A prominent presidential candidate in Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has suggested granting amnesty to drug cartel leaders. In a speech presented in Guerrero recently, he claims this idea will bring peace following the violent war on drugs that has taken place over the last decade.
Though it is unclear exactly how granting amnesty will bring peace, he told reporters that he is still in the stages of “analyzing” the idea. Some critics of the decision have accused Obrador of insensitivity towards the innocent victims of the war on drugs. He has encouraged discussion with victims and their families in order to seek support for his idea, but critics claim he fails to understand the consequences of the drug cartel leaders being let off without punishment for their crimes.
José Díaz Navarro, a Mexican whose brother was kidnapped and murdered by members of a drug cartel, suggested that if Obrador had a loved one harmed in the same manner he would not be so willing to consider amnesty for the perpetrators.
Navarro’s voice is one of many. Over the past decade over 200,000 citizens have been killed for reasons related to drug violence. This includes 43 teachers that have been missing since September 2014, having been reportedly attacked and handed to members of drug cartels. Drug cartels are also responsible for other crimes in Mexico, such as extortion and kidnapping.
The current strategy of the Mexican government to slow the drug-related violence depends heavily on the deployment of soldiers. However, many soldiers have been accused of violating human rights while on duty. While taking violent military action in the areas worst affected by drug cartels may discourage some criminals, it can also have a very negative and long-term effect on the innocent civilians residing in the area and this must be avoided at all costs.
Alternatively, granting amnesty to the drug cartel leaders may only give them the freedom to continue acting as they were before conviction. They would be excused of their previous actions and pay no price for ruining the lives of others. Moreover, it would likely reinforce the belief that politicians are ‘corrupt’ for allowing this to happen.
Clearly, neither of the current solutions to drug-related violence are effective or likely to bring long-term peace to the affected areas. A better solution must be found to protect human rights and those violating others’ human rights serve consequences for their crimes.
Tom Long, a professor of international relations at the University of Warwick, suggested that as long as there is a market for drugs, drug cartels will continue to fuel the trade and related violence. The proximity of Mexico to the United States is a major influence, as Mexican drug cartels earn approximately $19-29 billion annually from selling drugs in the U.S. alone. Decreasing supply and demand in the U.S. and increasing border security may have a large impact on the cartels in Mexico. This shows that to effectively solve the problem, action must be taken on a regional scale both by Mexico and surrounding countries.