Comment Box: Legalization and Life on the Border
We're about halfway through our trip, so we thought it would be a good time to go through some of the questions and comments you've left on the blog.
As with any story about drugs, there have been many questions about legalization or decriminalization. "Laheadle" and "am2233" tweeted about this topic using the #mexborder hashtag. Many others have left comments in the blog suggesting legalization is the only solution.
In Mexico, there is a similar movement among policy wonks and activists to decriminalize small amounts of drugs. People who make their money from drugs--smugglers, dealers and law enforcement--tend to be against any such plans, preferring to keep the status quo.
Drug consumption in Mexico is tiny compared to the United States, so among average people on the streets, the legalization argument doesn't come up much. In general, drug use here is viewed more as a health issue, not a legal issue.
Other commenters find the legalization argument to be an interesting concept, but didn't think it would work because addiction would increase. "bobfbell" wrote: "Even if we were to experience a temporary reduction in drug related crime, the larger question is do we, as a society, want to take the easy way out for us and condemn our children to a pretty bleak and hopeless future? Trust me, that is what drug addiction is all about."
"Utahreb" commented on our story Friday about the small town cop who lacked bullets when attacked. He, like other commenters, questioned how wisely U.S. aid is being used in Mexico. Until recently, very few American tax dollars went to Mexico to combat drug smuggling. With the Merida Initiative that went into effect this year, the U.S. is providing Mexico $400 million worth of equipment to help stem smuggling. The equipment doesn't include the types of weapons a small town police force would use. Much of the assistance goes to buying several helicopters, but also includes night vision goggles, detection technology, software and training. All of this aid would go to Mexican federal agencies. It's likely the police force we profiled in Ascension would see little of the aid.
"knjincvc" wanted to know more about how Jose Lucio Hernandez, the drug smuggler we profiled, was able to get the dope into the U.S. After a week on the border, we heard of so many different ways. In short, smugglers try every way to get drugs here. Hernandez didn't tell us exactly how he did it--we asked! Just yesterday, we heard about a smuggler putting drugs into a working car transmission. We're hearing more reports of drug smugglers using ultra-light aircraft to fly them over. We reported earlier about the increased use of submarines to haul drugs north. Traffickers also just put them in trunks of cars and hope they don't get caught; they hike them through the desert; and they pass small packages through the border fence in places. American officials have also been bribed by the cartels. There have been a few cases of Border Patrol and customs agents on the take, but small town sheriffs are more common culprits.
We've been surprised at how easy it is to cross back and forth between the two countries as we've made our way West. Several people have commented on how unique the border area is, culturally and economically. "JBC1" wrote in about this, saying "The border is not as rigid as many think. People go back and forth and families and the economy are dependent on this fluidity." We've certainly found this to be true during our time here. "walkerbert" found the opposite to be true, suggesting the only way to fix the problem is by "shutting the border for a while." This seems like an impossible proposition not only because of the wide open spaces, but because of the economic dependencies that are unique to the border region.
Thank you for following our trip. Keep your comments coming!
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