Tag: war on drugs

Hey Daily Kos, Cato Is Not A ‘Republican-supporting’ Institution

I guess it’s not a huge surprise that a writer at The Daily Kos would characterize Cato as “Republican-supporting” when it suits a purpose. Just for their future reference, here is a laundry list of positions taken by Cato scholars that most Republicans (Beltway Republicans, at least) tend to abhor:

We libertarians continue to be amazed at the inconsistency exhibited by the left and the right: conservatives dislike government power except when it comes to militarizing our foreign policy and, oftentimes, running people’s personal lives; liberals profess dislike for government power except when it comes to micromanaging the economy, which can quickly morph into micromanaging everything else. The Nanny-state is pushed equally by liberals and conservatives.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” (my emphasis) I think Cato scholars demonstrate a different kind of consistency in our principled adherence to limited, constitutional government, individual liberty, free markets, and peace. Our positions do not change whenever Republicrats replace Democans in office.

More Pyrrhic Victories in Mexico’s Drug War

The New York Times reports today that Mexican authorities have arrested a major operative of the Sinaloa Cartel, adding to a string of significant blows against Mexico’s most important drug organization. The Felipe Calderón administration now boasts that since 2009, it has arrested or killed 22 of the 39 most important drug kingpins.

Is this significant? Not according to official documents of the U.S. government. The Office of Intelligence and Operations Coordination of the Custom and Border Protection agency looked at drug seizure data from January 2009 to January 2010 and matched it with the arrest or death of drug operatives (11 capos in total). It found that “there is no perceptible pattern that correlates either a decrease or increase in drug seizures due to the removal of key DTO [drug trafficking organization] personnel.”

And, as the latest National Drug Threat Assessment report by the Justice Department puts it, “The overall availability of illicit drugs in the United States is increasing. Heroin, marijuana, MDMA [ecstasy], and methamphetamine are readily available, and their availability appears to be increasing in some markets.” [p. 24]

The truth is that for every drug kingpin arrested or killed, there are many others waiting to take his job. As long as there is demand for drugs in the United States, there will be a supply. The question is whether that business should be in the hands of legal entrepreneurs—as in the alcohol and tobacco industries—or in the hands of violent criminals.

Mexicans Deserve Substance Over Style in Presidential Race

Josefina Vázquez Mota won the nomination of the incumbent National Action Party (PAN) for Mexico’s upcoming presidential election. Most of the coverage in the international media today focuses on how she is the first woman to have a real shot at Los Pinos (the official residence of the president of Mexico). However, the real story should be what new ideas (if any) Vázquez Mota brings to the table. Unfortunately, there’s isn’t much to report.

The same can be said of the other two presidential contenders, Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Democratic Revolutionary Party.

Perhaps William Booth of the Washington Post sums it up best when he writes about the three choices Mexican voters face in July:

“The popular former mayor of Mexico City with a messianic self-regard [López Obrador]; a telegenic leading man who wrote a book but has been vague about which books he has read [Peña Nieto]; and a perky, gal-next-door type who does a lot of smiling but has been blank on specifics [Vázquez Mota].”

Mexico will face serious challenges in the next six years, not least of which is a crippling war on drugs that kills thousands of Mexicans every year, but also a sluggish economy due largely to the sclerotic effects of public and private monopolies in key industries. This presidential election should be more about substance and less about style.

Feds Palling Around With Mexican Cartels

Two years ago the Washington Post reported that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency brought dangerous Mexican drug traffickers to the U.S. who, while continuing their criminal activities in Mexico and the U.S., also served as informants to the federal authorities in their war on drugs.

In June, Operation Fast and Furious came to light where the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) allowed suspicious straw-purchasers of firearms to buy weapons in the U.S. and smuggle them into Mexico. The purpose was to track the guns all the way to the ultimate buyer—a Mexican drug trafficking organization. Overall, the ATF facilitated the purchase of hundreds of guns by Mexican cartels. Many were later found in crime scenes in Mexico, including one where a U.S. Border Patrol agent was assassinated.

On Sunday, the New York Times reported that the Drug Enforcement Agency has been laundering millions of dollars for Mexican cartels. The goal of the undercover mission is to follow the money all the way up to the top ranks of the criminal organizations. However, as the NYT notes, “So far there are few signs that following the money has disrupted the cartels’ operations and little evidence that Mexican drug traffickers are feeling any serious financial pain.”

So there we have it: in the name of the war on drugs, the federal government has provided safe havens to Mexican drug traffickers, facilitated their purchase of powerful firearms, and has even laundered millions of dollars for the cartels.

After spending millions of dollars toward fighting the drug war in Mexico, the United States has little to show for its efforts. It seems Washington is becoming more desperate each year to produce new leads and results. These three incidents display a stunning lack of foresight and borders on the federal government aiding the Mexican drug cartels, with little to show in return. The unintended consequences of these programs aimed at dismantling the cartels would be laughable were it not for the thousands that have died in Mexico’s drug related violence.

It is time for the United States to rethink the war on drugs and consider policies that will successfully undermine the Mexican drug cartels.

Border Security, the War on Drugs, and the 2012 GOP Presidential Race

The issue of border security has made its way into the 2012 GOP presidential race and candidates are jockeying to separate themselves from the pack. The topic garnered some attention at the Republican national security debate on November 22. An Associated Press story today examines the candidate’s platforms on the topic and as the title implies, rightly concludes securing the border is impossible. I am quoted in the article and make exactly that point:

Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have promised to complete a nearly 1,950-mile fence. Michele Bachmann wants a double fence. Ron Paul pledges to secure the nation’s southern border by any means necessary, and Rick Perry says he can secure it without a fence — and do so within a year of taking office as president.

But a border that is sealed off to all illegal immigrants and drugs flowing north is a promise none of them could keep.

“Securing the border is a wonderful slogan, but that’s pretty much all it is,” said Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute. “Even to come close would require measures that would make legal commerce with Mexico impossible. That’s an enormous price for what would still be a very leaky system.”

The bottom line is the border is simply too big to control. Attempting to fully police the border must pass a simple cost-benefit analysis, and it is not clear that our current policy passes that test. And yet, the candidates all agree securing the border is necessary to combat terrorism, illegal immigration, and drug violence stemming from Mexico.

The candidates have little reason to reexamine that assumption. Not only is it politically advantageous to call for securing the border, but it is a convenient one-size-fits-all solution to those three broader policy issues. They have calculated that this is what voters want to hear.

But it is an illusory solution. Laws protecting the border must exist and be enforced, but it is not clear that this alone, even if done more effectively or efficiently, will prevent terrorists or illegal immigrants from entering the United States. And the “securing the border” panacea certainly will not end the flow of drugs into the United States.

Curiously, while the GOP candidates all express worries about terrorism and illegal immigration, the subject of the war on drugs has hardly been discussed.  Although drug violence in Mexico is the only major security problem the Untied States faces on any of its borders, the issue has not produced serious consideration thus far.  Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) has been the only candidate to offer a thoughtful, consistent approach the issue, calling for an end to the failed policy.

The candidates should be pressured to answer why Washington continues to spend billions of dollars to wage the war on drugs each year with little to show for it. The power of the drug cartels has reached the point that the Mexican government no longer controls some areas of the country. And there are worrying signs that the violence is beginning to bleed across the border into the United States.

Our prohibitionist efforts have failed and a new policy is needed. Only by removing the lucrative black-market drug trade and thus effectively defunding the Mexican drug cartels can we begin to end the violence and illegal activity that plagues Mexico and the southern U.S. border region.

That is the substantive discussion that should be taking place in the GOP debates, rather than the posturing and repeated faux policy prescriptions to secure the border.

Reefer Madness Here and Abroad

In the New York Times, Ethan Nadelmann takes aim at the “reefer madness” of the Obama administration, which despite promises and expectations has stepped up the war on marijuana:

But over the past year, federal authorities appear to have done everything in their power to undermine state and local regulation of medical marijuana and to create uncertainty, fear and confusion among those in the industry. The president needs to reassert himself to ensure that his original policy is implemented.

The Treasury Department has forced banks to close accounts of medical marijuana businesses operating legally under state law. The Internal Revenue Service has required dispensary owners to pay punitive taxes required of no other businesses. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives recently ruled that state-sanctioned medical marijuana patients can not purchase firearms.

United States attorneys have also sent letters to local officials, coinciding with the adoption or implementation of state medical marijuana regulatory legislation, stressing their authority to prosecute all marijuana offenses. Prosecutors have threatened to seize the property of landlords and put them behind bars for renting to marijuana dispensaries. The United States attorney in San Diego, Laura E. Duffy, has promised to start targeting media outlets that run dispensaries’ ads.

President Obama has not publicly announced a shift in his views on medical marijuana, but his administration seems to be declaring one by fiat.

As bad as the drug war is in the United States, it’s wreaking far more havoc in Mexico and Latin America. That’s why the Cato Institute is holding an all-day conference next week, “Ending the War on Drugs,” featuring:

  • the former president of Brazil
  • the former drug czar of India
  • the former foreign minister of Mexico
  • the author of Cato’s study on decriminalization in Portugal
  • the Speaker of the House in Uruguay
  • plus video presentations by former Secretary of State George Shultz and former Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Check it out. And be there November 15.