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Lecture explores Mexico-U.S. ties
Speaker: War on drugs problematic
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Forsyth County News

What’s next

This year’s Great Decisions lecture series is set for 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday nights at the Cumming library branch, 585 Dahlonega Road. The remaining topics include:

• March 8:



• March 15:



Energy geopolitics with Anna Rulska, assistant professor of political science
State of the oceans with Nancy Dalman, chair of the biology department.

Flo Giltman almost moved to Mexico. It’s what drew her to the Cumming Library on Thursday night for the Great Decisions lecture series.

"I’m very interested in the Mexico circumstances right now," she said. "I love the country. We were thinking of moving there about 10 years ago and we’re very sad that the fighting of the drug cartels is taking over the country."

The drug history in Mexico was the topic for the sixth of eight lectures in the North Georgia College & State University’s series. Tamara Spike, associate professor of history led the session, touching on the long and violent history of drugs in Mexico.

"It’s very difficult to bring in an entire country and show it all in a very few minutes and she did an excellent job on the history of Mexico," said Virgilio Perez Pascoe, a native of Mexico. "I liked her approach."

Spike gave historical context of the drug trade and covered why violence has spiked, particularly since 2006. She also offered efforts and strategies that could help curb it.

Marijuana cultivation rose 31 percent between 2000-08, she said. And of all the cocaine found in the U.S., about 95 percent of it comes in from Mexico.

"The U.S. is the generator of the drug trade," she said. "The internal drug trade, it’s there. But it’s not the same kind of moneymaker. It’s not as pointed as the U.S. drug demand."

It’s difficult to put a dollar amount on it, she said, but estimates show a range of $18 billion to $39 billion.

Spike talked about the military being brought in to fight the war against drug cartels. While it helped local law officers, who are no match for the cartels, it increased human rights violations and the violence has since escalated.

The U.S. war on drugs has gone on more than four decades. "There are some that would argue it’s our most abysmal failure in terms of war," she said.

The latest hiccup in the effort was the recent program, Fast and Furious, an operation where the U.S. allowed more than 2,000 guns to enter Mexico, en masse.

The idea was to track the guns and use the information to stop the heavy trafficking across the border. Instead, the guns lead to the death of many Mexicans and one U.S. federal agent, damaging diplomatic relations.

There were frustrations on both sides, Spike said. The U.S. cited lack of professional training in Mexico, which in turn felt "the U.S. does not treat them as an equal partner."

"But both governments really do work around each other as opposed to with each other in many instances," she said.

There are different strategies to curbing the drug cartels, including direct confrontation, but the result could be a rise in cartel in-fighting.

The least politically viable approach would likely be to change the paradigm of how the U.S. views and punishes the drug trade. Such strategies could include making drugs legal, allowing them to be locally grown and reducing punishments for possession.

"If we cut off the money, that’s going to hurt the cartel more than anything," Spike said.

Perez Pascoe, who lived in Mexico for more than 40 years, said while some of the data was outdated, he agreed with her solutions to the problem.

"Mexico sounds like a terrible place and everybody’s killing each other, but I think this brings out the fact that Mexican government is changing a lot and there’s a new focus to partner with the United States," he said.