Why The String Of Cartel Head Captures Means Nothing

The New York Times reported yesterday that Mexican authorities had captured Juárez Cartel boss Jesús Salas Aguayo, the latest in a string of headlines claiming victories in the war on drugs. Known as ‘The Liquidator’, the country’s authorities claim he is ‘linked to the bloodiest events ever recorded in Juarez City’. His brutal and ruthless methods, such as dispatching his enemies with the use of dynamite, earned him both the nickname and a place on the DEAs most wanted list.

Earlier this month Mexican police arrested Sinaloa “cartel kingpin” Cesar Gastelum Serrano, which came on the heels of the March arrest of Treviño Morales, leader of the feared Zetas drug cartel. Late last year authorities also nabbed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, perhaps the greatest narco trafficker of all time.

While the arrests have helped President Enrique Peña Nieto with domestic popularity they have done little to stop either the drug trade or the associated violence.

When one cartel falters another (or two or three) is quick to take its place. The massive profits to be had from trafficking drugs from South America to the United States mean there will always be drug traffickers to fill the void. For as long as drugs remain an illicit, underground economy, the violence will persist.

In order to stop the violence more progressive drug policies are needed. Were every drug to be legalized and regulated the powerful economic incentive would be removed and the cartels, along with their violence, would fade into the distant past.

Such a stance is not politically fashionable but it is the right thing to do. From a social perspective it would help thousands of young men and innocent third parties avoid the inescapable cycle of gang life. Gone would be the lucrative employment opportunities offered by gangs, the most commonly cited reason for participating. Remove this powerful force and you’ll see a sea change of behavior.

Economically the legalization and regulation of all drugs would have tremendous benefits. American companies would product the products and all economic benefits of their sale would accrue to Americans. Presently hundreds of billions of dollars annually is transferred, illicitly, to South America. This American wealth would remain in our country and help our economy to thrive. Ridiculous expenditures on paramilitary policing, the DEA and other related organizations would be eliminated, instead replaced by a reasonably sized regulatory and compliance apparatus similar to the FDA. These savings could be spent on outreach and counselling programs for those who use these newly legal substances, helping to break the cycle of dependence and addiction.

Legalizing and regulating drugs is not popular if you’re in office. But it is the right thing to do, both for our society and our economy. It’s the American way, even if most in office have yet to realize it.

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