In the past six years, more than 60,000 Mexicans have died violently in crime and drug-related deaths.
In the U.S., there is a wider spectrum of issues related to the harm done by drug usage. They range from state-side violence among traffickers, gangbangers, and dealers to drug-influenced auto fatalities and increasing abuse of prescription drugs. Mortality statistics indicate that drug-related deaths now exceed auto fatalities in the U.S. Prescription drug abuse reportedly claims a life every 19 minutes in the U.S. and has reached epidemic proportions.
The White House still retains the power to set the national agenda and frame the political conversation at home and abroad. In his last conversation relating to drug issues in December 2012, President Obama, when asked about the passage of marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and the state of Washington, responded that the federal government had “bigger fish to fry.”
These state laws run contrary to federal law and U.S. treaty obligations. Then-president Felipe Calderon of Mexico angrily fired back, questioning U.S. “moral authority.” When interviewed by the American Quarterly about his Mexican trip, the President answered no questions about drug trafficking. In Mexico this week, Obama will talk trade, immigration reform, education, and dance diplomatically around the drug issue.
Fresh friction has emerged between the U.S. and Mexico over rules for counter-drug intelligence collection and sharing. Mexico’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto appears to be concentrating on more centralized control over drug collection and operations on Mexican territory.
Concerned about citizen security, Peña Nieto hopes to reduce the harm done to ordinary Mexicans as drugs flow across his nation’s territory to U.S. consumers. At the back of his mind also is a recognition that he is dealing with the same Administration that launched Operation Fast and Furious, which let guns walk across the border, and that argues marijuana legalization in Colorado and Washington is no big deal.
Clearly the U.S. and Mexico must work together to deal with the river of violence and fatality that runs from the coca fields of the Andes, the meth labs of Michoacán, and the fertile marijuana fields of Sinaloa to the high schools, street corners, and suburban bungalows of the U.S.
The White House continues to move to end the “War on Drugs” just as it has boasted of ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet, victory in all three remains elusive. Failure, sadly, seems an option for the Obama Administration.