RE: ‘El Chapo’ and the limits of the kingpin arrest strategy

Dear Editor,

Al Jazeera’s article “‘El Chapo’ and the limits of the kingpin arrest strategy”(March, 4th)  pointed out the ineffectiveness of the DEA’s current strategy.  This is, of course, the targeting of the heads of illicit drug organizations.  I agree that  solely focusing on the leaders of the large cartels while not effectively subduing demand will not permanently solve the problem of illegal drugs.  The consequence of this approach is the creation of large, dangerous drug organizations.  At stake is the current U.S. drug policy, small drug organizations have to take on too much risk to be profitable, while large groups have the funding to absorb the costs of interdicted drugs.

The knotted predicament lies in the implications of instituting a new drug policy, especially one that finally aims to quell demand. The current system functions primarily on the premise that reduction of supply and penalization of use will stamp out demand, yet history has demonstrated otherwise.

Certainly, there are varying opinions on whether or not decriminalization or legalization will lead to demand reduction.

Based on my research, decriminalization relieves the domestic issue of criminalizing use, but not the international problem of trafficking. Legalization alleviates the international problem but creates many domestic issues including, but not limited to, legislation problems, moral issues, “grey markets”, and health issues. In the end, U.S. drug policy found itself wedged between one rock another: either a country absorbs the risks associated with legalized use or it exports the horrors of cartel-style drug suppliers. The U.S. government should immediately abandon its kingpin arrest strategy and replace it with social programs that emphasize use reduction and continue the conversations regarding decriminalization and legalization. The absorption of legal risks outweigh the risks of the continued war on drugs.


Joseph Campos-Furber, Research Associate at Council on Hemispheric Affairs

In response to Al Jazeera: ‘El Chapo’ and the limits of the kingpin arrest strategy

Please accept this article as a free contribution from COHA, but if re-posting, please afford authorial and institutional attribution. Exclusive rights can be negotiated.

For additional news and analysis on Latin America, please go to: andRights Action

Leave a Reply