Dawn Paley, a Canadian journalist, offers a transformative view of the US war on drugs in the Western Hemisphere (with the exclusion of Canada as a targeted nation because it is a neoliberal partner of the United States in exploitation). Her just-released book, Drug War Capitalism, is a sweeping, exhaustively detailed analysis that reveals the insidious actual goals of the US-led and funded militarization south of the border in the name of destroying drug cartels. As Paley writes, "This war is about control over territory and society [and market share, cheap labor, mineral rights and profits], much more so than it is about cocaine or marijuana."
The following is the Truthout interview with Dawn Paley about Drug War Capitalism:
Mark Karlin: You state the so-called war on drugs is really a war on people. This is a key point in your exhaustively documented and cogently threaded book. Can you expand on that – and of course you are talking about a certain class and background of person: the indigenous and the poor south of the US Border?
Dawn Paley: There is excellent work being done in the US examining and resisting the impacts of the drug war, specifically when it comes to the mass incarceration of young people from communities of color on that pretext. Drug War Capitalism looks at how the drug war is deployed south of the US border, where the key mechanism for social control is the use of terror against the people/el pueblo/los pueblos. Some activists and writers use words like social cleansing to describe the impacts of drug war militarization and paramilitarization, and how both primarily target poor young men in urban and rural environments. The case of Ayotzinapa, with the disappearance of 43 students and the murder of three others (one of the disappeared students is now confirmed to have been murdered) by municipal police in Iguala, Guerrero, is just the latest example of how often the victims of the drug war come from marginalized – and often well organized – communities and groups.
In the US, many people have been turned into frightened puppets who support any action in the name of the war on terrorism, even when such military and police action has to do with the goal of expanding transnational business opportunities. How is this analogous to the use of the war on drugs as a cover for US military intervention in Mexico, Central America, Colombia and the rest of most of the Western Hemisphere, with the exclusion of Canada? After all, doesn't the US benefit by having a state of violence among the poor and socially marginal people keep them from considering populist political rebellion in these nations?
I’d like to approach this question a little differently, and ask instead why it is that the hundreds of thousands of people who mobilized throughout the United States against the unjust war in Iraq were able to make the connection between US invasions and oil extraction, and why it has been so difficult for folks to mobilize and make the same connections to resource extraction and capitalism in the case of the US-backed war on drugs in Colombia, Mexico and elsewhere.
Once we can start to make the connections between US-backed war agendas in the form of Plan Colombia or the Merida Initiative and the expansion of capitalism in Mexico and Colombia, a lot of things begin to make sense. In the immediate term, the militarization and the paramilitarization stemming from these plans to sow terror and strengthen the state repressive apparatus, which, as we are well aware, works to protect transnational capital, like mining companies or oil companies.
Over the longer term, the structural reforms that go hand in hand with Plan Colombia and the Merida Initiative deepen neoliberalism. With the privatization of Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico's state oil company, for example, 70 percent of Mexico’s federal budget is at stake, something I argue could lead to a previously unknown level of austerity in Mexico. Already financially starved sectors like health and public education could be impacted, as could existing subsidies for transportation, basic goods and otherwise.
As the privatization of Pemex kicks in and the effects begin to be felt over the next decade, should people rise up in protest, the fact that police and military forces as well as nominally non-state armed actors were strengthened through the Merida Initiative will certainly come in handy in order to control dissent.