As any traveler knows, any major Central or South America city is a dangerous place to walk around at night. Make coke legal and things would get a lot more peaceful.
Travelers who are used to bumming around in South East Asia get a bit of a shock when they come to Central and South America. Whereas you have to be pretty unlucky to get mugged in Delhi, Bangkok or Tokyo, there’s barely a Latin American city where you can walk around at night without jeopardising your average travel insurance policy.
Mexico City, Guatemala City, San Marcos, Tegucialpa, San Salvador, Managua, San Jose, Panama City, Bogota, Caracas, Sao Paolo… the list could go on but it’s open season on gringos (and in fact anyone solvent enough to own their watch) in these places and no amount of incense sticks or little souvenir Buddha statues will change that. Violence, it would seem, is endemic in the Americas and some would say that it’s the reverberation of the original massacre of countless millions by the Spanish some many centuries ago.
Of course, the real reason is cocaine. That is, 90% of the violent crime, street gangs, government corruption and domestic misery can be traced back to perhaps the most profitable business in the world – trafficking of cocaine through the Americas. With profit mark-ups of several thousand percent, there’s enough cash to corrupt every single cop, customs agent and politician from Medellin to Miami. The coke travels through every conceivable route by land, sea and air, seeping through the paths of least resistance to supply the inexorable demand.
Americans and European middle class professionals are not the only ones to take cocaine, however. Coke and its dangerous derivatives like crack and basuro are taken all over Latin America and the price is such that it’s even a poor man’s drug of choice near the source countries of Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Naturally, thanks to the War On Drugs, it’s illegal everywhere and the much publicised spraying of the coca crops, the occasional bust and the Narcotics departments set up in every national police force has only served to drive the business underground into the hands of cartels and gangs.
Gang warfare has made life a misery for millions across the cities of Central and South America and the guns carried by the armed punks are usually bought with the profits from selling coke. The governments do nothing much about it as they’re busy on holiday in the Bahamas after getting kickbacks from the international traffickers and the US couldn’t care less as the chaos keeps Latin America poor and a good source of cheap labour. Hell, we’re not economists but the right wing journalists at The Economist are and they also think coke should be legalised. (but they make you pay to find out why).
Don’t get us wrong, we think coke is a nasty, obnoxious drug that makes people too arrogant and selfish to bear. But the fact is if people want to dose themselves with legal or illegal drugs they will. They can, however, be educated about the effects the drugs have, have access to drugs of safe and clean dosages and even be provided with better drugs like mescalin and khat if the laws would allow it. In as much as people are hynotised every day by television and mind-numbing office environments, what difference would it really make?
Well, for one thing it would mean that the hundreds of millions of people speaking Spanish and Portuguese south of the US border would find themselves living in safer cities, possibly with more honest politicians (though let’s not get our hopes up) and with the chance that their children might grown up to be healthy adults instead of lying in the gutter with a crack pipe in their hands.