Monday, October 20, 2008

Which came first, the trafficking or the consuming?

Reporter Jens Erik Gould at Bloomberg has a nice article about the political responses in the U.S. and Mexico about drug-related violence. As the violence escalates, Mexicans of all political stripes are emphasizing the essential fact that everything stems from consumption of drugs in the United States:

Felipe Calderón: "We are paying a very high price for the consumption of drugs in the U.S."

Cesar Camacho Quiroz, member of Congress from the PRI: "the prevention campaigns haven't been very successful, and the fight against street-level drug dealing is practically nonexistent in the U.S."

Arturo Sarukhan, Mexico's Ambassador to the U.S.: "There are many in Mexico who do feel the U.S. isn't doing enough because they do see bodies piling up on our side of the border."

It is notable that when we read about drugs in the United States, the word most often used is "trafficking," as if the movement of drugs alone was the problem. But, of course, that movement exists only because there is a final destination, namely the consumer in the U.S. Without that consumer, there is no traffic.

This is certainly not a new debate, but I do think Mexico is becoming more vocal than it has ever been. A small but important rhetorical change would simply be to refer equally to trafficking and consumption. A larger step would be to put as much attention and funding in reducing consumption as we do in reducing trafficking. But don't hold your breath:

The Bush administration proposed cutting spending on drug treatment and prevention programs by $73 million, or 1.5 percent, in the 2009 budget which hasn't been approved yet.


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