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U.S. Business Interests and Endless Drug War at Heart of the Immigration Problem

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Soldiers Guard National Palace in Guatemala
Soldiers Guard National Palace in Guatemala
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Under the guise of protecting the free world from communism, the post-World War II strategy of the United States was to use its CIA to foment revolution and regime change in Third World countries so it could set up puppet governments friendly to U.S. big-business interests.

The list of interventions and coups are too long to enumerate here, but it included countries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa, South America, and, of course, Central America. Take Guatemala, for example. In 1954 Jacobo Arbenz, the democratically elected president of Guatemala, who had started a land-reform movement to help average Guatemalan farmers, was seen as a threat to the United Fruit Company, an American corporation that owned thousands of acres of farm land in Guatemala. As a consequence, a CIA operation overthrew Arbenz and replaced him with an American puppet named Carlos Castillo Armas who not only was responsible for getting rid of the Guatemalan constitution but also causing massive loss of life.

From that time on, Guatemala was ruled by a string of military strongmen or weak ineffectual civilian leaders who engaged in a protracted civil war that lasted from 1960 to 1996. In the process over 200,000 Guatemalans were massacred.

Since then the country has been plagued with political corruption, poverty, violence, and of course, drugs. By 2012, the narco gangs had become so dangerous and powerful that the leaders of Guatemala and its neighbor El Salvador wanted to legalize drugs as a means of weakening the power of the gangs. But the Obama administration, following in the footsteps of previous U.S. administrations that held power over Central America, quickly nixed the idea. And Obama's point man to deliver the message to the desperate Central American leaders? Our own Joe Biden.

Since 2012, the situation has only gotten worse; i.e., more drugs, more killings, and more mass migration of Guatemalans to the U.S. border. As a result, more Latin American leaders are speaking out to legalize drugs, including Vincente Fox, former president of Mexico, and Alicia Barcena, a prominent UN official who has said, "Who would drug legalization be good for? Latin America and the Caribbean, for God's sake. Because the illegality is what's killing people."

Of course, progressive thinkers have been talking about drug legalization (or decriminalization, which removes criminal sanctions against drug users) ever since the 1960s. And not just marijuana, but all drugs. Unfortunately, the United States has always been against it for two main reasons. 1) Some of the most powerful business interests in the country, including the pharmaceutical industry, the alcohol companies, and the for-profit prison complex, want drugs to remain illegal because legalizing them will cut into their profits,

2) The U.S. still has a large block of easily manipulated centrist and conservative voters (both Democrats and Republicans) who are under the delusion that if we legalize drugs our whole society will fall apart. Like most conventional wisdom thrust on the American public, the opposite is true. But most U.S. politicians are too craven to antagonize their voters and will not risk losing their support by proposing decriminalization of all drugs.

There is, however, one country where the politicians were willing to risk it, and in 2001, Portugal became the first and only country in the world to decriminalize all drugs from marijuana to heroin. And since decriminalization, Portugal has achieved extremely positive results: For example, the use of heroin is down dramatically; so are drug-related deaths and the occurrence of HIV and hepatitis infections from drug users. And best of all, crime and drug use are down, not to mention there are more tax dollars available for rehabilitation and fewer tax dollars needed to house its citizens in jails for using drugs..

One would think that in view of the success of Portugal, and the fact that Latin American leaders want to decriminalize drugs, and the reality that thousands of Central Americans are heading to the U.S. border in order to escape the hell holes their countries have become, the U.S. would at least want to give it a try and decriminalize all drugs.

Unfortunately, that's not the case. If you read President Biden's "Plan to Build Security and Prosperity in Partnership with the People of Central America," it makes no mention of drug decriminalization. To his credit, Biden's plan allocates $4 billion to help many social and economic problems in the region, but similar plans haven't worked in the past and it's doubtful this one will either.

So the violence in Central America will continue and so will the border crossings by desperate individuals trying to escape violence. Oh, and by the way, you know who supplies about 70% of the guns and ammo to the drug gangs in Mexico and Central America? The good old USA. It's big business in gun shops along the U.S. border in states like Texas. And God forbid we should curtail gun-industry profits!

So what is the solution? Trump's big beautiful wall didn't work. And it's unlikely Biden's plan will make a significant impact. Too bad we can't go back in a time machine and let the Central American countries evolve without the intrusion of American big-business interests that created ruthless oligarchs, mass killings, and a society of rich and poor. And too bad the Obama administration didn't push for drug decriminalization in 2012 when the Central American leaders were proposing the idea.

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John F. Miglio is a freelance writer and the author of Sunshine Assassins, a dystopian political thriller. His articles have been published in a variety of periodicals, including Los Angeles Magazine and LA Weekly. His most recent articles (more...)

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