The Battle without Hope: Beheadings, Torture, Shootings Uploaded to youTube - the "War on Drugs" Has Ravaged Mexico. but as the US Considers Treating the Cartels as Terrorist Threats, the One Solution It Won't Consider Is Decriminalisation

Article excerpt

The bald, middle-aged man slumps against the wall in the yard. The blood from his companion's head splatters his shirtless chest. He looks to his left, at the headless corpse lying next to him. The chainsaw continues to roar. The bald man rests his head against the wall once again. He awaits his turn.

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The horrors of Mexico's drug war, which has raged since December 2006 and the start of President Felipe Calderon's administration, know no bounds. More than so,000 people have died in drug-related violence since, and there is no sign of the bloodshed diminishing.

In 2006, shortly before Calderon deployed tens of thousands of soldiers to combat the violence, a group of armed thugs rolled five heads on to the dance floor of a nightclub in central Mexico as a warning; by 2007 and 2008, beheadings had become commonplace. In 2009, a man nicknamed El Pozolero - "the stew-maker" - was arrested and confessed to dissolving the remains of more than 30o people in vats of caustic soda for a drug kingpin. Later that year, a man working for rivals of the powerful Sinaloa cartel was found; he had been beheaded and his face had been carved off and delicately stitched on to a football. Dozens of mass graves were discovered throughout the Latin American nation last year, many of them in Tamaulipas, a north-eastern state notorious for its hazy fug of lawlessness and for the terror tactics of Los Zetas, a group of former paramilitaries who now run their own drug trafficking syndicate.

Videos of some of the atrocities have been disseminated over the internet. In the most recent one, described above, members of the Sinaloa cartel are put to death.

In Mexico, and in other countries such as Guinea-Bissau and Afghanistan, the war against drug trafficking and organised crime is a fight for social and political progress - 12 years ago, Mexico became a full-fledged multiparty democracy, as the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, was ousted from 71 years of uninterrupted rule. It is also a battle to root out official corruption that for decades--in some cases, centuries--has allowed drug trafficking and other illicit activity to flourish. The violence will not end soon; even Mexican officials admit that it is unlikely the bloodshed will ebb for another six years or so, and the Mexican electorate is largely in favour of state execution for drug traffickers (polls show that about 70 per cent of Mexicans want the death penalty reinstated for narcos, as traffickers are commonly known). In July, the PRI was re-elected democratically, in spite of critics' fears that it would again turn a blind eye to organised crime.

The drug war is also a war between rival cartels fighting for control over lucrative smuggling routes while trying to maintain their structure as the authorities crack down. The war between the Sinaloa cartel and Los Zetas--and that of the authorities against them--is a game-changer in a long, grinding process of attempting to manage drug trafficking and consumption, one that has cost US taxpayers since it was launched in 1971 by the then president, Richard Nixon.

The Sinaloa cartel--led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman Loera, son of an opium farmer from the mountains in the north-western state of Sinaloa--has expanded in recent years to become the most powerful drug trafficking organisation in the world. Under the reign of El Chapo (meaning "shorty"), the cartel has reversed the previous business arrangement with Colombian cocaine producers, which shipped the product through the Caribbean until a law-enforcement crackdown in the 198os made Mexico a more attractive option.The Sinaloa cartel now buys cocaine from the Colombian cartels and takes full responsibility for distribution.

The Sinaloa cartel produces its own marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine; it imports chemical precursors used to make methamphetamine from Asian nations such as India, Thailand and China. …