By now we're all too aware of the war underway in Mexico between drug cartels and the country's army and federal police force. It's bad enough that, in December, the Pentagon listed Mexico along with Pakistan as the two nations most in danger of sudden and total collapse.
To put it in some perspective, Canada has a force of 2,700 at war with the Taliban in Kandahar province. Mexico has a force of 60,000 at war with the drug cartels inside its own country.
The Guardian has just released an expose of the Latin American drug trade and how it has beset both the United States and Europe.
A new trafficking route between South America and west Africa has grown so quickly that the 10th latitude corridor connecting the continents has been dubbed Interstate 10.
Almost all those interviewed agreed that insatiable demand for cocaine in Europe and north America had thwarted US-led efforts to choke supply and inflicted enormous damage on Latin America.
"We consider the war on drugs a failure because the objectives have never been achieved," said César Gaviria, Colombia's former president and co-chair of the Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy.
"Prohibitionist policies based on eradication, interdiction and criminalisation have not yielded the expected results. We are today farther than ever from the goal of eradicating drugs."
The commission is urging a "paradigm shift" from repression to a public health approach, including decriminalisation of marijuana. Dismal statistics about coca cultivation, cocaine exports and murder rates have amplified calls to replace a policy which dates back to Nixon with one which focuses on curbing demand.
On Wednesday, ministers from around the world meet in Vienna to hammer out a new, UN drug policy.
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