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Best columns: Mexico’s drug wars: Can the gangs be beaten?
Drug gangs in Mexico still have the upper hand in spite of the crackdown launched by President Felipe Calderón when he became president.
 

Mexico’s drug war is growing ever more violent, said Jorge Ramos Avalos in Miami’s El Nuevo Herald, as rival cartels battle for control of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana smuggling routes across the northern border. In Tijuana, over the border from San Diego, troops locked down the hospital at which eight injured gang members had sought treatment—to keep them from being either rescued or finished off. In Juárez, on the Texas border, where the local cartel is being challenged by the nationwide cartel run by the notorious Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman, everyone has a story to tell—from the car dealer who watched as his neighbor’s throat was cut in front of the man’s 4-year-old daughter to the tourists who mistook the sound of “executions” next to their hotel for fireworks.

There have been 4,500 killings in the 18 months since conservative President Felipe Calderón was elected to office and promptly launched a crackdown, said Cuauhtémoc Ramos Escobar in Mexico’s El Universal. No doubt the police and army have done serious damage to the gangs: Hundreds of middle-ranking operatives have been seized, along with vast stashes of drugs, arms, and cash. But the leaders are still at large. Shorty Guzman, for example, has evaded capture by constantly changing his appearance and never using a mobile phone more than once.

The gangs may not have been beaten, but Calderón nevertheless looks like a winner, said Jacobo Garcia in Spain’s El Mundo. Calderón won the 2006 election by a hairsbreadth, and for a while his position looked shaky. But he has shown an unexpected streak of toughness, passing crucial tax and pension reforms and making a priority of beating the drug traffickers. Now his approval rating is 64 percent, the highest on
the continent.

Bully for him, but the gangs still have the upper hand, said Richard Mack in The Arizona Republic. Mexico is paying the price of sharing a long and porous border with the world’s biggest consumer of illegal drugs—the U.S. As always, the proposed solution is “more money, soldiers, and guns.” A $1.4 billion package to help Calderón is now moving through Congress. But as a former police officer who served on the front line of the drug war, I know this is only a feel-good solution that solves nothing. Let’s face it: The only long-term remedy is to legalize the drug business. Ending Prohibition cut off the profits of the criminal syndicates controlling the flow of booze. The same would happen with drugs, if only the politicians had the guts to try it.

 

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