Felipe Calderon Correct in His Address to Congress, Despite Detractors

As much as the right-wing has fumed over Mexican President Felipe Calderon's address to Congress yesterday, the statements right-wingers are fuming over are essentially correct.

Indeed, Calderon's address, which centered on cooperation with the U.S. and the building-up of the Mexican economy to retain migrants fleeing to America for jobs, offered a bold note of criticism on a touchy subject: American guns and their contribution to the violence in Mexico.

For all the extremist rhetoric here in the U.S. over "border violence," nothing changes the fact that our obsession with guns and our appetite for illicit drugs fuels the ambitions of the narco-traffickers who're waging war against the Mexican government and funneling marijuana, meth and other drugs into the U.S.

As a reaction to this, Calderon petitioned Congress to reestablish the assault-weapons ban which lapsed in 2004.

"We have seized 75,000 guns and assault weapons in Mexico in the last three years," said Calderon. "And more than 80 percent of those we have been able to trace came from the United States."

Calderon also noted the thousands of gun shops along the border where almost anyone can purchase such weapons.

"I fully respect, I admire the American Constitution," Calderon stated. "And I understand that the purpose of the Second Amendment is to guarantee good American citizens the ability to defend themselves and their nation. But believe me, many of these guns are not going to honest American hands."

Calderon's government and the Mexican military have been directly challenged by the cartels, with increasingly heavy firepower. How dishonest it is for America to point to Mexico as the source of all of its ills, while American guns help perpetuate the very thing America fears -- the violence ever-present beyond our southern border.

Moreover, Calderon's government has gone so far as to decriminalize personal possession of small amounts of illicit drugs so as to free up prosecutors to fight the cartels. Ironically, if such a step were taken here in the U.S., it would reduce the influence of the cartels in Mexico and deal a blow to the underground drug trade in the U.S. that they thrive upon.

In a 2008 analysis of the cartels' influence and the drug trade, the global intelligence firm STRATFOR offered as one possible solution "ending the artificial price of drugs by legalizing them" in the U.S. But the analysis concluded that "from an objective point of view, drug legalization [in the U.S.] isn't going to happen."

So U.S. consumers want illicit drugs and they want to be able to buy assault weapons at will. Now, which country is lawless, again?

Additionally, Calderon correctly criticized Arizona's SB 1070, saying that it "ignores a reality that cannot be erased by decree" and introduces "racial profiling as a basis for law enforcement."

He said that he respects the right of sovereign nations to form their own border policies, and he took pains to point out that, "Migration is not just your problem, we see migration as our problem too."

The solution? For Mexico, boosting its own economy so its people don't have to flee poverty. For both Mexico and the U.S., a joint, common-sense approach to immigration.

"The time has come to reduce the causes of migration," said Calderon, "and to turn this phenomenon into a legal, orderly, secure flow of workers and visitors."

Mexico is America's second largest trading partner. As much as the nativists and reactionaries would like to build a Berlin Wall between the two countries and inaugurate the second Cold War, it's not going to happen. No matter how loudly the far right fumes and fusses.

It's called capitalism, baby. Get used to it.

(Note: My colleague James King has an online survey on this subject going. Should you care to vote, check it out, here.)

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