Sunday, July 27, 2014

Undocumented Children and the War on Drugs

With children, often quite young, flooding the border with Mexico the media are having a field day with heartrending stories about the little ones coming here unaccompanied by parents or close relatives. But there is little interest in asking why parents are willing to send their children across thousands of miles of dangerous, illegal travel. What happened to make life in Central America, in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador so terribly unsafe?
The short answer is: war – the war on drugs.
That war begins with strong and sustained demand for cocaine and other illegal drugs in the United States. Our inability to face up to this national epidemic is where the crisis for small children begins in Central America. Why is drug use so very common? Why are there so many Americans for whom ordinary, everyday life is so abhorrent that they can bear it only when they are high? We not only have no answers to these questions. We are afraid to ask them.
While administrations in Washington come and go and different "experts" advise the different governments, the war on drugs continues unabated and is being fought with progressively more sophisticated weapons and larger outlays of money. America responds to the continuing demand for drugs by buying more helicopters and guns and sending more troops and narco-agents to Central America and Mexico.
Until 2007 or so most drugs were moved by air or by sea. Then the war on drugs became intensified and drugs needed to be moved, often in small quantities, overland through Central America and Mexico.
As a consequence we have brought what amounts to a civil war to several Central American countries and to Mexico. The war on drugs consists of pitched military battles between different governments and their police forces and the heavily armed drug cartels. So far, the battles seems to be a draw at best. Certainly government forces are not winning. Police and military units are often subverted through lavish bribes which far exceed what their governments can afford to pay.
The economies in Central America and in Mexico are feeble at best. There are not nearly enough jobs. Poverty rates are very high. For many, working for the drug cartels seems to be the only or, at least, the best option. They join the army of the drug traffickers. Their job is to kill or be killed. The war on drugs destroys local economies and thus forces more people to join either side in that conflict. They become professional killers.
The continued ability of drug cartels to hold governments and the US financed and supported militaries at bay undermines the legitimacy of governments. Law-enforcement becomes feeble. Murder rates rise precipitously. Citizens hide anxiously in their houses and are afraid to go out at night. At the same time, many of the most notorious drug gang members were at one time members of Central American militaries. As such the United States government trained them to be efficient and cold-blooded killers at the School of the Americas at Fort Benning, GA.
All of this increasing violence is not only planned and financed in large part by our government. But there are persistent reports that American Marines and DEA agents actually conduct raids in Central America. We are a major partner in this civil crusade in Central America and Mexico.
As this war over drugs continues, levels of violence only go up. In recent years, during the presidency of Felipe Calderon, a joint US – Mexico anti-drug effort managed to arrest or kill the heads of several important drug cartels. But what may have appeared to be a success, only resulted in the splintering of drug trafficking organizations and with it a much intensified warring between different groups, each aiming to expand its reach. At the same time, criminal organizations discovered a new source of income: kidnapping and ransoming of the wealthy. The public reacted with the formation of citizen militias aim to protect themselves and violence escalated more.
The children flooding the Mexico – US border need help today. But we need to also consider the larger context of this crisis. It is a clear indication that the war on drugs conducted by the military and the intelligence apparatus of the US government and its industrial suppliers is a colossal failure.
It should be ended immediately.
The money given to Central American militaries should be diverted to services for addicts at home. Many of them, today, who would like help breaking their habits cannot find the services they need. We must do what we can to reduce demand for drugs here here at home and reduce the violence to the war on drugs.