Reflections Week 13: The Release of Ovidio Guzmán

Hi all. For this week’s reflections, I will be commenting on the release of Ovidio Guzmán, commonly known as one of El Chapo’s sons. More specifically, I will be comparing two responses to the incident, and give my own personal take on it.

To give more background to the incident, a few weeks ago, the town of Culiacan, in the state of Sinaloa in Mexico, was attacked by cartel members and sympathizers as a direct response to the arrest of Ovidio Guzmán by the government of Mexico. Armed military and police personnel was then sent by the Mexican government, although they were overrun by the cartel forces. In fact, many government agents and officers were killed and taken hostage by the cartels. This gave the possibility to the cartels to threaten the Mexican government with mass slaughter against the town Culiacan, as the civilians were now left stranded without arms or defences. This thus prompted President AMLO to issue the release of Ovidio Guzmán, to prevent further bloodshed. 

There have been different responses to this event. One of them, as outlined in Daniel Tenreiro’s article in the conservative magazine National Review, has been to condemn AMLO’s decision, instead calling for a reversal of his “hugs, not bullets” policy, and to instead heighten the militarization of the country by bringing more United States armed forces in. He also calls for a modernization and strengthening process of the local and state police forces, to fight the corruption currently present within them. This, in my view, is a deeply flawed solution to the problem, as it has been tried for more than a decade before, and has continuously made drug cartels stronger, while only serving to heighten the tensions and violence between the two camps. This has also resulted in a “decapitation” policy, based on arresting or killing heads of cartel syndicates in Mexico, which has only served to create more turf wars and increase polarization and the number of warring factions in the country. This has notably shown in the continuous growth in the number of deaths per capita in Mexico, now at 29 per 100,000 people. According to Tenreiro, the AMLO administration is to blame for this, saying the policy has been tried and has not worked, although not even a full year has passed since AMLO took office, while the previous militarization policies have been tried for 13 years, to no avail. This has, nonetheless, been a very popular response among the Mexican people, albeit a highly emotional one.

A second response to the situation has been to endorse AMLO’s response. This is my response, and that which is also voiced by one of my favourite political commentators, Kyle Kulinski, founder of the Justice Democrats currently hosting The Kyle Kulinski Show. Kulinski rightly points out, as does the AMLO administration, that this was done to prevent further slaughter, and perhaps even a genocide against the Culiacan population. There was no choice given to the government, as the lives of the innocent were worth much more than the arrest of one kingpin’s son, regardless of the will of the DEA or the US government. Kulinski also correctly argues that militarization and heightened violence and enforcement is not the appropriate response to the crisis, but rather drug legalization, taxation and regulation. This is based on the true premise that drug cartels currently have a monopoly over the drugs they sell in the black market. Pursuing a legalization, taxation and regulation of drugs policy would thus force the cartels to compete with legitimate business in the marketplace, and would, through time, make them go out of business and lose their profits. Another temporary solution, though not mentioned by Kulinski, might be to offer self-defence training to local populations in regions affected by the drug war, until the policy is fully enacted. The former policy, incredibly enough, as been considered by the AMLO government.


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