Mexico is a major source of heroin, marijuana,and methamphetamine for the U.S.market as well as the principal transit and distributionpoint for cocaine coming in fromSouth America. For years, people both insideand outside Mexico have worried that thecountry might descend into the maelstromof corruption and violence that has longplagued the chief drug‐source country in theWestern Hemisphere, Colombia. There aregrowing signs that the “Colombianization”of Mexico is now becoming a reality.
That tragic prospect is a direct result ofWashington’s policy of drug prohibition. Aprohibitionist strategy inherently creates ahuge black‐market premium for trafficking inillegal drugs. The enormous potential profitalso attracts the most violence‐prone criminalelements. It is a truism that when drugs areoutlawed, only outlaws will traffic in drugs.
If Mexico goes down the same path asColombia, the consequences for the UnitedStates will be much more severe. Colombia isrelatively far away, but Mexico shares a borderwith the United States and is closelylinked to this country economically throughthe North America Free Trade Agreement.Chaos in Mexico is already spilling over theborder and will adversely impact the UnitedStates — especially the southwestern states.
There is still time for Mexico to halt andeventually reverse the Colombianizationprocess, but for that to occur Washingtonmust make dramatic policy changes. Formore than three and a half decades, theUnited States has pursued a vigorous waron drugs that has produced major socialpathologies both here and abroad. It istime to rethink the entire prohibitioniststrategy.