Unlikely Success Exists in Mexico’s “War on Drugs”

Dawn Paley, a Mexico-based journalist from Vancouver, concluded the East Coast leg of her book tour for Drug War Capitalism at an event hosted by the Concordia Student Union earlier this month.

Paley expanded on her book’s broad premise that the so-called “war on drugs” is in fact something which allows the state to disguise their real intentions.

Drug War Capitalism proposes that the war on drugs isn’t actually a failure; it proposes that it’s a success,” said Paley. “We’re using the wrong metrics to evaluate it.

“It’s certainly not a success in terms of people’s lives and peace, but it’s a success in terms of expanding the social and fiscal territory available to transnational capital.”

Many of Mexico’s federal police officers roam the country bringing violence and murder to the towns where they stay while pillaging communities for food and generally oppressing their compatriots. They facilitate the drug trade as they ride with drug cartel members complicit with their actions, the book explains.

“The drug war is less about cocaine or marijuana than it is about social, economic, and territorial control,” writes Paley in Drug War Capitalism.

The drug war in Mexico has largely failed to stem or reduce the amount of cocaine that is trafficked into the U.S. every year.

“It started in Colombia, then Mexico and throughout Central America where the same pattern has emerged,” Paley told The Link. “In places where there is U.S. funding of a war on drugs, that actually leads to increased violence, increased foreign direct investment and increased militarization and paramilitarization of all these countries.”

There is evidence that U.S. private contractors have supplied training in torture methods to the Mexican police while the U.S. increases weapons exports. To a certain extent this is just the U.S. fuelling the demand for arms in order to stimulate their military industrial complex, Paley explains.

In Mexico, 7,000 people are unidentified in morgues, 27,000 people have gone missing since 2008, and 43 students that have recently disappeared are suspected to have been murdered on municipal police orders.

In the case of Mexico, Paley describes how Pemex, Mexico’s state-owned petroleum company, provides the Mexican government—a notoriously poor collector of taxes—with the funds for around 70 per cent of their annual budget.

Pemex pays 99 per cent of its profits each year to the government, which prevents the company from modernizing and expanding, says Paley.

These numbers are often reported as far less, Pemex is sometimes said to hand over 55 per cent of its revenues to the government, making up only a third of the country’s national budget.

With plans to open the country’s oil to foreign investors, the Atlantic Council, a Washington D.C.-based foreign policy think-tank says that “accelerated foreign investment will generally improve the lives of its people.”

The Atlantic Council’s Latin America research centre says the move would “transform Mexico into a major energy and industrial power” in a report early this year. But these predictions and the report were released before the oil crisis.

Pemex will be entering an oil market that has consistently fallen over the last months, and its privatization leaves a hole in government coffers.

Fewer funds from Pemex increases Mexico’s reliance on U.S. funding for the war on drugs. To pacify the population, police and the military will expand their activities.

Paley provides readers of Drug War Capitalism with a unique journalistic perspective on the war on drugs and attempts to “reveal the tyranny at work.”

“These issues aren’t really being covered [by the mainstream Western media],” said Paley, who hopes that the book will inspire more people to take their research into different places and to continue a deeper analysis of the drug war.

“[The book] was partially inspired by the idea that people protest the Iraq War [and denounce] wars for oil,” Paley explained to The Link. “Why is it that the war on drugs [doesn’t] get protested in the same way?”

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