Mexico, Colombia, and Guatemala want to decriminalize drugs, but with a military approach. This means going after criminals and gangs with military and police force before they can regroup.
• A version of this post ran on the author's blog, bloggingsbyboz.com. The views expressed are the author's own.
If you were to place Felipe Calderon, Juan Manuel Santos, and Otto Perez Molina on the hemisphere's outdated left-right ideological spectrum, all three are well on the right side of the center line. All three are pro-military and all three have deployed their military forces to combat drug traffickers and criminal organizations. All three are strong allies of the United States. And in the past few months, all three have raised the real possibility of decriminalization of drugs in their countries and the region.
Yesterday on Twitter I compared the stances of the three leaders to a "Nixon goes to China" event. These are the three leaders in the hemisphere who have the political capital to pull off such a dramatic stance on the "war on drugs." While several respected former presidents have made similar calls, they carried less influence being that they are already out of office and they lacked the hawkish security credentials. The recent statements by Calderon, Santos, and Perez carry more weight.
The hypothetical militarized decriminalization of drugs does not look how some liberals and libertarians have imagined in their policy papers over previous decades. These are three leaders committed to a fight against crime and violence in their countries, and they are well aware that violent and organized crime will continue even after decriminalization. They are hoping that decriminalization frees up resources and diverts some profits away from traffickers. With varying details, the policy analysts backing these plans hope to decriminalize, tax the businesses involved, and use the money to invest in military and police so they can hit criminals even harder. There are members of various business communities behind these proposals prepared to take full advantage economically if they come to pass.