What’s going on?
Over the past two weeks suddenly the media — television and newsprint mainly — are revealing the existence of great poppy plantations in the southern state of Guerrero’s mountains.
Interviews with poppy growers have been frank as the farmers talk about the everyday experience of living under siege by the Army and the Federal Police who demand they stop growing the flowers.
At the same time Guerrero state Governor Hector Astudillo has launched a campaign to legalize poppy cultivation for medical usage and would even like “to contemplate a pilot program” to take the final product, opium gum, to legal markets.
But there’s one legal problem here in which not even the federal government can interfere. The world’s entire poppy production is under the legal aegis of the United Nations which has granted the medical use poppy planting to only 20 nations.
And furthermore, a country that can’t even legalize marijuana for medical use, will definitely go nowhere with legalizing poppy nor in allowing national legal laboratories to process the substances that can go to the pharmaceuticals market.
The interviewed farmers openly admit selling their produce to people who will definitely use it to transform it into “black tar” heroin and funny enough, in the process of filming the lovely and colorful poppy fields neither the Army nor the Federal Police have been able to find any of the illegal labs where opium is turned into heroin.
Yet the movement to legalize poppy cultivation seems to be growing as it is backed by Senate leader Roberto Gil of the National Action Party (PAN) and the idea is also backed by Morelos state Gov. Graco Ramírez, who is open to legalize marijuana use for “ludic” purposes in his state. “Ludic” is the fancy term politicians and medics use for those who get high on grass just for the fun of it.
Graco Ramírez said legalizing poppy is “a pertinent topic” at present because if growers have buyers, namely Mexican labs, “it will help pacify the nation and will make a dent on the control organized crime has over the crops.”
Upon seen the open participation of politicians from different parties National Commissioner Against Addictions Dr. Manuel Mondragón y Kalb has jumped into the opinion barge claiming he will look into the matter on behalf of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who up until now has only been listening but saying nothing.
By the way, Dr. Mondragón advised the president not to increase the amount of marijuana “for ludic use” from five to 28 grams, yet Peña Nieto not only increased it, but he went to the UN to announce his decision, which, by the way, was sent to Congress who in turn sent it to the freezer.
Health Secretary José Narro said “we can’t discuss poppies without first solving marijuana.”
What’s unusual about all this is the openness with which Mexican authorities are talking about the Guerrero poppy fields, which up until recently were a dirty secret.
Newspaper El Economista even goes as far as quoting an unnamed Army general as saying that on many occasions they have not razed the poppy plantations to the ground and that if they do, “where will these poor peasants get money to live on?”
But one farmer said that once the soldiers find a plantation, they destroy all the plants anyway and just turn around and find another field to keep on growing poppies.
A salient feature in all the aired videos is that the peasants come armed — usually with shotguns — but unmasked as they claim they have “nothing to hide.”
What’s deafening in all this poppy field hoopla is the silence being kept by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which in the eyes of many is the main perpetrator of government repression against farmers in Mexico.
Perhaps things will change (or not) once the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Roberta Jacobson arrives in Mexico to find out that the Mexican drug scene is radically different today from the one former Ambassador Anthony Wayne left behind last August.
And surely the DEA agents will inform her that both consumption in the U.S. and heroin trafficking from Mexico continues unabated, spurred by the simple Economics 101 law that says that “demand defines supply.”