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America is to blame for Mexico's drug war

01 Dec 2009

Speakers: Fareed Zakaria, Asa Hutchinson , Andrés Martinez , Jorge Castañeda, Chris Cox, Jeffrey Miron, John Donvan

Nearly 10,000 people in Mexico have died in drug-related violence since January 2007. Who or what is to blame? Some say it is America’s insatiable consumer demand for illicit drugs and the constant flow of their guns, which arm the cartels. Others believe that Mexico’s own government is ineffective in controlling the trade of the drug cartels because of rampant corruption in law enforcement in the country. The US Congress, unable to ignore the rising violence spilling over the border, has approved $700 million in security aid for Mexico, and has promised hundreds of federal agents and intelligence analysts devoted to the problem. Officials on both sides wonder whether this will make a dent in the problem.

Has the US “war on drugs” been ineffective, or even counter-productive? Should Mexico’s government take full responsibility for what goes on within its own borders? Should the very idea of criminalisation of drugs be re-examined?

Chaired by John Donvan.

Arguing for the motion are Fareed Zakaria, Jeffrey Miron and Andrés Martinez.

Fareed Zakaria explains that the war on drugs, which began when President Nixon was in office, is in its fortieth year. For Zakaria, the situation in Mexico is the same as in Columbia; an ineffectual war on drugs, involving soldiers, bullets and death, with America at its helm.

Jeffrey Miron responds to Asa Hutchinson’s assertion that American drug consumption has decreased due to law enforcement, which he explains is false. He explains how US pressure on Mexico is a determining factor in Mexico's drug policy, and how the US is therefore the reason for Mexico's drug violence.

Andrés Martinez explains that the clampdown should be on consumption of drugs as well as production, asserting that America’s insatiable demand for illegal drugs is as much the problem as Mexico’s supply.

Arguing against the motion are Asa Hutchinson, Chris Cox and Jorge Castañeda.

Asa Hutchinson believes what happens in Mexico is critically important to the security of the United States. Hutchinson explains that Mexico's war on drugs is a result of Mexican decisions and the Mexican culture of corruption.

Chris Cox details gun laws in the US and Mexico. He explains how as Mexican cartels' industries are based on more than just drugs, American gun laws are redundant in affecting the situation.

Jorge Castañeda asserts that neither America or Mexico are to blame for Mexico's drug war – the real culprit is President Felipe Calderón. He explains that the Mexican war on drugs is actually a war about legitimacy, a means by which President Calderón can exert his power.

First vote: For: 43%, Against: 22%, Undecided: 35%

Final Vote: For: 72%, Against: 22%, Undecided: 6%

The motion is passed.

Thank you to Intelligence Squared US for allowing us to use this video.

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