Just past 2 a.m. on Sunday, March 25, a family was caught in the crossfire of a shootout between gang members and Mexican marines in the border town of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. In what has been described by the marines as a series of ambushes by the criminal group, a total of nine people were brutally killed, and 13 injured. Included in these numbers were a mother, father, and their two young daughters, aged 4 and 6 (Univision).
war on drugs
Part One of this series examines how marijuana arrived in the Western Hemisphere, who cultivated it locally, and why. Part Two looks at prohibitionist 20th century marijuana policies in Latin America and the Caribbean and their devastating social effects. Part Three looks at recent pro-marijuana activist efforts around the continent, as well as examples of progressive legislation that have begun to decriminalize the plant.
Over the last few years, inhabitants of the western Mexican state of Michoacán have been forced to evacuate, a difficult task considering the high proportion of livelihoods tied to agriculture, or adapt to an increasingly insecure environment. This insecurity is of course tied to the infiltration of drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) which have permeated private and public spheres of everyday life in Michoacán by causing violence and instability, disrupting trade and commerce, and corrupting public officials if not holding office outright.
As a result of the elections this November the legalization of marijuana has increased to four states in the U.S. as well as the nation’s capital. More than 17 million people can now use the drug recreationally, not factoring the 19 other states that have passed medicinal cannabis legislation. Reform advocates saw the election as a win and momentum for the legalization in more states to come.
Imagine a cast of characters out of a blockbuster crime movie: you have your humble citizen vigilante, violent gangs, a corrupt government, and a troop of North American soldiers trying to stop it all.
On November 12, 2012, former Mexican mayor Maria Santos Gorrostieta was abducted as she was driving her daughter to school. Her body was found a few days later and it is believed that she was tortured before she was killed. There is speculation that Gorrostieta was targeted for her frequent denunciations of drug cartels in the area where she served as governor, a small town in the western state of Michoacán.
American foreign policy toward Latin America has had an overwhelmingly development based focus; building democratic institutions, promoting economic opportunity and encouraging social equity. With this strategy, American policymakers have hoped that both political and economic liberalization will lead to the submission of Latin American governments to the American interest. This has been proven false in an increasing number of occurrences, such as Argentina, Venezuela and Brazil.