The big question for foreign policy is whether Legacy Obama will be a bolder advocate for peace than the disappointing Campaign Obama. The president will need to recast a foreign policy that has been weak or downright contradictory in standing up for the principles he himself has espoused.
In the interest of keeping vital global issues in the discussion, Foreign Policy in Focus reached out to scholars at the Institute for Policy Studies—our institutional home—to sketch out progressive perspectives on the world issues we don’t expect to get fair treatment in the debates between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. Without an informed citizenry, these crucial topics will always fall by the wayside. So read up, and share widely!
Javier Sicilia, a poet who lost his son to drug war violence in March of 2011, catalyzed the Caravan for Peace — a coalition of victims and Mexican citizens fed up with the bloodshed that has claimed more than 60,000 lives and left tens of thousands more disappeared since former President Felipe Calderon launched the drug war five years ago.
Today’s drug scales do not adequately take into account the scientific and empirical evidence for proper scheduling, relying on anachronistic, ideological standards for classification and draconian legal penalties. This not only impedes more humane and effective health policy initiatives, but also champions antiquated norms that have not stood the test of time.
The UN Office of Drug Control (UNODC) has thoroughly documented the violence, crime, and corruption linked with the worldwide heroin and opium trade. The U.S. news media report every day on the mayhem and corruption of government officials caused by the drug wars in Mexico, Colombia, and other points south of our border. In Afghanistan, the Taliban tax the opium trade and protect poppy farmers from eradication, fueling the insurgency and our 11-year war.
However, these problems are all consequences of drug prohibition, not of the drugs themselves.
Drug traffickers in Mexico also do a brisk business in guns.
In the latest challenge from Latin America to drug war orthodoxy, the Uruguayan government unveiled a proposal to create legal, government-controlled markets for marijuana.
In Latin America, ex-officials, officials, and even sitting presidents question the drug war, but the Peruvian government is increasingly out of step with calls for reform.
Hilda Lezama was taking passengers back upriver to the township of Ahuas after a fishing expedition in a remote area of the Mosquito Coast in Honduras. In the pre-dawn darkness, she could hear the helicopters buzzing overhead, but she thought nothing of it at first. Suddenly, bullets shot from U.S. State Department helicopters with DEA agents and Honduran police aboard penetrated both her legs.
When Barack Obama entered office in 2009, many Latin America specialists reveled in the prospect that U.S. policy would reform its Cold War approach to a region that is a major source of foreign oil, illegal immigration, and illicit narcotics. The United States would at last recognize and address the complex political and economic dynamics of a region still struggling with its colonial legacy, and where one-third of people still endure often extreme poverty.