Sunday, March 31, 2013

Why I decided to Boycott Illegal Drugs

I grew up in Colombia, hearing about cartel members and drug lords who were killing each other, and innocent people, in order to gain power and new routes for the drugs that they shipped to the United States and Europe. I also grew up hearing about the police trying to “catch and kill the bad guys” with the generous assistance of the US government. 

I would watch the news with my family and hear about car bombs, kidnappings, murders, US military trainings, and DEA intelligence. At my school, in addition to earthquake drills, we were taught what to do if a bomb exploded on campus. By the age of fifteen, I had already seen two people get kidnapped. Many Colombian families had relatives who had been killed, kidnapped, extorted, extradited, or were in jail. People were killing each other in an internal war. Violence was normal. Impunity and fear were part of everyday life.

In 1999, part of my family and I moved to the United States. The drug war seemed like something distant that could not touch me. I was wrong. While working as an organizer, I learned about US gangs and their relationship to the same drugs that had torn my country apart.

Low-income youth, usually people of color, are often caught up in the gang violence related to wars over drug turf. Shootouts are incredibly common in some parts of the United States and almost nobody, outside of these communities, knows or cares much about it. Police brutality and harassment, under the pretense of fighting drugs and crime, are a daily occurrence for residents of  low-income neighborhoods. Like Colombia, many families have relatives who are dead or in jail because of drug-related incidents. Many families have relatives involved with gangs. Violence is normal. Impunity and fear are part of everyday life.

Now I live in Mexico, where the Mexican and US governments have decided to wage a war against drugs, the cartels, and organized crime. This war has resulted in thousands of casualties and human rights abuses. I have heard stories of migrants who were forced to transport drugs to the United States. I have met people who have lost children, parents, partners, and siblings to this war. Mexicans are scared of the police and military, who are responsible for many of these human rights abuses. Many families have relatives who have been disappeared, murdered, kidnapped, extorted, or involved with the cartels. Violence is normal. Impunity and fear are part of everyday life.

Based on my experiences and the realities of these three countries, I have decided to abstain from using drugs until they are legalized and until the drug war is over. 

Below are nine reasons why I am boycotting drugs:

1. It's a war against the poor: The war against drugs is mainly a war against low-income people from marginalized communities, who do not have access to jobs or education. Many of them end up working for cartels or gangs. These victims of circumstance can be: farmers who can only make ends meet by growing coca or marihuana plants; parents who decide to transport drugs across borders in order to feed their families; or teenagers who start selling drugs because of lack of opportunity. The criminalization of drugs is a method of social cleansing, where oppressed people are punished for taking advantage of opportunities that exist outside of the society that oppresses them.

Instead of addressing the root causes that force people to join cartels or gangs, the current approach has been murder and incarceration. These deaths and harsh punishments are justified by the idea that criminals get what they deserve. Few question why so many people join these groups in the first place. What kind of support do people need in order to be integrated into society? Is the punitive infrastructure that punishes drug-related activities fair?

2. A war against the youth: Many of the people who get involved with gangs and cartels are young and come from a violent environment where families have already been broken by poverty, oppression, and violence. In these types of environments, youth do not expect to live long. Feelings of powerlessness make youth an easy target for gangs and cartels.

Cartels and gangs recruit minors to transport drugs and to commit crimes. They are less suspicious to authorities and when they are caught, they receive lower sentences than adults. Minors are more susceptible to manipulation from adults, and may be used to commit violent acts at the behest of leaders. In many cases, cartels and gangs have been known to traffic and enslave minors. 

3. A war against the environment: The drug war in Colombia includes efforts to eradicate coca crops. With the assistance of the United States, airplanes spray herbicides on forests and in rural areas. The most commonly used herbicide is Monsanto’s Roundup, which kills any plant exposed to it. The aerial spraying of herbicides has had a huge impact on the environment, destroying Colombia’s biodiversity, and negatively affecting human health.

In addition, aerial spraying destroys farmers’ legitimate crops and causes soil infertility. This causes a loss of income and food sovereignty, and eventually, the displacement of many farm worker families. Indigenous people are also criminalized for growing their sacred and ancestral crops. According to the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), an average of 10,000 to 20,000 indigenous people are displaced each year in Colombia due to crop eradication. 

4. Modern day slavery: Mexican drug cartels kidnap people and force them to work. Children, migrants, or young professionals may be trafficked or used as mules to transport drugs. Their relatives are left with uncertainty, never knowing if their loved ones are alive or dead.

Mexican security forces are often involved with and seldom investigate disappearances. According to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, more than 25,000 people have disappeared or have been reported missing since 2006. Almost none of these abuses have been adequately investigated.

5. Criminalization and imprisonment: The United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, and many people are behind bars for drug-related offenses. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics of the Department of Justice, in 2011, 48% of the inmates in federal prisons (94,600 people) and 17.4% of the inmates in state prisons (237,000 people) were serving time for drug-related offenses. 

According to the FBI, of the 1,531,251 arrests for drug law violations in 2011, 81.8% were for possession of a controlled substance and 18.2% were for the sale or manufacturing of a drug.

Arrest and imprisonment overwhelmingly affect people of color. According to HRW, whites and African Americans have comparable rates of drug use, but African American men are arrested for drug offenses at three times the rate of white men. African Americans represent 28.4% of all arrests, but account for only 13% of the US population.

After a drug conviction, families may be separated and life can be hard. When someone is incarcerated, many families will not have financial stability, relying on the income of only one parent. In some circumstances children will be placed in foster care. Individuals who have finished a jail sentence can lose access to government programs (including federal college financial aid), voting rights, and be restricted from applying to certain jobs.

For information about drug-related incarceration in Colombia and Mexico, read this WOLA study.

6. Violence: The violence perpetrated to control the illegal drug trade is devastating. Cartels and drug trafficking organizations have their own security forces to fight the government and rival groups. Colombian guerrillas and paramilitaries use the profits from their drug business to finance their military operations. Governments spend millions of taxpayer dollars on weapons used against their own citizens.

In Mexico, violence has skyrocketed since the beginning of the drug war. According to statistics from the Mexican government,  more than 47,000 people have died as a result of the conflict since 2006. Victims include people from all walks of life, who may or may not have been involved with the drug trade. Perpetrators include cartels, organized crime, and Mexican security forces.

It is hard to get accurate information about the number of drug-related murders in the United States. A study by the Center for Disease Control says that 5% to 25% of gang homicides in US cities are drug-related. Most of the victims are young males of color and most homicides take place during shootouts when gangs are settling their disputes, enforcing drug debts, or defending turf. According to the National Drug Intelligence Center, gangs are increasingly becoming more involved with large-scale drug trafficking, resulting in an increase of kidnappings, assaults, robberies, and homicides along the US Southwest border.

Drug-related violence in Colombia involves the internal conflict between the government, cartels, organized crime, guerrillas, and paramilitaries. Drug trafficking has helped to provide earnings for the guerrillas and paramilitaries. All of these groups are responsible for the murder, disappearance, torture, and human rights violations of thousands of people.

According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, 5 million Colombians have been internally displaced because of the violence associated with coca cultivation and processing, and the war between drug traffickers and security forces. Colombia is one of the countries with the highest number of internally displaced people in the world.

7. Prohibition doesn't work: The United States is the number one consumer of illegal drugs in the world. According to Vox, the United States makes up 5% of the global population, yet accounts for over 25% of global demand for illicit drugs. The US government’s campaign to combat drugs has focused on prohibition and unsuccessful programs that try to discourage people from using drugs. The United States needs campaigns that prioritize safety and education for drug users, not criminalization and incarceration. Drug addictions need to be treated as a health issue.

8. Wasted resources:  According to the Alternative World Drug Report, the United States has spent more than 1 trillion dollars enforcing drug laws over the past 40 years. Annually, the United States spends at least 15 billion dollars a year on drug law enforcement. Meanwhile, the cost of incarcerating one inmate in the fiscal year of 2010 was 31,307 dollars, according to a report by the organization A Price of Prisons.

Since the beginning of the US government's War on Drugs, drug use has increased steadily. People have not stopped using drugs, even when doing so is against the law. The criminalization of drugs has had devastating consequences for US families.

Plan Colombia is an initiative led by the US and Colombian governments with the purpose of combating drug manufacturing and smuggling to the United States. The plan includes US military initiatives to train, strengthen, and aid Colombia's military, increasing their power to fight drug cartels and left-wing guerrilla groups.

Since the year 2000, the United States has spent more than 7 billion dollars on Plan Colombia. According to a study by HRW, in 2012 the United States provided Colombia with approximately 482 million dollars in aid, 58% of which went to the military and police.

Plan Colombia has resulted in a disgraceful increase of state violence and environmental degradation. There has not been a decrease in the number of drugs entering the United States. Cocaine is still a profitable business that has moved many of its operations from Colombia to Mexico. As long as there is a demand, production will take place whether in Colombia or in another country.

The Merida Initiative is an effort led by the US and Mexican governments. Its objective is to combat organized crime and drug cartels. For this purpose, the United States has allocated 2 billion dollars for military aid and the training of the Mexican security forces. The country has seen an increasing militarization of its territory. The results of this initiative have devastated Mexico with thousands of victims of violence at the hands of Mexican security forces. Corruption and lack of oversight have resulted in violence and impunity. According to HRW’s 2013 World Report, almost none of these abuses have been adequately investigated. Despite the Merida Initiative, drugs continue to enter the United States. 

9. Corporations are the only winners: The only winners of the drug war are corporations. The war industry profits every time that the United States grants other countries military aid such as weapons and helicopters.  Multinational corporations profit every time that campesinos and indigenous people are displaced from their lands, which may become available for concessions or for purchase. Commercial media outlets profit when they sensationalize violence and make soap operas about the war. Companies like Monsanto profit from the destructive aerial fumigations in Colombia. Private detention facilities profit when high numbers of people are incarcerated for drug-related offenses. 

For corporations, the drug war is a way to make money. Human casualties and environmental degradation are merely collateral damage. 

Not using illegal drugs is a political act

Drug-related violence would definitely decrease if drug manufacturing and production were regulated and taxed. Cartels would no longer exist nor would they violently compete for a market. Drugs could be sold in stores at set prices. Without the drug war, governments and their security forces would no longer threaten the life and safety of their own citizens. Without criminalization, governments could use their resources for social programs. 

The effects of the drug wars of Colombia, Mexico, and the United States have left me with no other option than to boycott drugs. Buying them is condoning the impunity and violence that affects the lives of so many people in the Americas. Until drugs are legalized and regulated, and the cycle of fear and violence is broken, I will never buy. 

Yet, merely boycotting drugs is not enough. In addition to being ethical consumers, we must organize our communities to legalize drugs and to end the drug war. Our communities and the communities of our brothers and sisters in the South will be grateful. 

With the current state of the drug industry, the criminalization of drugs, and the drug war, how could I possibly make the ethical decision to buy drugs? The situations described above seem like a high price to pay for my entertainment.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

8 Reasons to Doubt There Will be any Policy Change in the Distastrous US-Mexico Drug War

By Laura Carsen, CIP 

Mexico and the United States both held presidential elections in 2012 and two new governments took office–Enrique Peña Nieto in Mexico and Barack Obama in the United States. Although Obama began a second term, he has appointed new Secretaries of State and Defense, launched new initiatives and expanded some old ones. Both governments have new Congressional representatives.

Enrique Peña Nieto came to office with a pressing need to distance himself from Calderon’s war. The disastrous drug war played a major role in the downfall of the PAN in the 2012 elections. Since the campaign, he has said he will significantly modify the war strategy, focusing more on public security, reducing violence and root causes.

Members of the Peña cabinet use phrases like “building peace” instead of “waging war.” The Inter-Secretarial Commission installed on February 12 has a previously-absent emphasis on social programs. The president and members of his cabinet often repeat verbatim some of what the peace movement has been saying all along. It sounds good, or at least, better. And there are some specific actions that point to another approach. The approval of the Victims Law, an announced evaluation of the Merida Initiative, and development of a crime prevention model are a few examples. 

In Washington, the Obama administration insists that "Beyond Merida" is different from the Bush-era Merida Initiative that Obama extended indefinitely when it expired in 2010.
So the question is: Are we really seeing a change in the security model?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Not only that, both governments plan to intensify the Drug War, one of the worst "security policies" in history. Here’s why:

1. Peña Nieto's military budget
The 2013 Mexican budget maintains and increases the militarized model of the Drug War. As approved, the budget to National Defense (SEDENA) is 60.8 billion Mexican pesos (MXN), double what it was in 2007 when the drug war was just beginning and 5 billion MXN more than  in 2011, the last year of the Calderon administration.

The Peña Nieto administration says these new financial resources will go to counternarcotics efforts, which includes spy equipment, more military checkpoints throughout the country and weapons. The administration justifies the increase by citing the need for an “integral” war with the stated objectives of “corralling armed groups throughout the country, and improving the schemes of operation in integral combat against drug trafficking, to make more efficient the activities that they carry out in the areas of eradication, interception and the fight against organized crime.”

2. The gendarmerie (militarized police force)
Peña Nieto’s proposal to create a national gendarmerie is not in practice a form of demilitarization. It entails the creation of an initial force of 10,000 troops, most of whom, according to the government, will be soldiers, with some police agents. It differs in name only from Calderon’s massive military deployment.

3. The PRI's history
The PRI is a political party that spent decades of its unchallenged rule developing forms of social control through diverse means: manipulation of the justice system, cooptation, fomenting internal divisions and violence. During the 2012 elections, the youth movement YoSoy132 reminded us that historical memory has not been erased: the PRI is not an unknown factor. Many names in the new cabinet of the “new PRI,” starting with the president himself, are closely associated with old-school politics, machismo and repression.

Back in the saddle, the PRI government has big plans for a series of structural reforms that are extremely unpopular. These policies seek to consolidate a misnamed “development” model based on privatization of resources, increased transnational investment and displacement of whole populations. Militarization of broad swathes of the country is the stick that follows the carrot. To impose these kinds of reforms, the presence of the armed forces in the name of the Drug War helps to remove people from zones of interest, to repress communities and groups that defend their territories and to intimidate or even wipe out sectors in resistance.

4. Drug warriors in the Peña Nieto administration
To quietly continue with the war while promising changes, the Peña administration has placed some key figures in high places. To give an example: Eduardo Medina Mora. Medina Mora was Attorney General in the Calderon cabinet until 2009, making headlines in 2008 by uttering the Orwellian phrase–apparently with no irony intended—“We are at war to recuperate the peace.” He was the spokesperson for the Calderon war and main apologist for the national (in) justice system. Today he is Mexico’s Ambassador to the United States.

The Pentagon has a close ally in Medina Mora. In a cable made public by Wikileaks, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico referred to Medina Mora as “a key player” in instituting the Merida Initiative. Now the U.S. government’s point person for the Drug War in Mexico works out of Washington overseeing a binational relationship whose main and practically only focus is the Merida Initiative.

5. John Kerry’s declarations at the Senate confirmation hearing
The new Secretary of State said that Mexico is “under siege” and offered to intensify support. He affirmed that “President Peña Nieto is trying to move this in another direction (less militarized) and it is more important than ever to support him.” However, Kerry went on to insist that in any discussion of budget cuts, the Merida Initiative should be exempted.
“I think that we are going to need to convince our colleagues of the importance of this initiative,” he said, without offering a single criticism of a model that has left more than 100,000 people dead or disappeared in just six years.

6. U.S. foreign aid to Mexico
In Washington, there is a recognition that the Drug War’s reputation is tarnished with blood and that it is necessary to clean up the image of the Merida Initiative. The State Department, backed by interested beltway NGOs, has tried to float a renaming campaign to “Merida 2” or “Beyond Merida” and stresses that the plan now includes aid to social programs and not just espionage and military/police counternarcotics operations. The rhetoric stresses that the U.S. supports Peña Nieto in a less military-heavy model and has modified Plan Mexico to have a more integral focus.

This would be a good thing if it were true. Although the direct military financing (DMF) has gone down from 2008 to 2013, the war model has not changed nor has the strategy. In fact, it has been deepened and intensified. If we follow the money rather than the rhetoric, we see Merida Initiative aid in the 2013 State Department’s foreign operations budget still under discussion provides $7 million USD to the armed forces, $199 million USD to counternarcotics efforts, $8 million USD to counterterrorism programs and only $35 million USD in economic support for a neighboring country in which half the population lives below the poverty line. Aid in areas like global health and education has been reduced or eliminated in this budget, and a list of human rights recommendations had been stripped from the Initiative at this writing. Moreover, the Department of Defense is funding more of Mexico’s drug war and those funds are even harder to track.

7. Expansion of military training for Mexican military
The Pentagon is actively expanding training programs with the Mexican armed forces ostensibly to fight drug cartels. It created a new base of special operations in Colorado Springs, home of the Northern Command (Northcom), to train Mexican military in techniques employed in Iraq. According to the magazine Proceso, this training in the US has included “espionage, torture, surprise attacks and kidnapping.” The express purpose of the new Northcom center, according to a Jan. 17 AP story, is the Drug War “so the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto establishes a military force focused on criminal networks…”

Just so there is no doubt about the relationship between the new Northcom efforts and the Merida Initiative, the AP states it clearly: “Northcom’s current special operations training missions are an outgrowth of the Merida Initiative that was formalized in 2008, to provide extensive military assistance to Mexico.” The design of the training and war tactics treat counterinsurgency, counternarcotic and counterterrorism operations as if the three security threats were synonymous. The imposition of the counterterrorism paradigm on Mexico has terrible consequences for the U,S.-Mexico relationship. When the Calderon administration began to attack drug traffickers as a threat to national security, and not just as criminals, the cartels began to act much more like a threat to national security, unleashing battles for control of territory, increasing their interference with daily life in civil society, and challenging and coopting the State in many regions of the country.

8. The Drug War as big business
The defense industry, intelligence/espionage companies, private security firms and others related to the war industry see the War on Drugs as the new frontier. These sectors contribute heavily to political campaigns and exert heavy lobbying pressure. They are a powerful force to maintain a policy that has produced massive human rights violations and many deaths.

The change in rhetoric surrounding the Drug War in Mexico makes it all the more dangerous, as it hides the reality that it is in fact intensifying. If our peace movements do not continue to expose the real nature of the Drug War we will leave victims defenseless against a war that officially no longer exists even as it destroys lives every day.

It is important to note that although the new governments plan to continue the war, there are still opportunities for the peace movement to press for a real change in the security model. Sergio Alcocer, Sub-Secretary for North America of Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Relations announced an upcoming evaluation of the Merida Initiative, “and based on that, we will decide how or if we continue within the Initiative or if other processes are established.”

The U.S. budget discussions can also be used to raise the point that the Merida Initiative does not stand up to any facts-based analysis of costs and benefits. It's time to challenge Merida Initiative funding and demand the plan be terminated at once. This is also the moment to demand transparency and citizen participation in alternatives on both sides of the border. Mexico’s peace movement has already drafted documents on human security, mending the social fabric and fighting corruption. In the U.S., organizations have proposals for regulation of drugs, demilitarization of the border and building a more integral binational relationship. Their arguments against the application of a counterterrorism paradigm to the trafficking of prohibited substances and how this course of action will create another costly and threatening war, this time on our border, should be sufficient to cause legislators to at least listen.

8 razones para dudar que habrán cambios en la desastrosa Guerra contra las Drogas en los EE.UU. y México

Por Laura Carsen, CIP

México y los Estados Unidos tuvieron elecciones en el 2012 y dos nuevos gobiernos asumieron el poder—Enrique Peña Nieto en México y Barack Obama en los Estados Unidos. Aunque Obama empezó un segundo termino, él ha nominado nuevos Secretarios del Estado y de Defensa, ha lanzado nuevas iniciativas y ha expandido algunas antiguas. Ambos gobiernos tienen congresistas nuevos.

Enrique Peña Nieto llegó a la presidencia con la necesidad urgente de alejarse de la guerra contra las drogas de Calderón. La desastrosa guerra jugó un papel importante en la derrota del PAN en las elecciones del 2012. Desde su campaña, Peña Nieto ha dicho que modificará considerablemente la estrategia de la guerra para enfocarse  en la seguridad pública, la reducción de la violencia y las raíces del conflicto.

Miembros del gabinete de Peña Nieto usan frases como “construir la paz” en lugar de “hacer la guerra.” La Comisión Inter-Secretarial instalada el 12 de febrero tiene un énfasis, previamente ausente, en programas sociales. El presidente y los miembros de su gabinete suelen repetir palabra por palabra lo que siempre ha dicho el movimiento por la paz. Suena muy bueno, o al menos, mejor. Y hay algunas acciones específicas que indican un nuevo enfoque. La aprobación de la Ley de Víctimas, una evaluación de la Iniciativa Mérida y el desarrollo de un modelo de prevención del delito, son algunos ejemplos.

En Washington, el gobierno de Obama insiste que “Beyond Merida” es diferente que la Iniciativa Mérida aprobada bajo el gobierno de Bush y extendida indefinitivamente por Obama en 2010 cuando se venció.  Entonces la pregunta es: ¿Realmente vamos a ver un cambio en el modelo de seguridad?

Lamentablemente, la respuesta es no. Además, ambos gobiernos planean intensificar la Guerra contra las Drogas, uno de las peores “políticas de seguridad” en la historia. Estas son las razones para dudar que habrá un cambio:

1. El presupuesto militar de Peña Nieto
El presupuesto mexicano del 2013 mantiene y aumenta el modelo militarizado de la Guerra contra las Drogas. En la versión aprobada, el presupuesto para la defensa nacional (SEDENA) es de 68.000 millones pesos mexicanos, el doble de lo que fue en 2007 cuando recién estaba empezando la Guerra contra las Drogas y 5.000 millones pesos más que en el 2011, el último año del gobierno de Calderón.

El gobierno de Peña Nieto dice que estos nuevos recursos financieros se dirigirán a esfuerzos antinarcóticos, los cuales incluyen equipo de espionaje, más controles militares alrededor del país, y armas. El gobierno justifica el aumento con la necesidad de una guerra “integral” con los objetivos declarados de “controlar los grupos armados alrededor del país y mejorar las esquemas de operación en el combate integral contra el narcotráfico, con el fin de hacer más eficientes las actividades que se realizan en los áreas de erradicación, intercepción y la lucha contra el delito organizado.”

2. La policía militarizada
La propuesta de Peña Nieto para crear una fuerza de policía militarizada no es una forma de desmilitarización en realidad. Incluye la creación de una fuerza inicial de 10.000 tropas, la mayoría de las cuales, según el gobierno, serán soldados con algunos policías. Difiere solamente en nombre de la militarización masiva de Calderón.

3. La historia del PRI
El PRI es un partido político que gobernó México por décadas, en poder absoluto, desarrollando formas diversas de control social: la manipulación del sistema penal, la cooptación, la fomentación de divisiones internas y violencia. Durante las elecciones de 2012, el movimiento juvenil YoSoy132 nos recordó que la memoria histórica no se ha borrado: el PRI no es un factor desconocido. Muchos nombres en el gabinete del “nuevo PRI,” empezando con el mismo presidente, están asociados con las políticas antiguas, el machismo y la represión.

En poder de nuevo, el gobierno del PRI tiene planes para una serie de reformas estructurales que son extremamente impopulares. Estas políticas pretenden consolidar un mal-nombrado modelo de “desarrollo” basado en la privatización de recursos, la incrementada inversión transnacional y el desplazamiento de pueblos enteros. La militarización de grandes territorios del país es el castigo que sigue el premio. Para imponer estas reformas, la presencia de las fuerzas armadas en el nombre de la Guerra contra las Drogas ayuda a sacar a los pueblos de las zonas de interés, reprimir a las comunidades y los grupos que defienden sus territorios, y a intimidar y hasta exterminar esos sectores en resistencia.

4. Guerrilleros antidrogas en el gobierno Peña Nieto
Para seguir discretamente con la guerra mientras promete cambios, el gobierno de Peña Nieto ha instalado algunas figuras claves en puestos de poder. Para dar un ejemplo: Eduardo Medina Mora. Medina Mora fue Fiscal General del Estado en el gabinete de Calderón, hasta 2009, y se hizo famoso en el 2008 cuando hizo un comentario en el estilo de Orwell, aparentemente sin ironía, “Estamos en la guerra para recuperar la paz.” Él fue el portavoz para la guerra de Calderón y el apologista principal para el sistema nacional de (in) justicia. Hoy es el Embajador de México en los EE.UU.

El Pentágono tiene un aliado cercano en Medina Mora. En un cable publicado por Wikileaks, la Embajada Estadounidense en México se refirió a Medina Mora como un “jugador importante” en implementar la Iniciativa Mérida. Ahora la persona clave del gobierno estadounidense para la Guerra contra las Drogas en México trabaja desde Washington supervisando una relación binacional cuyo enfoque principal es la Iniciativa Mérida.

5. Las declaraciones de John Kerry en su audiencia de confirmación en el Senado
El nuevo Secretario del Estado dijo que México está “bajo asedio” y le ofreció más apoyo. Afirmó que el, “Presidente Peña Nieto está intentando dirigir este asunto en otra dirección (menos militarizada) y ahora es más importante que nunca apoyarlo.” Sin embargo, Kerry siguió insistiendo que en cualquier discusión de reducciones al presupuesto, la Iniciativa Mérida debería de ser exenta. “Creo que vamos a necesitar convencer a nuestros colegas de la importancia de esta iniciativa,” dijo, sin ofrecer ninguna crítica de un modelo que ha dejado a 100.000 muertos o desaparecidos en solamente seis años.

6. La ayuda estadounidense a México
En Washington, hay un reconocimiento de que la reputación de la Guerra contra las Drogas está deslustrada con sangre y que es necesario mejorar la imagen de la Iniciativa Mérida. El Departamento del Estado con el apoyo de ONGs interesadas de Washington ha tratado de lanzar una campaña para renombrarla como “Mérida 2” o “Beyond Mérida” y enfatiza que ahora el plan también incluye ayuda para programas sociales y no solo a operaciones de espionaje y antinarcóticos militares y/o policiales. La retórica destaca que los EE.UU. apoya a Peña Nieto en su modelo menos-militarizado y que han modificado Plan México para que tenga un enfoque más integral.

Esto sería bueno si fuera verdad. Aunque el financiamiento directo militar (FDM) ha disminuido del 2008 a 2013, ni el modelo de guerra ni la estrategia han cambiado. De hecho, se han profundizado e intensificado. Si seguimos el dinero en lugar de la retórica vemos que los fondos para la Iniciativa Mérida que en el presupuesto de operaciones en el extranjero del Departamento del Estado del año 2013 se provee $7 millones USD para las fuerzas armadas, $199 millones USD para esfuerzos antinarcóticos, $8 millones USD para programas antiterroristas y solamente $35 millones USD en apoyo económico para un país vecino en el cual la mitad de la población vive en pobreza. La ayuda en áreas como la salud global y la educación ha sido reducida o eliminada en este presupuesto y una lista de recomendaciones para los derechos humanos fue quitada de la Iniciativa en el momento de publicación de este escrito. Además, el Departamento de Defensa está financiando más programas de la Guerra contra las Drogas en México y estos fondos son más difíciles seguir.

7. La expansión del entrenamiento militar para el ejército mexicano
 El Pentágono está expandiendo activamente los programas de entrenamiento para las fuerzas armadas mexicanas con el supuesto fin de luchar contra los carteles narcotraficantes. Creó una nueva base de operaciones especiales en Colorado Springs, la sede del comando Norteño (Northcom), para entrenar el ejército mexicano en las mismas técnicas empleadas en Irak. Según la revista Proceso, este entrenamiento en los EE.UU. ha incluido “El espionaje, la tortura, los ataques sorpresas y los secuestros.” El propósito expreso del centro nuevo de Northcom, según un artículo del 17 de enero de la Prensa Asociada, es la Guerra contra las Drogas “Para que el presidente mexicano Enrique Peña Nieto establezca una fuerza militar más enfocada en las redes criminales…”

Para que no haya duda sobre la relación entre los esfuerzos nuevos de Northcom y la Iniciativa Mérida, la Prensa Asociada lo aclara: “El actual entrenamiento en misiones de operaciones especiales de Northcom es un resultado de la Iniciativa Mérida que fue formalizada en el 2008, para proveer ayuda militar extensiva a México.” El diseño del entrenamiento y las tácticas de la guerra aborda operaciones anti-insurgentes, antinarcóticos y antiterroristas, como si las tres amenazas a la seguridad fueran iguales. La imposición del modelo antiterrorista en México tiene consecuencias terribles para la relación estadounidense-mexicana. Cuando el gobierno de Calderón empezó atacar a los narcotraficantes como si fueran amenazas a la seguridad nacional y no sólo criminales, los carteles empezaron comportarse así, comenzaron las batallas para el control de territorios, aumentó su interferencia en la vida cotidiana de la sociedad civil y desafiaron y cooptaron el estado en muchas regiones del país.

8. La Guerra contra las Drogas como negocio
La industria de defensa, las compañías de inteligencia/espionaje, las empresas de seguridad privada y otras relacionadas con la industria de la guerra, ven la Guerra contra las Drogas como la nueva frontera. Estos sectores contribuyen mucho dinero a las campañas políticas y ejercen mucha presión en Washington. Son una fuerza poderosa para la manutención de una política que ha resultado en violaciones masivas de derechos humanos y muchos muertos.

El cambio en la retórica de la Guerra contra las Drogas en México la hace aún más peligrosa, ya que esconde la realidad de que la guerra se está intensificando. Si los movimientos por la paz no siguen exponiendo la realidad de la Guerra contra las Drogas, dejaremos a las víctimas sin defensas contra una guerra que oficialmente no existe aún mientras destruye más vidas cada día.

Es importante notar que aunque los nuevos gobiernos planean seguir con la guerra, de todas maneras existen oportunidades para que el movimiento por la paz exija cambios verdaderos en el modelo de seguridad. Sergio Alcocer, Subsecretario de Norteamérica del Ministerio de Relaciones Extranjeras de México anunció una evaluación pendiente de la Iniciativa Mérida, “Y basada en esa decidiremos cómo o si seguiremos con la Iniciativa o si estableceremos otros procesos.”

Las discusiones del presupuesto estadounidense también pueden ser utilizadas para destacar que la Iniciativa Mérida no aguanta ningún análisis basado en los hechos de los costos y los beneficios. Ya es hora de desafiar los fondos para la Iniciativa Mérida y exigir que se termine con el plan. También es el momento para exigir la transparencia y la participación civil en las alternativas en los dos  lados de la frontera. El movimiento por la paz de México ya ha escrito documentos acerca de la seguridad humana, de cómo reparar el tejido social, y de cómo luchar contra la corrupción. En los EE.UU., organizaciones tienen propuestas para la regulación de las drogas, la desmilitarización de la frontera y la construcción de una relación binacional. Sus argumentos acerca de cómo  la aplicación de un modelo antiterrorista al tráfico de estupefacientes nos conducirá a otra guerra costosa y amenazante, pero esta vez en nuestro lado de la frontera, deben ser suficientes para hacer que nuestros legisladores por lo menos nos escuchen.