By Anvi Mahagaokar
After decades of failing to gain the upper hand in the so-called War on Drugs, many are frustrated with the current stagnation that faces the governments in the conflict. It seems that the drug cartels are consistently beating the governments, only resulting in thousands upon thousands of deaths. Unfortunately, the biggest death of them all is that of hope itself – the lack of morale in many of the violence ridden countries may prove to be their downfall.
This senseless violence has prompted the circulation of several possible solutions. The most unorthodox one, however, is the decriminalization of drugs. It had circulated as a viable solution for a couple of years, until the U.N. reasserted its zero tolerance policy for drugs still stands. That said, many countries throughout Latin America are entertaining the idea of instituting the somewhat avant-garde policy in direct retaliation to the drug war.
After Uruguay announced it was taking a small step towards decriminalizing drugs by first legalizing the sale and possession of marijuana, many analysts started wondering if the pros of decriminalization actually outweighed the cons. In theory, the decriminalization of drugs could prove to be the fatal blow to the drug cartels, and instrumental in ending the long drawn out Drug War.
First, legalizing the sale and possession of drugs, at least in Latin America has many benefits – the first being that the government can capitalize upon the economic benefits of the drug trade. Many Latin American countries are socialist, and therefore, because of the current legal status of drugs, they cannot privatize the market. On the other hand, should the governments choose to decriminalize drugs, then they would have the ability to privatize the cartels in order to turn a profit. These countries are, for the most part, developing economies, and the extra bit of revenue garnered from this could end up facilitating long term economic growth for the countries involved. It would be a win for everyone involved (except the drug cartels).
Additionally, in relation to the drug related violence, part of the reason the drug cartels have large influence is because many drug related businesses are conducted underground. In the underground, cartels have the ability to extort and murder in order to make their profits. People are so scared of the cartels because the judicial systems in many of these countries are corrupt and law enforcement is constantly bribed by the cartel leaders. Therefore, the people do not have the ability to get legal justice for the crimes against them. This lack of judiciary power leaves an incentive for the cartels to continue to perpetuate their violence, because they are cognizant of the fact that they are not going to get punished for dealing in illegal drugs. By decriminalizing drugs, Latin American governments can eliminate the atmosphere of fear in their country, even if they can’t do anything about the judicial system because if the judicial system is no longer involved in the process, then the cartels have nothing to hold over the citizens’ heads. If the governments choose to decriminalize drugs, they can effectively take power from the cartels by taking away their leverage, ensuring that the level of violence in these countries decreases.
Currently, even though the U.N. and the American federal government are against the decriminalization and legalization of drugs as a means of combatting the drug cartels, it really is one of the last viable options available. In order to stem the violence that is prevalent throughout the countries, the countries need to come to an agreement and take action soon in order to gain the upper-hand in a war that is plaguing countries across the western hemisphere.