To be a witness, like John the Baptist, is not easy. It can cost you your life, as it did him. "But we must obey God before obeying men." With this freedom, the first Christians spoke to their society and to the judges who imposed silence on them. In our circumstances today, the difficulties are truly enormous in attempting to fight narcotics trafficking, violence, injustice, the attacks on human life, and then to build peace.
The powers that have been implicated in these grave problems, as well as the feelings of rancor, confrontation and vengeance that the problems provoke, make finding a solution an arduous, urgent task. To remove people and human groups from confrontation and from violence requires dialogue that is respectful, loyal and free. It is the most dignified and recommendable form to overcome these difficulties of human coexistence. Those who are taking other paths are headed down the wrong road, and are mortgaging the future of our nation.
There are other routes to take to diminish violence in our country. It precisely does not involve making deals with criminals so that they can continue with their criminal conduct. For not one second would I allow that pacts be made with organized crime. You cannot make deals with evil. You cannot make deals with those who will use violence. Mexico will get out of this reality, but at the present moment we only see criminality growing. These moneys [from traffickers and other illicit sources] must not be allowed to enter the dynamic of power, because then we would have a state within a state.
-- Homily and Christmas message
Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Mexican film director ("Babel," "21 Grams" and "Amores Perros")
I have always thought that the only possible way to eradicate this plague is to legalize drugs. While the United States keeps consuming these amounts of drugs and selling guns the way it does, there's no way our country will win this war.
Once the tons of drugs cross the border into the U.S., there has to be a huge web of people involved in distributing and selling all these drugs. Where are these people? Who are they? Where are these "American cartels" and their leaders?
The economic and gun power of the cartels has corrupted the entire Mexican country. Like humidity, it has permeated every level, and the economic benefits of it are so strong that it has become a national income. The war is lost. To legalize drugs would bring another set of problems, but at least those will be more transparent.
-- From an interview with Times staff writer Reed Johnson
Federal agent for 30 years with the U.S. Border Patrol, the Customs Service and the Department of Homeland Security
Busting top traffickers doesn't work, since others just do battle to replace them. Despite the obvious failure of our drug control strategy, the public discourse surrounding this issue has focused primarily on continuing to wage the "drug war."
Mandatory prison sentences and interdiction efforts have very little effect on drug use. This year the World Health Organization found that the U.S. has the highest marijuana and cocaine use rates on the planet, despite having some of the harshest sentences.
We won't be able to expand treatment and prevention efforts until we stop spending so much money enforcing ineffective penalties, building new prisons and buying fancy cars and helicopters for law enforcement agencies. As we begin to treat problematic drug use as a public health issue, it will become much easier to prevent the death, disease and addiction that have expanded under the criminal justice mentality of prohibition.
But even with the best public health efforts, there will always be some who want to use drugs, and, as long as drugs are illegal, many willing to risk imprisonment or death to make huge profits supplying them. My years of experience as a federal agent tell me that legalizing and effectively regulating drugs will stop drug market crime and violence by putting major cartels and gangs out of business.
The Department of Justice reported [this month] that Mexican cartels are America's "greatest organized crime threat" because they "control drug distribution in most U.S. cities." If what we've been doing worked at all, we wouldn't be battling Mexican drug dealers in our own cities or anywhere else. There's one surefire way to bankrupt them, but when will our leaders talk about it?
-- Written comments submitted to The Times