martes, mayo 31, 2011

Gold fever, drug fever

Among the many fundamental reasons to oppose unbridled capitalism, in which the economic profit of a few prevails over the interests and welfare of society as a whole, perhaps the most frightening one is the ability of the economic power of certain groups or individuals to distort the moral and the will of an entire state. Law and justice become docile tentacles of the interests of large economic groups and that is not only a clear violation of democracy, but a direct attack on the most fundamental principles of solidarity and equality.

And yet, some would have us believe that unbridled capitalism and democracy go hand in hand and intertwined. When leaders of a major superpower say they want to bring democracy to countries oppressed by authoritarian regimes, what they really mean is that they want to establish a government there to take care of the their greedy interests. History has shown repeatedly that it has not been the most noble principles of humanity, but the most egoistic economic interests that have driven the most important decisions of global politics. Or has anyone seen perhaps a successfully implemented democracy in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any of the territories now occupied by foreign troops?

This might sound to may people as cheap left-wing rhetoric. To me, it sounds like an evident reality. To make this point clearer, I want to bring up one of the most sad, bloody and dangerous results of wild capitalism: the almighty power of drug traffickers in Latin America countries. For decades, Colombia has been living side by side with the cancer of drug trafficking. It has permeated everything: politics, law, government, guerrillas, morality, decency, respect for life. For over 30 years the global policy on drugs has been the relentless persecution and criminalization of the production, distribution, sale and consumption of narcotics, and Colombia has taken the brunt of this war, an internal armed conflict almost entirely funded with revenues produced in the illegal drug trade, leaving millions of victims each year.

The much acclaimed "war on drugs" has not yielded the expected results, and we should not have a doctorate in sociology to understand that the reason why this war is not won is precisely because the stablished policies behind this war make drug traffickers powerful. Prohibit something, and you will make it valuable. The unquestioned power of Al Capone in the decade of the Great Recession is an easy example that applies here: a power based on the prohibition of alcohol. For those who study the drug problem on a global scale, it is perhaps clear that the controlled distribution of narcotics and the approach to this matter as a public health problem is the least painful solution. The drug trade should be the monopoly of states. There are many voices clamoring for this type of solution, and here I will not stop to explain the otherwise evident reasons for this approach.

And yet, we continue with a tough policy against drug trafficking in Colombia that has not worked, On the contrary, this policy is now threatening Mexico to turn it into a battleground between traffickers who buy weapons in the United States and a state that is forced to act within the law to attack a cancer that does not know any rules. The question is then: why do we continue with this policy? The extremely conservative and moralistic attitude of a significant part of public opinion and the U.S. Congress is only part of the explanation.

The true reason for this policy is related, I am afraid, to the greed od certain economic groups. The circulation of narcotics continues to be criminalized because criminalizing it is profitable -very profitable- for a few fortunate ones. Not only weapon trade between Mexico and the United States benefits from the drug war in Mexico (as it benefits from the war against terrorism in the Middle East). Another important source of revenue for a sector of U.S. economy is visibly improved with the worldwide prohibition policy: the private prison system. In the United States, a considerable fraction of the prisons are maintained by private entities, for which each inmate is translated into several thousand dollars in profit. The state is no longer the only responsible for applying punishment to the convicts. The punishment of criminals has become a business (what would Foucault say?). And, oh surprise! Drug trafficking is the main source of prisoners in the modern world.

We can imagine the enormous pressure that, through congressional lobbying, is exerted by those who own the production of weapons and jails in the United States. We should exert our own pressure to make sure that the controlled distribution of narcotics is at least discussed seriously by the governments worldwide. It is time to start demanding from governments around the world something that should be natural for them to do by own initiative: that the interest of the mankind as a whole should prevail over the particular interest. Maybe now that people are being decapitated by dozens on the streets of Sonora, much closer to the Arizona border than the far away Medellín, they will finally start to listen.

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