I believe in freedom of choice. I believe that one should be responsible for its own actions. I believe in the natural will of people to be in peace with others with no need of religious commandments or laws. Moreover, I believe it is prohibition, lack of mechanisms of regulation and law enforcement what causes the trouble, while is ignorance and misinformation among society that perpetrates it….
In the eve of celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Mexican Independence I received an e-mail claiming that there is not much to celebrate these days and it persuaded people to not going the evening of Sept 15th to crowd the Zócalo (main square in Mexico City) to hear the President scream “VIVA MÉXICO”. The latter, paradoxically means “long live México”, a very delicate and difficult line to say when in the last four years more than 23,000 human beings have been killed in the Drug War in this country.
More than saying if I agree or not with this email, it triggered in my mind the following thought: If we do celebrate, it would be just empty superficial tradition and because we are used to it. Like New Year, get drunk and have a nice day off afterwards. But if we don’t, as long as we protest in some constructive and peaceful way, I am sure that the message will be so strong to circle the entire world and express to our government how tired we are about this situation of violence and crime. If we go and crowd the city’s main squares, if we go around waiving our flag wearing our sombreros, if we show pride about screaming ‘Viva México’, I would sadly interpret it as that we little stupid Mexicans don’t have the most minimum respect to ourselves as citizens and as human beings. And trust me, this has nothing to do with lack of respect or recognition to what our historic heroes did for us, but today we have a different reality, a reality we have to be responsible of in order to start building our new future.
Although there are in fact many politic, economic and social causes and effects of this war, I think a fair question would be to ask ourselves “What are the real intentions of the Government on fighting this war?” I mean, at what cost? Do they really care much about the health of its citizens? Do they want to take over people’s right to choose? Is there something they are NOT getting from drug activity that former opposition administration did?
A quick dip into recent history
In the year 2000 Vicente Fox, candidate from the strongest opposition party, National Action Party (PAN), won the elections. This was “…a historically significant election that made him the first president elected from an opposition party since Francisco I. Maderoin 1910 and the first one in 71 years to defeat, with 42 percent of the vote, the then-dominant Institutional revolutionary Party (PRI)….” [i]
After taking charge in office, Fox sent a small numbers of troops to Nuevo Laredo, a small city in the North Easter Border with the USA, to fight cartels in that area. Depending on sources, estimates throw about 110 deaths during January-August 2005 resulting from the unsuccessful efforts of this intervention on the fighting between the Gulf and Sinaloa Cartels in that region.
“On December 11, 2006, newly elected President Felipe Calderón sent 6,500 federal troops to the state of Michoacán to end drug violence there. This action is regarded as the first major operation against organized crime, and is generally viewed as the starting point of the war between the government and the drug cartels.As time progressed, Calderón continued to escalate his anti-drug campaign, in which there are now about 45,000 troops involved in addition of state and federal police forces…” [ii]
1. At what cost?
In the last four years, the deaths related to Drug War have reached over 23,000 until my last update in September 2010. This number integrates criminals, military/police elements and unfortunately civilians. From an official statement from President Calderón in April 2010, the proportion is 90%, 5%, 5% respectively[iii]. However from Wikipedia statistics and with a little common sense the number of military/police is at least 15%.
Keep in mind that presidential elections are two years from now, could there be any real intention of PRI on supporting the current opposition administration on fighting this was, or would they wait to emerge as saviors in 2012? Evidently, politics interests are way over the interests of the welfare of people.
Rightly, the questions would rise: ¿What about the cost of health of the people who DO consume drugs?
2. Does Government care much about the health of its citizens?
Some time ago before even thinking of writing this essay, I was struggling with the question if the Government was really interested in the health of its citizens, since after all at least in their shoes, the cost burden of public health is huge. To have an idea about the public healthcare system, the Social Service Institute (IMSS) serves a little more than 18 million people and 40% of the births in Mexico are attended there[iv]. In 2004 a strong and polemic debate carried on in Congress to approve a financial rescue to ensure the stability of this organization, which otherwise was expected to bankrupt before 2020.
The first thing I thought (an obvious one) was to examine the main causes of deaths in México from the Department of Health´s official website. I had trouble getting the information, which dated back to 2005, but the figures are constant from that year back, except for Homicides/Agressions that recorded 9,852 deaths, while nowadays has almost doubled for obvious reasons.
At the end of 2005, there were 493,557 reported deaths by the Ministry of Health in México (Secretaría de Salud), which starts with Diabetes (14%) and continues mainly through heart, liver, kidney, vascular, lung, motor vehicle accidents, homicides, AIDS, Suicides and so on. The “Top 20” causes of diseases including diabetes account for 63% (309,605) of total deaths in this country. Something very peculiar, given that drugs are bad for health and we should say no to them, after looking at the numbers I realized that causes of death due to drug consumption (overdose, homicides under influence of illegal drugs, etc.) don’t even figure in the statistics.
Based on these numbers, the main causes of deaths in this country that could be potentially attributable to substances is in the order of 182,145 (37% of 493,557), not considering the proportional increase of Homicides/Aggressions from the Drug War). Not surprisingly, that 37% percent could come from two substances only… you got it, Tobacco and Alcohol.
The chart looks like this:
In the United States nearly 1 out of 5 deaths are related to tobacco use (440,000 people/year). More than alcohol, car accidents, suicide, AIDS, homicide, and illegal drugs combined. [v]
About the fair argument that marijuana could be associated to lung cancer and make it to the statistics illustrated above, a study from UCLA in 2006 on more than 2,200 individuals showed that smoking marijuana is not associated with lung cancer, even in persons that declared being regular smokers. [vi] According to the Centre on Substance Abuse in Canada, the health costs of tobacco smokers are five times more than the ones of alcohol consumers.
It is stupidly believed or at least widely accepted (which is basically the same), that Alcohol and Tobacco are not drugs. One of the definitions for drugs in the Webster Dictionary is: something and often an illegal substance that causes addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness[vii]. First thing I would ask is ¿how does the body recognizes if the substance in the organism is legal or illegal?!?! And yet, this is how we have been programmed to think, it’s crazy. But despite what our brainwashed definition of a drug is, just by looking at the numbers above one would think that the Government should be concerned about the expenditure and sustainability of the public health system. In that case, this brings me to ask the following: Why aren’t tobacco and alcohol illegal?
So, does the Government cares about our health? No, they don’t give a fuck a about it, nor about the money they spend to take care of the 37% of the people that dies every year in México potentially triggered and associated to legal drugs, yes DRUGS, like Tobacco and Alcohol.
3. Do they want to take over people’s right to choose?
This one is a bit hard to hard to fundament with arguments other than idealist ones, so I would like to leave only this metaphor: If authorities would like to reduce, for example, the cases of AIDS, would they go and make condoms illegal assuming that it would prevent people from having sex just by promoting the idea that sex is dangerous, like a Say No To Sex campaign? (And that it should be done only when married, but this is a Religious one, let’s not mess with the Church right now, I have a space dedicated especially to them here). I would think that people would still have sex despite the consequences, as well as they would still continue to consume marijuana or cocaine or heroin or whatever. After all, I believe it is prohibition what causes the trouble, while is ignorance and misinformation among society that perpetrates it.
Government is not interested in choosing for you, nor cares about what you choose for yourself. After all, they seem to be just ok with you having organ diseases caused by tobacco and alcohol. Not to mention that they seem to be perfectly ok also with you driving around drunk, even when alcohol is reported in 50% of the total motor vehicle accidents taking toll of almost 8,000 persons each year, plus the ones that survive and live permanently ill.
4. Is there something they are NOT getting from drug activity that former opposition administration did?
In the last decade the Mexican government has cracked down on drug cartels. The cartels were protected for decades by Mexico’s ruling party, the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), which dominated the country’s political and economic life for most of the last century. The PRI turned a blind eye to drug trafficking so long as the traffickers followed some simple rules – no violence against civilians, no infringing on the turf of other traffickers, pay a share of the profits to the police, the military, and officials of the PRI. The cartels became a de facto arm of the PRI and were invisible in the day-to-day life of the Mexican people. The PRI’s fall from power and the new government’s decision to assert its own authority over the cartels wrecked this system with the consequent violence of a drug war.[viii]
México is a major gateway and controller of 70% of foreign narcotics imports into the US. The drug market here accounts for almost $180 billion USD and estimates indicate that something around $39 billion revenues for the Mexican cartels and their criminal networks. These networks includes lawmakers, politicians, police officials at all levels, private businessmen (someone has to do the laundry), customs, and so on.
Mexico’s GDP was estimated at US $886.4 billion in nominal exchange rates. While the standard of living measured in GDP in PPP (Purchase Power Parity) per capita was US $12,500. Now think about this, remittances (contributions sent by Mexicans living abroad, mainly in US) reached record levels in 2008 of over $21billion USD. And even adding another main source of income like Tourism, you could roughly pair the revenues of drug profits ($39billion USD). This means that divided by the PPP per capita represents, assuming distributed equally, the income of over 3 million people in México in any given year. Obviously the distribution is not even and in reality reaches a smaller group of people involved in the drug activity, but can you imagine that from one day to another there would be no money transfers from the US or Tourism incomes? What would taxi drivers, restaurants, hotels, craftsmen, etc. in tourist regions in México would live from? One of the most profitable companies in the world, Google, reached revenues of $23.6 billion USD in 2009. You do the math… that is the volume size of money we are talking about. So do you really (stupidly) think that the Government can just cut off this flow of money in the system by fighting this Drug War?
As I mentioned earlier, there are political implications and a huge chunk of missing information that we don’t have access to, because decisions are taken at very high levels, beyond our comprehension as mortal civilians. Can somebody answer me how can a small rectangular cardboard box saying ‘If you smoke this you will die from Cancer’ can be legal? Why stores and businesses penalized are for selling alcohol afterhours or on Sundays, why aren’t the alcohol producers responsible for it, or shouldn’t the problem be better solved by not selling it at all (like the so called “illegal drugs”)? Even when we could be given explanations for the Drug War, or the intentions of the Government on fighting it, the real reasons could be for benefit of a handful of people.
Call me a coward, but I really wouldn’t dare to go around promoting legalization of drugs with no fundamentals, you will think I’m crazy, that I totally lost it and most likely you’ll call me a drug addict, because that is how we have been programmed to think in our social engineered controlled system. But instead, if I ask why alcohol and tobacco aren’t illegal, then it’s not me who is crazy, is people who are closed to think for themselves. And these are the kind of questions that we as society have failed to ask and demand answers to. Instead, we live happy with the fact of doing what we are told, what to think and go through life building skewed and empty opinions about fundamental matters. If we are already in the middle of a Drug War at least we should try to understand what lies beneath and fight for something that we truly believe, weather if you are in favor or against the future hot topic of legalization in México. Question yourself about ideas you might have read or anything that could come to your mind, trigger argumentation, and generate curiosity among your community. Then the new reasons to be proud about our country and celebrating will again be genuine as they were after Independence in 1810 and Revolution in 1910; because they will come from us, the people.
We are part of a Revolution and I don’t feel we even realize, nor assume the responsibility of it. And contrary to the weapons that our historic heroes used, today in 2010 we have the most peaceful, and yet efficient one of them all: INFORMATION. From the words of Yoani Sánchez, a Cuban journalist, not too long ago she wrote “… the Internet will not be a crumb that falls from above, a privilege that we earn by good conduct, nor a benefit realized after applauding a great deal. Not this time. A true revolution.com takes place parallel and contrary to the rationing they want to impose on the virtual world. There are no bearded ones, no rifles, much less a leader shouting from platform. It is slow, and yet focused, but it will reach nearly all. Its commanders carry strange names like Gmail, WordPress, Skype and Facebook: they do not create divisions, but rather UNITE PEOPLE…”
1. If you or a family member is victim of a felony follow the proper legal actions of setting a demand. It is very easy to say, I’m aware of this, but we have to let our ego aside and be willing to be a static for the larger purpose of reaching critical mass. Internationally, the drug war in México is widely known, everyone talks about “the situation in Northern México”, trust me. So let the numbers speak, over 28,000 deaths in the last 4 years and other facts like the recent discovery of 74 dead immigrants in Tamaulipas last August was known worldwide. After this event, the Mexican Peso depreciated 0.92% against USD, meaning that investors searched for more confident places in the world to put their money in. Also, the US Consulate in Monterrey ordered its expatriate employees to send their kids back to America after a series of kidnapping attempts and shootings nearby high class schools in this city (my city). So if internally the situation seems to be moving nowhere, at least when the impacts in Foreign Direct Investment, Tourism, Country Risk Grade, etc will start to charge its toll, then, more severe actions and measures should be taken by the Mexican Government to come with a solution for this crisis.
2. Express yourself. Politicians and Government Officials at all levels follow social networks through their Public Relations departments or even personally. 63% of marketers use social networks to advertise and receive feedback from customers, users, or in our case, civilians. [x] So, as long as you express an argument or a fact, more than simple opinions, you should be confident that if you email, comment, like/dislike, Twitter, etc, in a structured and respectful way, your voice will reach the right ears. After all, we choose these people. Today with the flow of information we should be able to know before voting even which toilet paper politicians wipe their asses with.
3. Get involved, either if you are a student, an entrepreneur or an employee, you can join student activist groups, trade associations or any kind of organization that convince you that is doing something to express your concerns about any kind of situation.
4. In my opinion, most important: SHARE. There are roughly 25 million internet users in México and I don’t even want to find out the huge percent of people that probably uses it for no more than reading about Ricky Martin being gay or who did Paris Hilton slept with last weekend. Priests rape children as politicians spend tax payer’s money stupidly, so make a favor to your community or network and share this kind of information with them. You can even walk the extra mile and share relevant data with people that have no access to it at all.