IN MEXICO, THE PRICE OF AMERICA’S HUNGER FOR HEROIN

From the Washington PostTELOLOAPAN, MEXICO — In this skittish town on Mexico’s heroin highway, civilians with rusty shotguns shake down passing cars for contributions to the public defense. The police were disbanded years ago. The mayor recently got a death threat and fled in the governor’s helicopter.

But it’s when Highway 51 drops down from the rolling hills, and runs west in two lonely lanes across the scorched valley floor, that danger really starts to poison people’s lives. Drug bosses known as “the Tequila Man”and “the Fish” rule like feudal lords, at war with each other and the vigilante groups that have risen against them. Residents get kidnapped in groups. Tortured corpses are discarded in the valley, left to sear on hot pavement.

The opioid epidemic that has caused so much pain in the United States is also savaging Mexico, contributing to a breakdown of order in rural areas. Heroin is like steroids for drug gangs, pumping money and muscle into their fight to control territory and transportation routes to the United States. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the elections of radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Ecuador. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, and lackluster support for regional counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics initiatives.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform American policymakers and American and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.