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Border Violence Hearing Cites U.S. Demand and Guns as Key Problems

A Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing this morning focused on escalating drug-related violence at the U.S.-Mexico border highlighted the key role of the U.S.-supplied weapons to Mexico and the United States’ insatiable demand for drugs.

As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) noted, “Mexican drug cartels aren’t just a threat in border states. They are now present in at least 230 U.S. cities, up from about 50 cities in 2006.” In addition to corrupt law enforcement and an ineffective criminal justice system in Mexico, Durbin and others noted that the United States is, as Mexico’s President Calderón said last week, “the biggest consumer of drugs and the largest supplier of weapons in the world.”

According to the testimony of Terry Goddard, attorney general of Arizona, over 2.4 million pounds of marijuana is smuggled into the United States each year from Mexico; about 80 percent of the methamphetamine in the United States is produced in Mexico; and more than 90 percent of the cocaine in the United States comes through Mexico. Profits from those drug sales in the United States generate $15 – $25 billion per year, which gets smuggled back into Mexico in the form of cash or weapons.

While lawmakers intensively questioned witnesses about law enforcement tactics used by the various federal agencies involved — the Drug Enforcement Administration, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms — there was virtually no discussion whatsoever about how to reduce the demand for drugs in the United States, the possibility of legalizing some drugs like marijuana to reduce the money and violence associated with its trafficking, or whether stricter gun control laws in the United States would reduce the number and caliber of firearms purchased in the country and smuggled into Mexico.

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