Michael Weissenstein’s May 25th article, “Mexico Pres Front-Runner Promises to Cut Violence,” provides an adequate overview of presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto’s campaign platform for combating drug-related violence. However, Weissenstein neglects the broader debate on drug policy that has been heating up in the region in recent months, with such Latin American leaders as President Otto Perez Molina of Guatemala and President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia pressing for alternatives that include decriminalization and regulation.
Peña Nieto’s plan to shift focus from combating drug cartels to reducing violence may sound appealing to voters, but it leaves the root of the problem untouched. Weissenstein notes, “Some observers say that a strategy to reduce violence above all else could mean that drug dealers who conduct their businesses discreetly will be quietly left alone.” If this were a business that could be conducted quietly and discreetly, then perhaps drug-related crime would extend no further than government corruption. But as long as the profit mechanism is left in place, violence will replenish itself like a Hydra. If Peña Nieto emerges from this national contest, he will then find himself pulled into a regional debate that cries out for a fundamentally different approach.
Research Associate at the Council on Hemispheric Affairs