21 September 2012

The drug war—cui bono?

The drug war is a most curious war indeed. It is a war which creates its own enemy. If there was no war, i.e. if drugs were legal, the massive profits in drug-dealing would fade away as would the drug dealers and the crime they bring with them. So inasmuch as crime is the problem, it would seem that the real enemy isn't the drugs but the war itself.

The drug dealers depend on the war to keep the money machine running. But they are not the only ones who profit of course. The prison industry is booming—from the U.S., where half the inmates in federal prisons are there for drug offenses, to little Latvia, where half the women in prison are there for non-violent drug offences.

The arms industry has done well, too. American defence contractors have sold billions in weapons for the drug wars in Colombia and elsewhere. The banks have also profited. Wachovia bank recently admitted to transferring $100-million of drug money into the U.S. and failing to monitor $376-billion brought into the bank through small exchange houses in Mexico over a four-year period. And there are other beneficiaries: lawyers and accountants who serve the drug barons, architects who build their mansions, police and military personnel who take their bribes ... the list is long.

Unfortunately, however, wars do more than make some people rich, they also cost lives. In Mexico, 56,000 people have died from drug-related violence since the country launched its latest version of the war in 2006. The Mexican city of Juárez exemplifies who the real enemy is. In the period 2008-10, 54 people died from drug overdoses, over 7,000 died from the drug war. In Juárez, people might be excused for stating the modest exaggeration that drugs don't kill people, drug wars do.

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