While America continues to entangle itself in various overseas conflicts, we have turned a blind eye to the violent war currently happening south of our border. Since the 1960s, the drug war in Latin America has torn apart families and nations, claiming the lives of many. Although most Americans are aware that there is a problem, we remain apathetic despite our direct involvement in fueling the conflict.
The drug war is essentially an armed struggle among rival drug cartels in Mexico, Colombia and Central America who are battling for regional control. The corruption between their government officials and the police force has only intensified the war and made it seemingly impossible to stop. Other than the fact that Mexico is our direct neighbor to the south, there are many reasons why the United States should feel partially responsible for the bloodshed and feel compelled to help end it.
First, we must consider the astonishing amount of weapons that the cartels own. High tech explosives and firearms are not widely produced in Latin America, so they have to be getting them from somewhere else. According to the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, as many as 90 percent of the cartel’s weapons can be traced back to U.S. This statistic should force us to look at the faults in our own firearm regulations and identify where we have gone wrong. Yet we continue to remain complacent.
Second, the U.S. is one of the main reasons that the drug war exists in the first place. To be blunt, Americans are addicts. According the Drug Enforcement Agency, we are the largest market for imported illegal drugs from Latin America. Ninety percent of cocaine, 80 percent of meth, 14 percent of heroin and the majority of our marijuana comes directly from Latin America. It’s a deadly cycle of supply and demand.
If these facts alone do not convince you of our direct involvement, the number of American gangs with strong ties to cartels should.
The U.S. Department of Justice reports that cartels have members in nearly 200 U.S. cities and relationships with regional gangs such as the Bloods, Crips, and MS-13. The DOJ also states that in cities such as Los Angeles, Atlanta and even Seattle, gangs with cartel relationships pose the “largest threat to both citizens and law enforcement agencies in this country.”
The war is no longer “safely” contained on the other side of the border. It has become a local problem. To its credit, the U.S. government has offered $400 million in aid to combat the cartels. However, with more than 100,000 members and $10 billion in annual profits, $400 million will hardly make a dent in powerful cartels.
A more comprehensive approach needs to be taken. Weapons sales should be closely monitored, prosecution of American drug distributors should increase and highly trained and funded task forces should be sent out to disband gangs. The war on drugs is no longer a Mexican or Latin American problem. It is a South American, Central American and North American problem and should be treated as such.
Natalie Pimblett is a senior political science major.