The Latin American Narcotics Trade and U.S. National Security

By Donald J. Mabry | Go to book overview

3
Mexican Narcotics Traffic: Binational Security Implications *

Richard B. Craig

Recent years have witnessed the emergence of illicit drug abuse and trafficking as both a national security issue and foreign policy priority. Many consider substance abuse the most serious challenge facing contemporary American society. Others contend the problem is sensationalized and exaggerated with minimal repercussions vis-à-vis alcohol and tobacco consumption. Such debate aside, there can be no doubt that the use of drugs, both licit and illicit, constitutes a first-order problem for politicians, police, diplomats American citizens. An estimated 500 thousand Americans are addicted to heroin. Some 20 million are said to be regular users of marijuana, while approximately 25-30 million have experimented with cocaine or use the drug regularly. The results have been profound.

Drug abuse and trafficking are undeniably America's most serious crime problems. They generate, according to some analysts, annual retail earnings in excess of $100 billion. They spawn everything from death to prime time television series, seriously erode the nation's quality of life, corrupt its institutions, influence its foreign policy, and indirectly threaten its national interests.

The U.S. government's primary response has always been to seek a solution at the foreign source in those countries whose fields and laboratories produce the illicit products so demanded by American users. As a multi-ton producer of heroin and marijuana and an increasingly important conduit for cocaine, Mexico has become a primary target of Washington's international narcotics policy. It is within this context that the binational security implications of illicit Mexican narcotics are examined.


LOOKING BACK

Historically, American interest in illicit Mexican drugs can be traced to the onset of U.S. concern over its own drug abuse problems at the turn of the century. 1 But it was not until the late 1960s, when increasing amounts of Mexican marijuana and a consistent supply of heroin entered the United

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