The London School of Economics published a report this month about why the war on drugs ought to be ended. The big names backing the report are just as important as its content. They include five Nobel Prize winners in economics, Deputy Prime Minister of the U.K. Nick Clegg, ex-Secretary of State for the U.S. George Shultz, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and others. With Latin America being one of the regions that has suffered the highest costs of this futile war, it's worth considering this publication's conclusions.
In one of the report's studies, Daniel Mejia and Pascual Restrepo find that over the last 20 years, Latin American countries have been implementing policies to reduce drug sales to consumerist countries like the U.S., which has led to more violence and political corruption. The cost of this violence is not to be underestimated, as Mexico shows us, where homicide rates tripled in just four years between 2006 and 2010.
Peter Reuter focuses on the "balloon effect" and concludes that "though the balloon effect is not perhaps as universal as claimed, it is real enough that policymakers contemplating a major crackdown need to consider effects on other nations." Reuter mentions examples like the case of the Western African route: Authorities in the Netherlands increased their seizures of cocaine coming by way of the Dutch Antilles, a route that was then replaced by an alternative through Western Africa. Something similar has happened with drug-trafficking activities from Mexico into El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Another study by Laura Atuesta Becerra focuses on the issue of displaced populations in Colombia and Mexico. For example, between 2000 and 2010, Colombia had the second largest displaced population in the world (after Sudan). She posits that this magnitude of displacement is due in no small way to the internal conflict among guerrilla and military groups, a struggle that was financed by the drug cartels.
A study of particular interest to the whole region is about how the war on drugs has weakened the institutions of the countries that have participated in it. Alejandro Madrazo Lajous analyzes the negative effects of this in Colombia, Mexico and the U.S. In Mexico, for example, the “arraigo” — theoretically a form of house arrest, but in practice detention in an undisclosed location —was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in 2005, but an amendment in 2008 reverted this and inserted the arraigo directly into the text of constitution. Madrazo believes that in Colombia as much as Mexico, the vast majority of human rights violations can be attributed to confusion between civil and military jurisdictions. The U.S. isn't safe from such constitutional confusion either. Madrazo cites evidence of how in the U.S., a parallel legal system has been built that can be applied to those who commit drug-related crimes, something that would violate the principle of equality in the U.S. constitution.