Tuesday, May 26, 2015

American science will save Mexico from... the Americans

We can look at the illegal drug problem, first as an individual tragedy, something that destroys ordinary lives and secondly, and probably more importantly, as an enormous business that moves billions of dollars beyond the control of legitimate state authority and which corrupts said authority in a worldwide chain of corruption and violence that degrades the lives of millions of people, especially in poor and disorganized societies.

"Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States"
Porfirio Diaz

The oft repeated quote above has become a classic because it would be impossible to condense more truth in fewer words.

Continuing in this long tradition, the insatiable appetite of Americans for "recreational" drugs, and America's endless supply of freely available automatic weapons for Mexican narcos is literally destroying Mexico.
MEXICO CITY—The killing of a 6-year-old boy, allegedly at the hands of five children playing a game of kidnap, has stunned people here and raised questions about the effect the country’s wave of drug-related violence is having on society.(...) For the past decade, Chihuahua state was known as a murder capital as warring drug gangs fought over an important shipping route for cocaine and other illegal drugs heading to the U.S. Since 2008, the state has registered more than 17,000 homicides. In 2010, violence peaked at 111 murders per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with an annual rate of about 4 per 100,000 in the U.S. and less than 1 per 100,000 in most of Europe. (...) In a recent study, (the Citizen Council for Security and Justice in Chihuahua, a civic group) and others like it asked dozens of children across the state what kind of violence they had witnessed in their communities. “We were astonished by the results,”(...) The children had latent memories of the homicides, kidnappings that happened in their neighborhoods. They drew dead bodies in soccer fields, corpses in a pool of blood. They drew weapons, and even bullets.” (emphasis mine) Wall Street Journal
About 70 percent of the guns seized in Mexico and submitted to a U.S. gun-tracing program came from the United States(...) Evidence that U.S. weapons trafficking has been fueling a bloody drug war that has cost more than 35,000 lives in Mexico since late 2006 has angered many Mexicans. "I accuse the U.S. weapons industry of (responsibility for) the deaths of thousands of people that are occurring in Mexico," former President Felipe Calderon said. "It is for profit, for the profits that it makes for the weapons industry." Huffington Post
Of course, as far as official America (the White House) is concerned this is all Mexico's fault:
Foreign sources of opium are responsible for the entire supply of heroin consumed in the U.S. Efforts to reduce domestic heroin availability face significant challenges. (...) according to UN estimates. During the 1990's, Latin America evolved as the primary supplier of heroin to the United States (...) opium poppy cultivation in Mexico remains high, and Mexico continues as the primary supplier of heroin to the United States. Estimated cultivation of opium poppy reached 10,500 hectares in 2012, with an estimated pure potential production of 26 metric tons.(...) The responsibility for curbing heroin production and trafficking lies primarily with the source countries. The profitability of growing opium poppy and the lack of resources or commitment by regional governments to implement crop substitution, alternative development, or eradication are key factors that prevent significant progress toward reducing opium production. (emphasis mine) The White House President Barack Obama
Paradoxically, legalizing marijuana in many places in the USA, thus making, good, reliable, local cannabis available at competitive prices, has been leading Mexico to produce more heroin.
Policy changes in America have given Mexico’s narco-farmers further incentives to focus on opium. Until not so long ago, Mexican traffickers made a lot of their money from cannabis. But these days most of the cannabis in America is home-grown. Nearly half the states have legalised medical marijuana, and four have voted to legalise it outright. Exporting pot to the United States is now like taking tequila to Mexico. Facing a glut in the cannabis market, Mexican farmers have turned to poppies. Economist
Here is the good news for Mexico: in a not too distant future, it will be possible to "brew" heroin in American garages or kitchens like meths: "Breaking Bad" style.
Shortening an industry’s supply chain is bound to affect the activities of existing suppliers. That is as true of the recreational-drugs industry as it is of any other. (...)  Savvy drug barons will therefore be reading their copies of Nature Chemical Biology with particular interest—for the current edition of the journal contains a paper describing a technology that could completely disrupt their business models.(...) For the authors of this paper, (...)have found the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle that will permit opiates to be made from glucose through the agency of yeast (...) instead of fermenting sugar into alcohol, you will be able to ferment it into morphine.(...) If strains of yeast that can turn out opiates are liberated from laboratories and pass into general circulation, brewing morphine-containing liquor for recreational use will be easy. It will be illegal, of course. And the authorities will, no doubt, try to crack down on it. But those who smuggle the stuff from places like Afghanistan may find themselves driven out of business by home-brew opium clubs based in garages. The Economist
You don't have to wear a tinfoil hat to sometimes think that the international "war on drugs" is just part of the game, useful in raising the street price of the product and an opportunity for taking more bribes.

Legalizing cannabis doesn't mean more people smoking it, just as legalizing alcohol after prohibition didn't mean mass-alcoholism, it just meant more tax money for the state.

It might be more productive to ask why so many Americans need so many mind-altering substances, in such quantities, to get through life.

Until that question is solved, the technology of home-brewed American heroin, which, like meths, will never be legal, could at least break the back of the Mexican drug cartels, save thousands of lives and finally, and not the least important for Americans, keep a large country bordering the United States, with a population of about 124M from dissolving into anarchy. DS

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