Aguilar and Castañeda come to Tijuana to say the war on drugs is a myth

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Rubén Aguilar (left) and Jorge Castañeda (right). Photo by Manuel Montoya.

by Fausto Ovalle

Rubén Aguilar and Jorge Castañeda unveiled their new book, El narco: La guerra fallida [The Failed War on Drug Trafficking], on 20 January 2010 at the Tijuana campus of the Universidad Iberoamericana (UIAT).

The president of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, used false assumptions to justify his failed drug war, say Vicente Fox’s former presidential press secretary and the former secretary of state. They point out that this war against drug trafficking was something Calderón created in order to legitimate his presidency and that it was not in his platform when he was running for office.

The two political analysts – and now security analysts as well – presented their book at a press conference hosted by UIAT. In their work, the authors examine the arguments employed by the Mexican federal government to justify its behavior.

Rubén Aguilar disputed the government’s claim that drug use in Mexico is on the rise. He pointed to the National Survey of Addictions as evidence that that the consumption of illegal drugs in Mexico has not increased and that only a very small percentage of the population is at risk of addiction. Another of their unfounded claims, he adds, is the alleged increase in violence even though official statistics report fewer deaths and murders before the war on drugs began.

The former press secretary, who was famous for having to correct the misstatements of Vicente Fox, brought up another favorite argument of the current administration, that drug-trafficking has begun to corrupt public life and politicians recently. Aguilar agreed that politicians have been compromised by the drug cartels but observed that this has always been the case and that the situation is no worse now that it ever has been. Another of the current administration’s errors, according to Aguilar, is the claim that there has been an increase in the number of firearms in Mexico: there is no basis for such a claim, he says.

Aguilar observed that, upon assuming office, each president of Mexico flexes his muscles to show everyone who’s boss: he suggested that Calderón invented the war on drugs for this purpose. “They’ve all done it,” he said, “Fox by negotiating with the Zapatistas, Zedillo by arresting Salinas’s brother, Salinas by arresting La Quina [Joaquín Hernández Galicia of Pemex] – every president starts off with a grand gesture. Calderón’s was this war on drugs.” Aguilar concludes that Calderón initiated this war against drug trafficking not for the reasons given, which are contradictory, but in order to legitimate his presidency.

The authors of the book, whiich is already in its second printing, observed that this failed war has nonetheless managed to increase the number of kidnappings, murders, and extortions. One way to reduce such collateral damage, they suggest, would be for the federal government to come to a tacit agreement with the cartels. Such an agreement would return the drug traffickers to their original purpose (the cultivation and distribution of drugs) and to restrict them from branching out into kidnapping, murder, blackmail, and other violence.

According to Jorge Castañeda, this solution has been successful in Colombia, where such collateral damage has been reduced while the production of cocaine continues. Other practical measures, he suggested, would be the decriminalization of drugs, as is currently happening to marijuana in the United States, and for Mexico to rely on a national police force instead of city and state police departments, such as Chile, Colombia, and Canada have done. Castañeda concluded the presentation by saying that the ideal presidential candidate in 2012 would be someone who will promise to control the drug traffic while acknowledging that starting a war was the worst thing Calderón could have done: with that, the vote of the people would decide the issue.

Originally published by El Informador de Baja California (I:18:16, 2010-01-21-18:13:07). Republished in translation by kind permission.

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