America's Two Illicit Addictions: Drugs and Immigration

This last junket by Bush may have been considered a tour de force for US relations with Latin America, but it wasn’t much of a tour and definitely provided no feat; in fact, it was a total waste. Uruguay’s and Brazil’s heads of state, both in the opposite side of the political spectrum from Bush, were forced to appear diplomatically courteous, probably wondering why Condi Rice had cast them to play in this five-act farce. The stops in Colombia, Guatemala and Mexico did make a lot more sense since those nations are major suppliers for America’s top two illicit addictions: drugs and immigration. Uribe (Colombia) and Calderon (Mexico) have a good compa in Bush. Not the other leaders.

It was a meaningless trip for a meaningless dignitary to an already lost part of the world (in terms of special, neighborly relations). Latin Americans, at least the 80 percent who are dirt-poor, have realized that the US has never been their friend, only a detached stepmother; and that any future overtures probably carry price tags they can ill afford.

Why would the United States help Latin America… it never has! For a century all the programs and money invested in the Iberian Down Under have been either minuscule (programs) or have had exploitative results (investments). To hear Bush speak and say that the $1.6 billion sent last year went for “social justice” causes is going from the ridiculous (the small amount) to the sublime (stating that it was for worthwhile causes), back to the ridiculous (as most of those funds were used for military purposes to fight the FARC guerrillas in Colombia, or for the interdiction of drugs). In fact, Venezuela with a population one-twelfth that of the United States provided last year far more help to the people of Latin America, when you add the price breaks on oil to the direct aid, than the US. So stop the on-going deceit, Mr. President, social justice causes, you say?

But even if America of the North has never felt compelled to help the America to the South, it recognizes that the Latin folks play key roles in the US’ two great addictions. For better or for worse the Latin and Anglo parts of the hemisphere are linked in many ways; and that’s a fact that politicians there and here know quite well.

Politicians who proselytize supply-side economics have played working Americans for suckers for over a quarter of a century with their trickle-down economics. But, what’s just as bad is that politicians who refuse to acknowledge our demand-side realities have played all Americans for suckers twice that long. Republicans and Democrats, both!

We have been “at war” with those who supply illicit drugs to our population for more than two generations, failing to admit that drug-addiction is mainly a demand problem, not supply. Having a Drug Czar and our war on drugs to defend our purity has been but a crock. If we stop being hypocrites and call a spade a spade, our level of success with this biological-social problem would be far greater domestically – at a much lower cost – and we wouldn’t have to cause so many problems to nations in Latin America that supply us. This is an issue where most intelligent people, capitalists or anarchists alike, would find total agreement: that it is nonsensical to treat the alcohol-drugs problem as criminality. But politicians have preferred to keep their eyes closed to this reality.

And, in a similar fashion, politicians have also decided to keep their eyes closed to the other domestic reality, one that now dominates the American landscape: undocumented or illegal immigration (adjective to be used depending on how you view the subject). Why? For the simple reason that this form of immigration is also an addiction, one that needs to be tackled from the demand, not the supply side. Again, just like the illicit drugs issue, it should not be treated as criminality. In both cases we need to quell or treat the demand with appropriate legislation that addresses all humane and social aspects, not just economic and political.

Americans’ addiction to undocumented labor is not just restricted to businesses but also the greedy side of the average Joe and Jane. Our anarchical state on the issue of illicit immigration is everyone’s fault, not just politicians of the right, or the other politicians of the lesser-right. The problem has been around for decades, was poorly addressed two decades ago, and now has become a monster that scares us all; a dragon that people demand be slain, calling for that knight, Jingo, and squires like Lou Dobbs and Patrick Buchanan to rid us of it once and for all, so that we may keep our whored virginity intact.

On his last stop in Mexico, Bush was admonished by that country’s recently elected (or not, according to his leftist challenger) mandatary that building a wall along the border is not the answer to stop his countrymen from crossing over. And Calderon is quite right about that. The US with its addiction has created an addiction for that country as well, as $20-30 billion are sent by the immigrants to their families in Mexico every year, the second largest source of revenue for that nation after the Almighty Crude.

A social worker friend, whose maternal grandparents had crossed the border illegally from Mexico in the 1950’s, told me last year – I assume it was in jest – that if the US really wanted to solve this crisis, not just for us but for the Latinos as well, we should round up all able-bodied undocumented workers and give them some Al-Qaeda type of training for six or eight weeks, then send them back to their countries of origin with an AK-47 in their hands, and a promise that the US would help once they mow down their corrupt governments. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that this nation neither funds nor gives its imprimatur to revolutions by the oppressed… it’s only the oppressors we help. It’s the nature of predatory capitalism… how many times must we be told!

As for America’s two great addictions, we’ll continue to do little or nothing, blaming – as always – the supply-side.