative analysis of the appalling unfolding crisis in Mexico.

"When you have these types of turf battles, its very counter-intuitive, but in terms of violence reduction, as long as we have high demand in places like the United States and as long as we have the war on drugs, drug prohibition, then the state getting in between a turf battle is possibly one of the worst thing you can do, which is a very difficult reality for politicians to face because they want to do something. Daniel Webster once said - 'the strong notion that something must be done is the parent of many a bad measure...especially if it happens in an election year."

See also this news piece from abc in the US, showing how collateral damage from the drug war is coming home to roost. Turf war related kidnappings are now commonplace in Phoenix, Arizona:

Phoenix - Kidnapping Capital of the U.S.A.


Hicksville said...

Great video. Tree really understands this issue, but I'm a little perplexed as to why he didn't discuss the alternative solution (legalisation, obviously) more than he did.

Of course, most people who's familiar with the subject of drug policy would recognize Tree as a person who would legalize most, if not all drugs. But for the average joe, in that audience, I think the solution in legalisation/regulation should've been discussed a bit more.

What Tree basically argued, was that the drug war is a failure. 76% of americans already agree with that.

A tad bit dissapointed about that, but other than that, I loved watching this. I'll definitely be watching Tree more closely from now on.

Sanho Tree said...

Thanks for the kind words, Hicksville. The conference organizers gave me a slot of only 50 minutes and I had to leave time for Q&A. If I had a 90 minute slot, I would have gotten into the need for regulation, but it's not a topic I like to deal with in a two minute soundbite.

I hope I did get across the idea that prohibition is a dead end policy.

Hicksville said...

"I hope I did get across the idea that prohibition is a dead end policy."

You most certainly did. I almost feel sorry for people that don't know anything about the issue and then has their first exposure to it through someone like you. Has to be one heavy reality check.

I've been an avid follower of drugs policy for about 8-9 years now, and you delivered some of the most effective and powerful arguments available, in a very refreshing way! Your argument that law enforcement helps drug dealers by increasing risk--and thus price/profit, is excellent. The fact that these fundamental mechanisms of drug policy has these unintended consequences, has always been among the arguments I believe to be the most effective.

Keep up the good work Tree, and thank you for taking the time to reply.