Mexico's Felipe Calderón Admits Drug War Is Failing


Mexicans were especially rattled by last week's fire-bombing of a Monterrey casino. Including the numerous mass graves that have been discovered along the border, and the 25,000 to 40,000 people who have been killed since 2006, the casino fire is the single deadliest and most shocking incident in Mexico's drug war. Fifty-two people died in the blaze, many of them old ladies. 

Mexican President Felipe Calderón called the Zeta cartel members who started the fire "true terrorists who have gone beyond all limits." Yet having already destroyed nearly $13 billion in cartel "assets," which in a saner world we would call "exports" and not destroy; and captured and/or killed two-thirds of Mexico's most-wanted list, it seems like there's not much else Calderon and his handlers in the U.S. can do: Keep burning them drugs, keep arresting them baddies, and pray–in the words of Obama-nominated DEA Chief Michele Leonhart–that the "caged animals" keep "attacking one another."

But the BBC notes that Calderón is losing his gusto for being a drug-war lapdog. Shortly after the casino fire, he told a group of reporters that

"If [the Americans] are determined and resigned to consuming drugs, they should look for market alternatives that annul the stratospheric profits of the criminals, or establish clear points of access that are not the border with Mexico….But this situation cannot continue like this."

The Buenos Aires Herald is also reporting that Calderón seems ready to try something new:

Calderon has begun to soften the hard-line rhetoric that won him allies in Washington, stressing his readiness to discuss the merits of drug legalization.

"I'm completely open to this debate. Not just on consumption, but also on movement and production," he told a meeting with victims' families in Mexico City yesterday. But he added: "This issue goes beyond national borders. If there's no international agreement, it doesn't make sense."

Calderón's creeping awareness of just how destructive prohibition is for his people is a damn good thing. But as the Herald notes, "Resistance is firmly entrenched in the U.S. government and analysts say Mexico is very unlikely to liberalize its drug laws without Washington's approval." Perhaps anticipating that Calderón would go soft, a high level State Department functionary insisted last month that the anti-cartel Merida Initiative would continue regardless of who Mexicans elected president in 2012. Hopefully Calderón grows a conscience and a spine between now and then.