To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Friday, July 10, 2020

New Observercast

Arrest Of Drug War Mastermind Exposes Futility Of War On Drugs

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On Dec. 10, Mexico’s former Public Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna was charged with taking millions of dollars in bribes to protect the Sinaloa Cartel, allowing the organization to smuggle tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States.

What greater symbol of the futility of the War on Drugs could there be and its double standards?

The New York Times editorialized that it was as if Elliot Ness had been an accomplice of Al Capone.

Luna was the main architect of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s militarized approach to battling drug traffickers, which began in 2006 with the deployment of the armed forces against organized crime and the president’s official declaration of “war” on them.

Mr. Calderón and Mr. García Luna at the time were considered successful in capturing or killing many of the most-wanted traffickers in the country.

After almost every major arrest, Mr. García Luna delighted in posing with suspects alongside captured weapons and drugs in a show for the news media.

Now, however, it is his mug shot donning the news.

Mr. Luna’s arrest comes on the heels of the conviction of the brother of Honduran president Juan Orlando Hernandez on drug trafficking and bribery charges in October.

A former small-town mayor at the trial testified that he smuggled 30-40 tons of cocaine with Juan Antonio Hernandez and channeled more than $4 million in bribes to the president and his predecessor, Porfirio Lobo.

Lobo had come to power following an American backed coup d’états in 2009, which ousted the progressive leaders, José Manuel Zelaya, and helped to transform Honduras into a narco-state.

The Trump administration has been a strong proponent of the War on Drugs.

His Pentagon provides millions of dollars in annual military aid to Honduras for drug interdiction and supplies the Honduran military and police with equipment and training for counter-narcotics.

President Trump has also expanded the Obama administration’s ill-conceived Plan Mérida.

This is a $1.7 billion program modeled after Bill Clinton’s Plan Colombia, which supplies Mexican law enforcement agencies with sophisticated surveillance and policing technologies.

Despite much rhetoric about good governance, only a small percentage of the money in Plan Mérida has ever been devoted to anti-poverty programs capable of providing opportunities for impoverished Mexican youth, who see joining a criminal gang as the road to wealth and status, or for other crime prevention measures.

Instead, it has helped to beef up the security agencies headed by corrupt figures like Garcia Luna who have helped to ensure that the drug supply has continued to proliferate.

Support for the Plan Mérida nevertheless remains bipartisan.

In 2019, Congress provided $139 million for it, $61 million above the budget request, with additional funds aimed at addressing the flow of U.S.-bound opioids.

The Democratic controlled House has also passed FY ‘20 HR 2740 sanctioning the provision of $126.8 million for the Mérida Initiative – even though Mexico’s new leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has repudiated it and sought to divert funding towards constructive social programs.

During the Democratic primary debates, any discussion of the drug issue has focused on the opioid crisis and culpability of large pharmaceutical companies for it.

No candidate so far – Bernie Sanders included – has come out strongly against the international War on Drugs or called for cutting off funding to Plan Mérida and military aid to Honduras.

This latter position is one that all progressives should adopt – especially in lieu of the arrest of Mr. Luna and conviction of Mr. Hernandez who exemplify the high-level corruption, which has made the War on Drugs a futile crusade.

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Jeremy Kuzmarov
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Jeremy Kuzmarov is a member of the Tulsa Peace Fellowship and author of four books on U.S. foreign policy including The Russians are Coming, Again: The First Cold War as Tragedy, the Second as Farce, with John Marciano [New York: Monthly Review Press, 2018]; Obama’s Unending Wars: Fronting the Foreign Policy of the Permanent Warfare State [Atlanta: Clarity Press, 2019]; and The Myth of the Addicted Army: Vietnam and the Modern War on Drugs [Massachusetts, 2009].
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