You have undoubtedly been reading about the continuing battles; the drug cartels fighting one another and the feds waging war on the cartels. President Calderon has made it a top priority to cripple, if not dismantle, the well-armed and violent drug runners. The latest hit was the assassination of the chief of the Mexcian federal police which had followed by two weeks the murder of the federal police head of organized crime. These guys don’t fool around. Since Calderon’s announced his intent there have been nearly 4,000 deaths and 1,170 since the beginning of this year. The situation gets worse every day.
So what does this mean for tourism? Well, so far not much. These guys have a war going, but they’re not targeting tourists or everyday citizens not involved in their illegal interprise. The tourism numbers remain strong, despite the occassional travel warning by the U.S. government. The sporadic, targeted violence should not deter your travel plans, unless those plans involve cruising the back streets of border cities, Juarez and Tijuana. It would be comparable to advise people not to visit the U.S. because of gang violence in south-central L.A. or East St. Louis.
That said, Mexico needs to get a handle on this. It won’t be easy because the demand for drugs remains unabated in the U.S, and maybe that’s where the focus should begin. The 50-year-old war on drugs has been a collosal failure and a new plan should be given a try. Even recently deceased conservative icon William F. Buckley favored the legaliztion of certain drugs, along with a massive educational and rehabilitation program. Indeed, the U.S. has more people locked up for drug offenses than all of the prisoners combined in the European Union, at a cost of about $30,000 per-year per inmate. It’s a classic cluster-screw that needs a massive overhaul.
Meanwhile, Mexico is grappling with the outfall of our failed policy, with no solutions in sight. It is time for the two countries to join forces with a visionary, comprehensive plan. Take the profit out of drugs and the bad guys will be out of business…at least the drug business.