August 25, 2006


The War on Drugs, How Are We Doing?

This past week there was excitement and satisfaction with the arrest of Francisco Javier Arellano Félix, one of the leaders of the Arellano Félix drug cartel, which operated out of Tijuana. The Arellano Felix cartel was the largest and most ruthless cartel in Mexico. This arrest was seen as the end of this cartel!

Is this the end of the Arellano Félix Drug cartel? This remains to be seen, there is still one brother at large, who is considered the real power and brains behind the organization. For the past 20 years, this cartel has assassinated, decapitated, bribed, intimidated, and did whatever it took to control the flow of cocaine into the United States. The killings associated with the Arellano Felix cartel are not only numerous, but brazen, as demonstrated by the killing of the editor of Zeta, which was and remains the leading newspaper in Tijuana, exposing organized crime and drug trafficking.

In San Diego, the Arellano Felix drug cartel penetrated into the barrios of San Diego and surrounding communities, recruiting San Diego gang members who were then trained as assassins. The arrest of Javier Arellano Félix was indeed good news! The bad news is that in the drug business, when a vacuum of leadership occurs, it is quickly filled. The drug business continues on, as long as there is demand and billions to be made.

Despite the United States’ long years of efforts to destroy the Colombian coca crop, and the 40 year war on drugs, a recent news report shows that there is very little positive news to show that they have had a serious impact on the drug trade. As reported by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). Two-thirds of the local arrestees are testing positive for drugs. This news does not bode well for the future.

The United States undertook the task of trying to reduce, by half, the amount of coca grown in Columbia. Six years and $4.7 billion dollars later it is reported that little has changed!

The coca crop, which is the primary ingredient for cocaine, has been subjected to large-scale aerial fumigation. This effort has only changed the method by which the farmers have cultivated their crop. This is not to say that there haven’t been some successes. According to a New York Times news report, the seizure of cocaine in the Andes has more than tripled to nearly 400,000 pounds in 2005, from about 132,000 pounds in 2001. The number of traffickers extradited to the United States in the last four years tops 350. The number of clandestine drug labs destroyed by the authorities in Colombia soared to nearly 2,000 last year from 317 in 1999. Again that is the good news; the bad news is, according to the same news report, there was a rise in the number of teenagers using drugs for the first time. SANDAG reports indicate that street drugs are prevalent.

The question that begs to be asked is: What to do about the drug problem? It is clear that the War on Drugs is, at best, just treading water against the drug cartels and those that profit from it. Nothing has really changed. The drug problem is a supply and demand issue and as long as there is a demand there will be someone to supply the drugs. War on Drugs! What we have been doing as a nation has not worked.

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