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Drug Use in MexicoSouth of the border of the United States of America, the United States of Mexico is trying to stay afloat from rapid increase and usage of drugs throughout the country. However, current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador has officially declared the end of the country’s war on drugs. In fact, he has declared peace over the nation. Below are some important facts about drug use in Mexico.

Drug Use in Mexico: The Numbers

Based on drug sales alone from Mexico to America, Mexican drug cartels take in about $19 billion to $29 billion annually.

In the time span of five years, nearly 48,000 people have been killed in suspected drug-related violence. In addition, there has been an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 killed due to the War on Drugs. This is since the beginning of Calderon’s presidency.

The War on Drugs and Civilian Defense

Recently, a force called autodefensas (autodefenses) has popped up around the country to help with the defense against drug cartels on their communities.

At the start of President Felipe Calderon election, he sent over 6,000 soldier’s into the state of Michoacán to help fight against the drug cartels that were ravishing Michoacán. As a result, this action began the War on Drugs.

From the start of the War on Drugs, civilians have formed their own ways of defending their country and communities. In fact, the movement of autodefansas doubled within seven years, starting at 250 members and reaching to 600 by 2013.

Next, the cartels are prone to ravish a community by exploiting business owners and forcing payments on the town without legal reasons for doing so. This keeps the cycle of poverty within the country swirling, certainly making it harder for people to break free of drug use or to make profits from their businesses.

The autodefensas groups formed out of a need to protect and supervise their neighborhoods from the corruption of the drug cartel. With men such as Alfredo Castillo, the Security Commissioner for the state of Michoacán, and Estanislao Beltran, they are attempting to break the cycle of the War on Drugs. Additionally, they hope to again be able to use their profits and agriculture to profit the well-being of their state and country.

Drug Use in Mexico

In 2016-2017, a national survey was done on Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco Consumption (ENCODAT) to determine the highest states of drug use in Mexico.

Top Five Highest States of Drug Consumption:

  1. Quintana Roo
  2. Jalisco
  3. Baja California
  4. Coahuila
  5. Aguascalientes

The survey consists of data from the age range of 12 to 65 per state. It concludes with the top three drugs (in no particular order of highest to lowest per state) to be marijuana, cocaine and amphetamines.

Finally, the earliest age of drug use, on average, begins at the age of 17 for men and 18 for women.

How is Mexico Moving Towards Decreasing Drug Use?

ENCODAT is an organization that desires to bring awareness to the people about the effects of drugs. Additionally, the organization wants to advocate for the effects of the body. It also aims to implement life-long strategies that will improve each community.

Forums are set in place to discuss specific detriments to the body and community. ENDOCAT wants to bring about and encourage public spaces that are safe for both children and adults. They also want to change the perception that drug use is merely a criminal act. They aim in drug use being perceived as a health problem that needs treatment and care.

Through ENCODAT and awareness of the War on Drugs, drug use in Mexico can continue to decrease. Mexico is projected to no longer be one of the leading countries of drug use in the world.

– Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Flickr

Is there any Hope that Andrés Manuel López Obrador Can Stem the Violence in Mexico?
Statistics show that in May 2018, one person was killed in Mexico every 15 minutes. This number is record-breaking for the country, proving that 2018 will turn out to be even more violent than 2017, the year that saw the highest rates of violence in Mexico in the last two decades.

New President, New Hope

Mexico recently elected a new president, democratic socialist Andrés Manuel López Obrador (popularly known as AMLO). He officially assumed office on December 1 and his victory has raised great hopes among the millions of poor and struggling citizens of the country.

Among other goals that he committed himself to, such as expanding health care, strengthening the education system and helping small-time farmers, AMLO plans to stem cartel violence in Mexico. When he was voted, AMLO told his gathered supporters: “This is a historic day. We represent the possibility of a real change, of a transformation.”

During his victory speech, AMLO made clear right away one crucial aspect of the transformation he was seeking. “The failed crime and violence strategy will change.”

AMLO inherited the presidential office from Enrique Peña Nieto and a bloody war on drug cartels that has lasted over a decade and taken more than 150,000 lives.

But unlike his predecessor, AMLO does not favor using a military strategy to target the cartels. In May conference, he stated that his opponents think everything can be resolved by force.

So, what’s the new President’s alternative? His strategies of stemming the cartel violence in Mexico are presented below.

Look at the Root of the Problem

AMLO said that he wants to tackle the social problems that cause people to become involved in organized crime and drug cartels in the first place. “More than through the use of force, we will tend to the causes that give rise to insecurity and violence,” he promises.

While on the campaign trail, AMLO used slogans like “Abrazos, no balazos” (hugs, not gunshots) and “Becarios sí, sicarios no” (scholars yes, killers no), to highlight his pacifist platform.

AMLO plans to contact human rights groups, religious leaders and the United Nations to start drafting a new plan for combatting the drug war.

He plans to invest in education and eradicate the poverty in the country that is the root of the problem.

Decriminalization

AMLO has a long-term goal of re-writing drug laws to decriminalize recreational use of marijuana. He is considering making it legal to using opium for medicinal reasons.

Former Supreme Court Justice Olga Sánchez Cordero, who is AMLO’S proposed interior minister, said that poppy production could be legalized to supply the national pharmaceutical company.

All of this could take away the main sources of income for Mexico’s cartels, whose profits come almost mostly from trafficking illegal drugs.

Transitional Justice

The new president is also interested in substituting transitional justice for punitive sentencing and imprisonment. The United Nations defines transitional justice as the full range of processes and mechanisms associated with a society’s attempt to come to terms with a legacy of large-scale past abuses, in order to ensure accountability, serve justice and achieve reconciliation.

Transitional justice has been used in Rwanda, for example, as of way of rebuilding from the 1994 genocide. Now, AMLO’s administration is looking to transitional justice for guidance in creating peace in Mexico.

Some aspects of transitional justice that AMLO wants to employ are truth commissions and giving reparations to victims’ family members. Reparations could come in the form of money, work or education.

One of AMLO’s most controversial ideas is giving partial amnesty to those involved in drug gangs. This amnesty would, however, only apply to non-violent offenders.

Instead of sending them to prison, he sees social work and public service as viable alternatives that could be more effective long-term because this would remove the primary motivations that young people have for joining the drug gangs.

The members of drug cartels eligible for amnesty plans are primarily those whose jobs were planting drugs, serving as lookouts or working as drug mules.

He is not proposing to grant amnesty to those directly involved in the more than 150,000 killings that threaten to destabilize the country entirely.

Andrés Manuel López Obrador plans to stem cartel violence in Mexico. He espouses the lofty goal of eradicating violence by the middle of his first 6-year term in office.

His approach is so different and innovative than those of his predecessors that it might just work. The people of Mexico and the whole world will soon find out if this will actually work.

– Evann Orleck-Jetter

Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions In Mexico
The Pew Research Center reported that the number of unauthorized immigrants coming into the U.S. has stabilized at the number around 11 million, with 55 percent of immigrants coming from Mexico. In recent months, several news outlets have reported on numerous deportations and cases of illegal immigration throughout the U.S. What kind of living conditions do the Mexican people endure in Mexico if they feel that their only chance for a better life is to flee to the U.S.? More than 400,000 people were deported back to Mexico in 2016 alone. These top 10 facts about living conditions in Mexico shed light on the conditions that those returning encounter.

Top 10 Facts about Living Conditions in Mexico

  1. There have been major strides to reduce Mexico’s poverty rate over the years. One contributing factor to the reduction of poverty has been the program Prospera that gives struggling mothers an incentive to send their children to school and provide their children with regular health screenings. However, even with programs like this one, 43.6 percent of Mexico’s population still lives in poverty.
  2. Many Mexican households resort to meals consisting of rice and beans. They are cheap, easily accessible and don’t have a short shelf-life. The National Health and Nutrition Survey conducted in 2012 revealed that as a result of poor diet, Mexican families suffer a nutritional imbalance that leads to a risk of obesity and malnutrition.
  3. Mexico has various food assistance programs for families in need. One such program is Liconsa that provides milk to families with children and to those living under the national poverty line. A study conducted comparing food assistance programs in Mexico to those in the U.S. found that food stamps can comprise half of a household’s income in the U.S., while urban programs in Mexico make up only for 3.8 percent of a family’s income.
  4. Mexico is home to some of the worlds’ most active and dangerous drug cartels. Mexico’s war on drugs has claimed the lives of 245,999 citizens from 2007 through March 2018. The year 2017 saw the highest homicide number with over 29,000 victims.
  5. Sixty-one percent of the working population in Mexico has paying jobs and this number is low considering the national employment average is 67 percent. However, those that have jobs are expected to work longer hours to afford the costs of living. Thirty percent of Mexico’s workforce has to work 50 hours or more per week to survive, and this is the reason why it is more convenient for many to work elsewhere and send money back home.
  6. Mexico’s average household income peaked at $4,169 per year in 2008. Over the last ten years, there has been a sharp decline in yearly income per household in Mexico. In 2016, Mexican households were averaging a mere $2,718 per year. In order to afford the bare minimum costs of living in Mexico, one would need to be making at least $3,193 a year.
  7. Mexico was once home to one of the world’s worst slums, Ciudad Neza, home to 1.2 million people in 2016. Ciudad Neza has been transformed into a working community that now has access to clean water and sewage systems. It is a vast improvement from the make-shift squabbles with no electricity that people used to live in. It is by no means perfect and still draws in a great deal of crime, but progress has been made giving hope to many that still live without basic necessities.
  8. At less than $4 a day, Mexico holds one of Latin America’s lowest minimum wages. Income inequality can be credited to Mexico’s wage restriction policies that attracted foreign businesses to use Mexican workers as a cheap form of labor. State taxes have also played a significant role in keeping families in poverty by not taxing its citizens based on their income level.
  9. As of 2004, Mexico has ensured that a majority of its citizens receive health care through a universal health care plan. Before its establishment, only half of the working population were covered under their employers’ health insurance. Since its formation, Seguro Popular (health coverage for all in Mexico) has gone from supporting 3.1 million people to supporting 55.6 million people.
  10. Many changes have been made to Mexico’s water supply and access to proper sanitation facilities. Ninety-six percent of people in Mexico had access to clean drinking water in 2015, a vast improvement from 82.3 percent in 1990. From 1998 to 2005, the Mexican government oversaw the expansion of its Water and Sanitation for Rural Communities program aiding 4.8 million people with clean water and sanitation.

While there is still more to accomplish, Mexico has set forth legislation and policies that have greatly improved the quality of life for many of its citizens.

In July 2018, the Mexican people elected Andrés Manuel López Obrador as their next president. In addressing the problem of poverty in Mexico, Obrador has promised to cut the salaries of higher paid government workers to support education for the children of Mexico and pensions for the elderly. With new leadership and fresh ideas comes promised change, and stable living conditions for all of Mexico might be on the horizon.

– Catherine Wilson
Photo: Flickr