This Post Is On Drugs

Given the topic Resolved: The continuation of current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America will do more harm than good, the first question we should be asking is what the current U.S. anti-drug policies in Latin America are.

The Portland Central America Solidarity Committee really sets the frame of our policies thusly:

The ideology of the drug war is that repression, violence, and destruction are ample tactics to stop drug trafficking. It shapes policies that have militarized Latin America and serves as a legislative tactic to maintain US power in the region.

So let’s talk about the militarization of Latin America. Martha Mendoza with the Associated Press reported on Feb 1, 2013 that our current expanding anti-drug policies policies in Latin America include:

4,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Latin America and as many as four U.S. Navy ships are plying the Caribbean and Pacific coastlines of Central America. U.S. Air Force pilots clocked more than 46,400 hours in 2011 flying anti-drug missions, and U.S. agents from at least 10 law enforcement agencies spread across the continent. … In the most expensive initiative in Latin America since the Cold War, the U.S. has militarized the battle against the traffickers, spending more than $20 billion in the past decade. … a $1.6 billion, 4-year Merida Initiative was launched in 2008 [in 5 countries]. … The latest iteration is the $165 million Central America Regional Security Initiative, which includes Operation Martillo (Hammer), a year-old U.S.-led mission [that] has no end date.

Kevin Alvarez with the North American Congress on Latin America explained in Oct 2010 that

The United States will be using the same anti-drug policies in Central America as it has used in Colombia and Mexico, where results have been murky at best. Both countries have seen the corruption of public officials and the armed forces, and many dead civilians…

Mendoza notes that Mexico has has 70,000 deaths in the past 6 years and earlier action in Columbia was accompanied by 44,000 deaths.

Alvarez continues starkly:

U.S. anti-drug policies have not been able to impede production of drugs in Colombia, or other parts of South America. They have not been able to stop drugs smuggled through Mexico, and they have not been able to stop the historic high number of illicit drugs that enter the United States today. Nonetheless, U.S. policymakers are attempting to replicate the same failed strategy, as they turn to Central America, sandwiched between Colombia and Mexico, in an attempt to cut off the traffickers before they ever reach Mexico and the U.S. border.

Blanca Torii, writing for The Vista in November 2011, confirms the ongoing accessibility of drugs even in well-heeled professional circles:

The word among current employees, psychologists and counselors, according to an article by Dealbreaker written in the past year, is that drug usage has not dropped. … “Drugs are so accessible to the average person, let alone the person who is well-spoken and professional,” [Seabrook Clinical Director William] Heran said. According to Heran, the trend in Wall Street drug consumption is using a Pez dispenser with the head of a red devil containing pills of Oxycodone or Percocet.

So even if we do manage to confiscate and destroy some specific drugs before they get to the U.S. market, we aren’t really cutting down on the overall availability of drugs. Really, we’re Oregonians: we’re not going to buy cocaine imported from halfway around the world when we can buy locally-sourced pot and meth. Joking aside, the point is still valid: between common non-Latin American drug sources, over-abundant and readily misused prescription drugs, and fun new combinations of household chemicals that aren’t illegal yet, $20 billion and 110,000 foreign deaths haven’t improved our position against drugs. So what’s going on instead: American Imperialism corrupting foreign leaders.

Alvarez continues:

Latin American leaders have protested the deployment and maintenance of U.S. troops in [Costa Rica]’s counter-narcotic operations as a cover for Washington’s desire to flex its military might in the region [and] A leaked U.S. Air Force document outlined that the purposes of U.S. forces in Colombian air bases would not be restricted to counter-narcotics operations but would offer “full spectrum operations throughout South America” and would meet threats from “anti-US governments.” … [But] Honduras’s Minister of Security, Oscar Álvarez … wants to share tactical and strategic information and receive economic aid from the United States [and] The government of El Salvador … welcomed assistance in the form of intelligence officers and economic aid.

So what we’re seeing here is our troops on indefinite foreign deployment with active scope creep belying their alleged — and thus far unsuccessful — mission, while we allow foreign leaders to actively solicit donations from us to keep them attuned to our interest rather than being dependent on their peoples’ interest. So bear this in mind: anybody talking about corruption in Latin America? Well yeah, we’re the ones actively corrupting them.