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Thursday, 07 February 2013 11:24

War on Drugs in Latin America Is to Advance US Economic Interests, Not Reduce Drug Trafficking

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT cocaine2375 US War on Drugs Is About Hemispheric Hegemony

Readers of Truthout know that the site ran a ten part series last year: Truthout on the Mexican Border. The last installment of a very complicated journalistic journey into the dark underside of US Latin America policy concluded, "How the Militarized War on Drugs in Latin America Benefits Transnational Corporations and Undermines Democracy."

The Latin America-watch website "UpsideDownWorld" offers analysis of a recent report with this headline, "US Spends $20 Billion Over 10 Years on Increasingly Bloody Drug 'War' in Latin America; Rejects Drug Policy Reform."   "UpsideDownWorld" describes the Associated Press investigation:

The article, authored by Pulitzer-prize winning reporter Martha Mendoza, describes how the U.S. has “spent more than $20 billion [BuzzFlash on Truthout believes $20 billion is on the extreme low end of actual expenditures] in the past decade” and deployed U.S. army, marine and navy troops to support a heavily militarized campaign to fight drug trafficking throughout the region.  The fact that the efforts have been accompanied by soaring violence – with, for example, 70,000 Mexican lives lost in the last six years [actually it is likely to have exceeded a death toll of 120,000 under former President Calderon through the end of his term last November, as detailed in a Truthout article, "Fueled by War on Drugs, Mexican Death Toll Could Exceed 120,000 As Calderon Ends Six-Year Reign" – doesn’t seem to trouble the U.S. officials in charge of implementing U.S. drug policy internationally.  In fact, they seem to consider spikes in violence to be a sign that the “strategy is working.”

William Brownfield who heads the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told Mendoza that “the bloodshed tends to occur and increase when these trafficking organizations… come under some degree of pressure.”

In the "Truthout on the Mexican Border series," I described how Brownfield testified before Congress offering a whack-a-mole defense of the failed war on drugs south of the border.  He never indicated that the drug war could be won, just that it could be moved around. (After Mexico, Brownfield predicted drugs would come through the Caribbean.) There is no indication that drug trafficking to the United States is decreasing. All the United States facilitates is moving the route around of how the drugs cross into the US.

As "UpsideDownWorld" – which focuses on issues relating to Latin America – also notes:

Particularly worrying is the fact that the administration seems to be unable to account for enormous sums that have been authorized to be spent on military equipment.  The article notes that, "neither the State Department nor the Pentagon could provide details explaining a 2011 $1.3 billion authorization for exports of military electronics to Honduras — although that would amount to almost half of all U.S. arms exports for the entire Western Hemisphere."….

Today Central America is increasingly the focus of U.S. militarized counternarcotics programs.  As the New York Times revealed in early May of last year, tactics and personnel that were previously used in Iraq and Afghanistan have been transferred to Central America, including the DEA’s Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Team (FAST) that first operated in Afghanistan.

The word "militarized" in relation to counternarcotics is important, because as the Truthout series reported the goal of the US may not at all relate to reducing the flow of illegal narcotics.  The actual aim is more likely to be the US insertion of militarized activity into south of the border nations that are playing an increasingly important role in the expansion of global corporations based in the US, cheap labor markets, and expanded markets for US-based companies such as Walmart.  In addition, by creating an excuse for expanded US military and intelligence agency and law enforcement involvement in cooperative Latin American nations, the US is attempting to preserve hemispheric hegemony.

Indeed, were some form of immigration reform to pass, the militarization of relations with Mexico, Latin America, and parts of South America will continue to increase, not decrease. That is because stakeholders who stand to financially and ideologically benefit from a large scale law enforcement, military and intelligence agency build up -- in the name of waging the war on drugs -- will continue advocating aggressive national security policies.

What the so-called war on drugs enables is the growth of the national security state -- including the United States Southern Command, the Border Patrol, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the CIA, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (formerly School of the Americas), and other tactical forces – involved in mission creep in the Americas: to implement the modern Monroe Doctrine of US political and trade dominance.

If the US policy makers in DC were at all serious about a war on drugs, they would begin by seriously trying to reduce consumption on the homefront.  Advocates of an idealized free market system on the Republican and Democratic side know that a product in high demand will always find its way to the market place.

After tens of thousands of deaths and billions and billions of dollars spent, the flow of the drugs has not decreased – and there is evidence that some of the proscribed drugs have become less costly on US streets meaning that the supply is actually increasing.

The heightened war on drugs – and a growing DC propaganda linking of the war on drugs with the threat of terrorism to ratchet up the fear among Americans – coincides with the increasing dominance of "free trade agreements" and financial firms and global corporations in creating a new international economic structure.

It is safe to say that this is no coincidence.

(Photo: Wikipedia)