"The United States accepts responsibility for the violence occasioned by drug trafficking" - Barack Obama, December 2011
In testimony yesterday before the U.S. House of Representatives, a Marine Corps general and a Coast Guard admiral expressed pessimism over efforts to stem the flow of narcotics from Latin America. But the problem rests as much north of the border as south, they emphasized.
Gen. John F. Kelly and Admiral Robert J. Papp, Jr., Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, told a subcommittee that a strong demand for drugs in the United States coupled with the logistical expertise acquired by international drug cartels have made their assignments increasingly difficult to carry out. Mexico has 60-80 cartels, Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam reported in December 2012.
The men also complained that cannabis legalization efforts across the country, with Colorado and Washington now permitting both medical and recreational marijuana, have sent mixed messages to U.S. drug war partners in the southern hemisphere.
"The word hypocrite comes to mind," said Kelly, while Papp noted that Latin American countries are "confused by the legalization trend, after having invested so many resources and so much blood."
Their comments have been quoted today by the Mexican press.
General Kelly is in charge of the U.S. Southern Command, which is responsible for American strategic planning and military operations in Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
Kelly and Admiral Papp testified that "the situation is worsening," as hundreds of tons of drugs elude interception efforts every year and continue to arrive on U.S. streets. Mexican drug cartels operate in 1,286 U.S. cities.
"The zone in which we work is the point of origin of the three most dangerous drugs which routinely arrive in the United States from Latin America - cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine," the U.S. commanders told representatives. "This is due to the incredible efficiency of transnational criminal organizations, which can also move undocumented persons, arms or terrorists across the border."
The men said that insufficient congressional funding prevents their forces from doing more. Even so, Admiral Papp testified that in the last five years the Coast Guard has seized more than a half million tons of Latin produced cocaine, more than twice the amount seized by all other U.S. law enforcement agencies combined.
But he added, "we have to look at this problem not only from the supply side, but from the demand side as well."
Mirroring congressional testimony earlier this month by the U.S. Drug Enforcement administrator, Papp told representatives that the marijuana legalization trend in the U.S. will not only encourage cartels, but will motivate them to increase production of harder drugs as well. DEA tells Congress, Mexican drug cartels hard at work in Colorado and Washington.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party administration of Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto has no intention of legalizing the cannabis trade in this country, where there is little popular support for the idea. Some Latin countries have urged a regional debate on the issue, but more than two years ago the Obama administration indicated its disapproval. U.S. rejects Guatemala's proposal to "open a dialog" on possible drug legalization.
In an interview with an Argentine magazine in December 2011, president Obama said of the Latin American drug trade, "The problem suggests a shared responsibility. We're working with our friends throughout the continent to improve security for their citizens." U.S. drug demand responsible for damage done to Mexico and other nations.
Death estimates in Mexico's 89 month old drug war, which was launched in December 2006, range from 75,000 to more than twice that number.
May 17 - Survey: Mexicans remain overwhelmingly opposed to marijuana legalization, by 70% margin
Dec. 17 - Who is committed to the drug war?
Apr. 24 - On eve of Obama visit to Mexico, U.S. drug czar releases "new strategy," focused on treatment and prevention
Sept. 29 - United Nations: Los Zetas are "dominant force" in Central America
Sept. 27 - United Nations: On Mexico's southern border is the most violent zone on the planet
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