Holding Mexico Hostage

President Felipe Calderon, in a recent interview, said that if it were not for his war against the drug cartels, his government – and all of Mexico – “would be held hostage by criminal groups.” We rather suspect that, as he enters the last two years of his term, he is speaking for himself. We suspect that, by this comment, he is revealing that he is actually feeling that both he and his government are being “held hostage” by a battle he has not been able to “win” and to which he sees no sign of an ending, certainly not in the next eighteen months before the next presidential election.

Regardless of Calderon’s – and his party’s (PAN) self-imposed political plight – the president’s countrymen and women are quite convinced that they already are hostages to the drug war being waged all around them. Not only are they hostages to the cartels. They are hostages to Calderon’s unilateral decision to initiate and continue to pursue his war against the cartels. Just last week, the city of Morelia, the capital of Michoacán, was held hostage for two days by La Familia, as the cartel blockaded all the main roads into and out of the city. Our Michoacán friends now feel that they cannot freely travel to visit family for Christmas. Monterrrey has frequently been held hostage by similar blockades. Friends in Cuernavaca, scene of a number of drug-related murders, are preparing to move out of the country to escape the siege. Then there are Ciudad Juarez, Reynosa, Nueva Leon, Tijuana, Matamoros, Ciudad Mier and all the other cities and towns along the U.S. border that are beseiged and held hostage by this war.

But beyond and beneath this immediate, daily hostage taking, Mexicans are held hostage by the United States government. The prohibitionist drug laws of the giant of the north and its war mentality keep them in a captivity from which they can do nothing to escape. The U.S. prohibitionist mentality avoids addressing the domestic issue of drug consumption, externalizing and projecting it onto the supply side of the drug market, first Columbia and, in the last several years, Mexico. No change of Mexican strategy, policy or presidents can liberate the people of Mexico from being held hostage by the United States. Only the U.S. can free them by giving up its failed domestic war on drugs and the prohibitionist laws that underpin it. Only the establishment of  regulated, legal sale and use of these drugs will free the people of Mexico from being “held hostage.”