Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ackerman on the American Shootings

John Ackerman has a piece on the shootings in San Luis Potosí in The Guardian:
The central problem with the military strategy is that it does not distinguish between violent and non-violent criminals, or serious and less harmful crimes. As Kerlikowske has pointed out, the Mexican cartels are not "insurgents" or "terrorists", but "multivalent criminal organisations", which have diversified into a wide variety of activities including kidnapping, extortion, piracy, human trafficking, money-laundering and government corruption, as well as the transportation and sale of illegal drugs.

Of all of these crimes, by far the least harmful for social and economic development is the transportation of drugs. Although drug consumption is clearly damaging, simply transporting illegal substances does not, in itself, create violence, economic crisis or human suffering. And even the harm of drug consumption pales in comparison to the effects of kidnappings, beheadings and human trafficking, especially when the consumption involves marijuana, sales of which make up two thirds of the profits of the Mexican cartels.
I agree with a lot of this. I'm not sure if the central problem of Calderón's policies is the failure to set priorities and distinguish between different crimes, but it certainly strikes me as an important one, and something that really is not remarked upon often enough. The one part I'd quibble with this the last sentence, about marijuana accounting for two-thirds of gangs' profits. I've referred to the same stat a number of times, but Rand's recent analysis of the figure and subsequent estimate that weed accounts for at most a quarter of gangs' profits seems more credible.

I also loved the follow-up article from Excélsior, which attributes his piece to The Guardian's editorial line, without ever mentioning Ackerman or the fact that the author is a longtime commentator in Mexico.

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