On Apr. 13, 2010, the University’s International Travel Oversight Committee suspended student travel in Mexico. This was due to the State Department’s issuance of a travel warning, which the committee says “informed citizens of the risks of travel especially in parts of northern Mexico, which have seen an increase in the severity of violence and other criminal activity.” The Oversight Committee has concluded that “travel near the border has become particularly hazardous” and that the situation is “unpredictable and fluid, and will likely continue to remain so.”

Why is it, you might wonder, that students can’t safely travel the world and enrich their learning experiences through its diversity? What has happened in Mexico, a home to a rich culture and exquisite art, that has caused enough “violence and other criminal activity” to merit the University’s express concern for students wishing to study abroad? If you don’t know the answer, then it is time to learn and help fight for change to put an end to the violence being wrought by drug cartels. If you ever want to travel to Mexico for your studies, or if you want to help save the innocent Mexican citizens caught in the middle of the “criminal activity,” you should write letters to your congressperson or senator.

The problem in Mexico doesn’t stem from a lack of moral values amongst its citizens, a crazed Mexican dictator vying for world power or an anti-government revolution occurring there. It is being created right here, in the United States. The so-called War on Drugs is contributing to the violence in Mexico, the cartels that control the drug trade and general degradation in the quality of human life that follows from this prohibitionist policy.

It’s simple economics. Demand drives supply. If there is a commodity that people want and are willing to pay for, then there will be a supplier who is willing to sell the commodity. The laws of supply and demand directly apply to the black market — if you make a commodity (like cocaine, cannabis or heroin) illegal, it becomes extremely lucrative to provide that product. The demand for the product is high and the supply is low, so the price of the merchandise skyrockets.

An inherent problem with prohibition is that it takes the control of a substance or item and puts it directly into the hands of criminals — individuals willing to break the law to make their profit. The immense profits available create stiff competition between criminal organizations, which, in turn, often resort to violence in the form of turf wars. And it’s generally the citizens of the surrounding areas who suffer.

The point I am trying to make is this: America’s War on Drugs is a failure. If you check your facts, drug use in the U.S. is on the rise (especially among young adults), and the potency of illegal narcotics has increased in recent years. Not only that, but by keeping drugs illegal we are also ensuring that there will always be money available for criminal organizations such as the Juarez Cartel, which effectively continues to fund violence in Mexico.

Does Juarez sound familiar? It should. Juarez City is one of the many cities listed by the University Oversight Committee as a danger zone. It was also the location of the brutal murder of high school students on Jan. 31, 2010, who were celebrating their soccer victory. They paid the ultimate price for America’s failure, which is the inability to recognize that it is the drug war that is so harshly affecting Mexico’s citizens.

I encourage the whole student body and, indeed, the whole of the American citizenry to evaluate and consider the impact this self-proclaimed war has had, not only on you and me, but on the rest of the world. It’s time to remove the money that drives the cartels. It’s time for America to legalize and regulate, not prosecute and damage. I urge students to become active members in their world and fight for those who cannot fight inequality alone. It’s time to stop creating violence and suffering in Mexico.

Matt Misiak is a member of Students for Sensible Drug Policy.

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