May 25, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Major jail break in Mexico

The war on narcotics gangs in Mexico seemed to be making progress over the past two months, as the violence in places like Ciudad Juarez has subsided somewhat, but a mass escape from a prison in Zacatecas has raised security fears once again. A total of 53 prisoners from Cieneguillas prison are now at large. The prison break was carried out with 20 armed men, reportedly organized by the Gulf Cartel, which operates in northern Mexico. In response, the top security official for that state has resigned. See

Coincidentally, Mexico's former President Vicente Fox recently called for the legalization of marijuana, as the only way to deal with the problem which has overwhelmed Mexican police authorities. He thus joins his predecessor Ernesto Zedillo and former presidents Cesar Gaviria of Colombia and Fernando Henrique Cardoso of Brazil in taking this controversial stand. See I think it's clear that the status quo anti-drug policy in the U.S. and Latin America is failing, but I'm not sure that full legalization would do much good. Reform of criminal statutes that turn mischievous teenagers into hard-core felons would be the logical place to begin. In the end, however, it is a problem that can only be solved by cultural means, including education as Fox stressed. Laws can only do so much to tackle a problem of this magnitude.

Tensions in rural Peru

The Peruvian Army recently dispatched units to help local police quell recent disturbances in the Amazon region. On May 8 the government declared a two-month state of emergency in that region. Indigenous people are protesting government decrees over the past two years that ease restrictions over oil exploration and development in the wilderness areas of the Amazon rain forest. Activist leader Alberto Pizango said that negotiations with the government have broken down. See BBC. Their concerns should be respected, and their way of life should be protected to some degree, but if it turns out that these protests are being instigated by Evo Morales or Hugo Chavez, that is a different matter.