Political Risk Latin America Blog @PolRiskLatam

A New Approach to Fighting Drugs in Latin America

Posted in News and Articles, Political Risk by politicalrisklatam on October 4, 2010

by Eric Farnsworth for Americas Society/Council of the Americas, September 26th, 2010.

Hillary Clinton’s recent comments comparing Mexico’s drug-fueled security crisis to Colombia 20 years ago have caused a stir in Mexico. Her intent was clearly not to provoke; she won wide praise during her trip to Mexico early in 2009 when she acknowledged the obvious role of U.S. demand for illegal drugs and called for partnership. But it seems that nothing having to do with the illegal narcotics trade is easy and, as in the 1990s, the U.S.-Mexico relationship is at risk of being defined primarily by efforts to fight drugs.

These issues have been gaining renewed prominence regionally, as well. A number of former Latin American presidents, most recently Mexico’s former President Vicente Fox, have called for a new approach in the war on drugs. Until the United States dramatically reduces both the demand that pulls drugs north and the supply that sends automatic weapons south, the war on drugs will continue to be a major irritant in hemispheric relations, sparking a backlash negatively impacting U.S. interests.

Nowhere is this more evident than in Bolivia, ground zero of the drugs debate. Having recently returned from Bolivia myself, one thing is clear: whatever one thinks of President Evo Morales — and opinions in Bolivia run the gamut – there is little debate among Bolivians that he was elected and has been able to implement much of his social agenda as a result of the war on drugs. As a leader with deep roots in the coca-producing community, Morales has effectively mobilized a majority of Bolivians around claims that their traditional way of life, impoverished yet proud, is under assault. (continue reading… )

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