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The war on drugs isn’t working

MargaritLopez joins Caravan for Peace cross Edmund Pettus Bridge Aug. 29 SelmAla.  |  AmandSowards~Montgomery Advertiser viAP

Margarita Lopez joins the Caravan for Peace to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Aug. 29 in Selma, Ala. | Amanda Sowards~Montgomery Advertiser via AP

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Updated: October 7, 2012 8:02AM

When family members of the victims of the drug violence in Mexico marched Monday in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, the human cost of drug trafficking became painfully evident.

Alfonso Moreno held up a sign with a photo of his son Alejandro, a computer engineer, who vanished on his way to a vacation in El Paso, Texas, more than a year ago. Authorities blame drug traffickers.

“He was outside Monterrey when he sent his last text,” Moreno told me.

Moreno was marching with Caravan for Peace, a group traveling across the United States on its way to Washington, D.C., calling for an end to the drug war. More than 60,000 people have been killed; 10,000 have disappeared, and 160,000 have been displaced since Mexican president Felipe Calderon launched an all-out war against the drug cartels 5œ years ago.

Renowned Mexican poet and activist Javier Sicilia heads Caravan for Peace, which began in San Diego in mid-August. Drug traffickers murdered Sicilia’s 24-year-old son in 2011.

Anita Sanchez, of Little Village, was among hundreds of demonstrators who joined Sicilia on Monday. Sanchez said she was protesting the drug violence not only in Mexico, but also in Chicago.

“We want to live in peace,” she said.

The murder rate in Chicago has exploded 30 percent in the past year.

Most of those killings, the Chicago Police say, are drug- and gang-related. And, according to the feds, Chicago is a main distribution hub for the Mexican drug cartels.

Sicilia says Caravan for Peace does not blame Americans alone for the drug violence. Rather, he holds responsible our nation’s drug policies, the American consumers of illegal drugs and the “corrupt and inept Mexican government.”

For him, the war on drugs has failed. He advocates legalizing drugs, stopping the flow of illegal arms across the southern border and preventing banks from laundering drug money.

“Chicago had gangsters wreaking havoc on the streets and corrupting government officials,” Sicilia said. “Prohibition did not work then and it is not working now.”

I admire Sicilia’s courage and commitment. And I agree that a war with 60,000 victims and no end in sight is a war that is failing.

I also agree the U.S. must do a better job of stopping the flow of assault weapons to the narcos and must go after banks that launder drug money.

But my worry is that legalizing drugs could lead to the drug cartels overrunning fragile democracies in Mexico and Central America so as to maintain control — even when drugs are legal — of the production and distribution.

The narcos have already infiltrated local, state and even federal authorities down south.

The U.S. will find out soon to what extent Mexican President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto will continue the war on drugs.

Pena Nieto’s infamous Institutional Revolutionary Party, back in power after 12 years, has a long history of looking the other way while high officials enrich themselves.

Sicilia’s Caravan for Peace reminded us that we, too, are responsible for the bloodshed in Mexico and in Chicago.

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