Fox appoints drug reformers to his cabinet
"It is indispensable to rescue the fundamental idea
of ending the economic interest in drug trafficking" - Alejandro
Gertz Manero, Mexico's new top cop
Newly elected Mexican President Vicente 'Cowboy'
Fox named the first members of his cabinet while taking office
on December 1st. According to reports from NarcoNews.com: "Fox
offered a list of US-educated businessmen who, by their own admission,
will continue the neoliberal economic policies imposed by the
United States upon Mexico. However, Fox also nominated as his
Foreign Minister - the equivalent of the Secretary of State in
the US - the author and political consultant Jorge G. Castañeda"
- a highly regarded drug reform advocate.
Castañeda will oversee the Mexican embassies abroad and
deal face to face with US and other foreign powers. Reaction
has been swift and angry from certain sectors of the elite US
foreign policy club, a knee-jerking display of Cold War nostalgia
that, on the surface, denies logic: Castañeda, on the
grand economic questions, is one of them.
So how to explain the bothered response from Roger Noriega, top
aide to Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Senator Jesse Helms?
Noriega denounced Castañeda's appointment instantly in
an Associated Press story. He charged that "Castañeda's
attitude and writings have been fairly anti-U.S." He continued,
"Inasmuch as Mexico's relations with the United States are
so important, we were hoping for someone in the foreign ministry
who could play a constructive role in that relationship. That
may still happen, but it remains to be seen whether Castañeda
can put aside his anti-U.S. prejudices and work with us."
And from other quarters: "At a time when Mexico is moving
closer to the United States in economic terms, it will move further
away from the United States in diplomatic terms," said Delal
Baer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in
Washington DC. These voices of the extreme right in US foreign
policy circles are not speaking of Castañeda's alleged
"leftist" credentials; years ago Castañeda abandoned
them, dismissed the revolutionary movements of Latin America,
turned against Cuba, and in those matters is likely to please
his new critics, in part by borrowing upon his "reckless
youth" to justify unjust US-imposed policies.
Then what's the rub? Why are the most ardent US drug warriors
criticizing Castañeda? Simply put, Castañeda's
long-time and articulate stance against drug prohibition has
them worried. On this point Castañeda tackles the problem
with a perspective and proposal that many government officials
recognize in private and elude in public: "The decriminalization,
over the long term, of certain substances that are currently
illicit and the utilization of market mechanisms to undermine
the profits that come from the prohibited character of drug commerce,"
asserts Castaneda in published reports.
It appears that Castañeda is not backing down from his
long-held pro-decriminalization position. To the contrary, he
is hinting that a "grand campaign" might be in the
cards for bilateral relations in the coming years; a campaign
to call the bluff on the hypocrisy of US drug policy throughout
América. US policy toward Mexico in recent years has desperately
tried to keep the lid on the drug legalization debate in Mexico.
They see it as Pandora's Box: If they let the debate happen,
then history could follow. US officials know that the Mexican
public does not believe that the drug war is sincere or meant
to combat drugs. The Mexican people have seen too much; they
Certain to give hard-line US drug warriors even more nightmares
was President Fox' nomination of Mexico City Police Chief Alejandro
Gertz Manero as the nation's Secretary of Public Safety. Gertz
Manero will be responsible for overseeing all Mexican law enforcement
agencies, consolidating them, implementing Fox's plan to abolish
the PGR (Attorney General's office) and developing the coherent
national strategy against crime.
Gertz Manero, a long-respected Mexican intellectual who was appointed
Police Chief in1998 by Mexico City's first elected mayor, Cuauhtémoc
Cárdenas, fast developed a reputation as tough on crime,
tough on corruption, and yet a realist and humanist when dealing
with the victims of crime, including addicts.
In May 2000 Gertz Manero called for a Third Path to combat the
harm associated with abuse and trafficking of some drugs and
modeled on the pragmatic, humanist policy of the Netherlands.
He wrote, according to NarcoNews: "The production and transit
countries for drugs, like Cambodia, Colombia and Mexico, live
with their own hell, while their institutions are infiltrated
by drug traffickers and suffer a constant decay, their social
structures brutally erode without finding answers or viable solutions."
"The third path has worked for countries like Holland that
try to end the economic pressures of drug trafficking and recognize
that drug addicts are ill, taking charge to allow the free use
of drugs by those addicts inside of a therapeutic project, so
that those who have irredeemably fallen into this vice do not
become instruments of the economic interests of crime,"
insists Gertz Manero.
In the end, Castaneda concludes: "Legalization of certain
substances may be the only way to bring prices down, and doing
so may be the only remedy to some of the worst aspects of the
drug plague: violence, corruption and the collapse of the rule
of law. To many in the United States, for good reasons and bad,
legalization remains anathema; but its costs and benefits must
be assessed in the light of the pernicious, hypocritical and
dysfunctional status quo. Using present tactics, the war on drugs
is being lost; it is long past time to reassess a failed policy."
President Fox gets a big 'thumbs up' for the early commitment
to appoint realistic, humane men to important cabinet posts and
to a Third Path which may soon serve to undermine and lay to
rest the war on drugs' policies which have filled US prison,
demoralized so many families and shattered our Constitutional
system of laws.
(Warm regards and thanks to Al Giordano at: http://www.narconews.com)