Mexico's "War on Drugs" leads to catastrophic rise of murder, torture, "disappearance"

Human Rights Watch reports that instead of reducing violence, the ‘war on drugs’ in Mexico has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and "disapparances." Read the report. [Video Link]


  1. To be fair, if you just let the cartels be they will not go out of their way to kill people, attempting to crack down on any organized crime will increase the violence of the criminal organizations, increased violence in response to a crackdown is not necessarily an argument against the crackdown.

    That said, it would be really easy to take a lot of the wind out of the sails of the cartels simply by legalizing marijuana, though i suspect that would increase cartel vs cartel violence as the cartels struggle for a piece of a shrinking pie.

    1. “increased violence in response to a crackdown is not necessarily an argument against the crackdown”
      True, but irrelevant to this report.  If you read the article, you will find it is about the violence committed in the name of the crackdown, not the violence committed in response.  Its first sentence is:
      “Mexico’s military and police have committed widespread human rights violations in efforts to combat organized crime, virtually none of which are being adequately investigated, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.”
      It is true that the cartels are also committing widespread human rights violations, but this report isn’t about that – it’s only about murder, torture, and “disappearances” committed by government actors.

  2. If you can, take a look at the comments on the youtube page for the video in a couple of hours. It’s amazing to see how the federal government and the ruling party seem to have their own little possee of commenters who appear on every video that criticize the administrations plans.

  3. How do Mexican voters feel about the War on Drugs? Have they been convinced it’s the only way to deal with the problem, as most American voters seem to think, or do their politicians simply ignore the wishes of the populace for the sake of diplomatic relations with the U.S.?

    1. Politicians in this country (MX) are no better than in any other, so the latter statement is sadly the truth, but not all of them, see we have a strongly obscure political machine that stands in the shadows of the people it intends to aid in case their candidates win, which leads to a greater divide within the parties and doesn’t help the good debate. Also, there are good people as candidates but they are as in every political race, ridiculed, pushed, pooped on and finally discredited at least where is counts, and that is TV, it is a greater menace that the criminals themselves, because they use the age old tricks of ambiguity and fear.

  4. Side note: I find it interesting that Boing Boing commenters routinely bash libertarians and continue to associate libertarians with the right wing, when issues such as the war on drugs (and the foreign wars, etc.) reveal a number of deep agreements regarding non-aggression when it comes to the individual realm (as opposed to economic realm, if such a distinction really means something).

    1. Why do I have to support the Libertarian platform because we agree on one issue? There are only so many sides a party can take on any given issue.. if there are more than two parties, there’s bound to be some overlap.

      I can agree that certain specific laws are causing far more harm than good without wanting to abolish government oversight on everything.

      1. I’m not suggesting that you adopt other libertarian ideas (I’m not talking about L here, which is a political party). I’m suggesting that you don’t dismiss their arguments as libertarian. In other words, debate the arguments and the points, not the groups. There is needless opposition between the groups as groups, which make it look like there are more differences than there really are (which is my observation above) and demonizes groups (which is unhealthy debate).

    2. I agree with the Libertarians on a lot of things. I also agree with the Socialists on a lot of things. It’s the people that think either approach is a workable one-size-fits-all solution for all of society’s needs who strike me as nutty ideologues.

    3. I suspect that part of that is because the more extreme libertarian economic policies are demonstrably nonworkable, because there’s no such thing as a “free market” in a libertarian sense (free markets of that variety break down in the face of irrational actors, inelastic demand, and rigidly fixed supply with no practical alternative – and even when they don’t break down, the bigger you are, the more likely you are to succeed by default, and the smaller you are, the more likely you are to fail – and voting with your wallet becomes ineffective) – and those policies are the ones being espoused by the right wing.

      Some free market-style policies are great, though, IMO – in fact, the very non-free market policy of forced competition can make a market freer in reality.

      Also, it doesn’t help that some “libertarian” movements are actually right wing movements in disguise.

      1. My point is that you incorrectly club libertarians and the right wing together. It would be as valid to club libertarians and the left wing together based on issues of the individual realm. In other words, legalizing pot *is* a free-market policy, so is ending aggressive wars abroad.

        I’m not going to address your argument that “libertarian economic policies are demonstrably nonworkable” (too long and I suspect wasted effort as you have already accepted the doctrine of perfect actors, perfect information and perfect competition that somehow permeate the mainstream of economics today but obviously fails to represent reality).

        But I will challenge “those policies are the ones being espoused by the right wing”.  I have yet to see a republican president actually shrinking government reach for instance. Reagan is often used as flagship republican, and he clearly was no libertarian (

        1. I’ll note, however, that modern Republicans run on a small government platform, even though they’re not actually for shrinking government at all…

          That’s one big thing, too, that what politicians SAY they stand for, and what politicians are ACTUALLY for, are two different things.

    4. > continue to associate libertarians with the right wing

      That’s because outside of the US libertarianism appears to be a extremely right wing movement. In fact all American politics are very right wing when viewed from outside.

    5. Well, that’s just because theres active propaganda being propagated by both parties (& teabaggers, corporate sponsored you know) to try and divide the populace. If there wasn’t a mass media propaganda machine in this country, i think it would be a widely accepted fact that most people are moderate, and are willing to compromise and be tolerant of others views. Its when we task the decision making to a select group of people (politicians) that get influenced by those who want to divide and conquer the minds of the average American for their own political and monetary gain, that the shit hits the fan.

      If libertarianism was not demonized and misrepresented, i think you would have a majority of people agreeing with them more than they do dem’s or rep’s or tb’s. Remember peeps, tea party IS NOT grassroots, theres some major players funneling money into the group to turn it into another corporate controlled entity.

  5. Obviously this will never end if policy stays the same.

    Legalize everything, have the government produce it, sell amounts for one day’s use at a reasonable price, with a biometric ID to make sure all rules are followed. Use all the profits for harm reduction and addiction treatment.

    From what I’ve read, the current phase of the war has mainly been aimed at establishing the Sinaloa cartel as a monopoly.

  6. So, we’ve had this Grand Experiment (Thanks dead Mexicans and incarcerated Americans!) and it clearly has failed. Now? Now can we stop just making things worse?

  7. I read the headline and my response is “No duh.”  Am I really out of touch with the vast majority of folks?  Is this not a common understanding?  Doesn’t *everyone* know what happened in the US during alcohol prohibition?

  8. The Human Rights Watch report doesn’t recommend the legalization of pot, coke, heroin, meth or ecstasy, only more intense judicial overview of the Mexican military in the field.

    1. That’s because the organization’s mission is to expose human rights violations and help hold the offenders accountable, not to fix all the social problems which led to the crimes being committed in the first place. Publicly advocating what might amount to partisan political positions could undermine their credibility as an impartial observer in the international community. You’ll note that HRW doesn’t oppose the legalization of drugs either.

    2. Totally agree with you, that’s actually a very big debate right now, how to overcome military unreliability and make agencies cooperate, it’s a nightmare -they don’t generally trust each other –

  9. Why should anyone believe that wars on abstract concepts would turn out any better than the other kind? When you declare war on something, people die, and the problem isn’t solved.

    If you are lucky, popular, and heavily armed, you might trade a small number of people’s lives for a significant temporary decrease in your opponent’s power, but drug enforcement agencies are only one out of three.

  10. Legalizing drugs would shift the focus from smuggling hiding and killing for drugs to a true examination of drug use and its harms and benefits, it would stop being about dangerous money and instead be about jobs, safety, resources, it would be a business like everything else and leave the immense resources spent on the war against drug available for things we damn well need!

    maybe I’m being idealistic but throwing a youth in jail for possession of a gram of marijuana turns him into a criminal surrounded by experts…does it stop him from smoking weed? no….it introduces him to bigger stakes.

    This is the saddest thing. Trinidad is the first in the chain of islands leading from the south american landmass, it is used as a jumping off point for those wishing to smuggle drugs over seas,  it is plagued by drug related violence, the people of Trinidad are conservative, religious and for the most part well educated, yet kidnappings and horrific acts of violence happen all the time, youth are caught up in this lifestyle and nothing changes….it is a vicious cycle. Maybe if drugs were legalized the innocent people drawn into these wars would escape, most trinidadians I know don’t even smoke weed far less do cociane!!! 

    What is going on in Mexico is positively outrageous, can’t we tell as a species, YET, that guns, violence, and force solve nothing? People want drugs, they will find someway to get them… someone’s gonna make money anyhow, just tax it, how many problems would *that* solve!!!

  11. Things in Mexico and here are the way they are because somebody with power wants them that way. Question: who and why? What do they get? (No, I’m not talking about the drug traffickers. There are much bigger fish in the cesspool).

  12. There are people who believe that the solution to the problems described above is to arm the entire public to the teeth, and allow (or even require!) everyone to carry guns to defend themselves. Then there would be no more kidnappings, or murders, or torture. I wish I could say that I’m joking, but there are such people here in the U.S., and they vote.

  13. DEA head Michelle Leonhart claims that Mexican drug war violence means we are winning the war on drugs!  She was appointed by Obama who has done nothing to stop the violence.

  14. Guys, this is a bunch of bull. I live in Mexico. Most of the drug-related deaths in the beginning were *collateral*, resulting from the clash of one cartel with another. The government moved the army in to protect its citizens after it decided NOT to side with either cartel. Even the Mexican populace is badly informed about all of this.
    At this point, over 40,000 people have died in drug-related violence alone; I’m all for legalization, but it is NOT going to stop the narcos. The narcos have American guns, and have infiltrated the Mexican government *all* throughout. It’s almost like the government is at war with itself.

    Furthermore, there have been thousands upon thousands of non-drug-related kidnappings, killings, robberies and muggings. The drug cartel violence sprouted a hellhole of illegal activity. About 50% of everyone I know has been mugged, had a family member kidnapped, or at the very least been threatened by phone. My family is NOT involved with drugs in ANY conceivable fashion, and though a couple of family members are involved in politics, the violence has hardly been relegated to their sphere. I mean, both my mother’s and my grandmother’s housekeeper, who are low-income, non-interesting, non-threatening targets, got mugged at the bus stop within two weeks of each other.
    This in a city that a mere 4.5 years ago only saw petty crime, and had never known a murder. Now there are shootouts all the time.

    You can blame a part of it on the government, but the fact is that the narcos have been getting increasingly desperate, and they weren’t going to keep their mafia war to themselves.

  15. My point is just supposed to be that legalizing drugs, while it would help a little (a lot of drugs are already legal in small quantities – marijuana up to at least 8 ounces, I believe), is just not going to do it at this point.
    Even if the violence all stropped abruptly, do you think all of us Mexicans would go home happy and let it be, when our family members have been tortured, dismembered, and delivered to us in shoe boxes? No. In fact, HELL NO. These monsters need to be brought to justice by SOMEBODY. I would rather it be our own government.

  16. “marijuana sales probably only account for 15 to 26 percent of the cartels’ total drug export revenue…’These drug-trafficking organizations have portfolios,’ he says. ‘They’re trafficking in marijuana, cocaine, heroine, methamphetamines, sometimes in human smuggling.'”

    that was from:

    so i don’t think that legalizing marijuana is a viable answer to stopping cartel based violence in any way, shape, or form.

    From the video: “prosecutors fail to take even the most basic steps to investigate”…it seems to me this is the heart of the problem, but the video doesn’t discuss it any further.  I wonder if these prosecutors are corrupt, or if they fear they’ll be killed?   I’d guess yes to both, and would like to hear possible solutions to this discussed further….


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