(This article is also available en Español)
In the 15th century the Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile were busy establishing their rule over re-united Spain, subordinating and ethnically cleansing Muslims and Jews, and starting an Empire that soon expanded over much of the newly invaded American continents. The establishment of the Empire was first an act of pure robbery. It developed into a system of oppressing and enslaving the native population. In some places it even became an all-out genocide.
Nobody can build a state, let alone an empire, under the banners of robbery, exploitation and oppression. They needed some slogan that will put them on the moral high ground. The more oppression is required to subdue the unwilling subjects, the more ideological firepower is required to justify this oppression. The Spanish Inquisition, which was supposed to promote and safeguard the Christian faith, in its orthodox Catholic interpretation, gave the required ideological framework for a campaign of terror that was required for the consolidation of the empire.
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In most of the 20th century the main justification for oppression in the Latin American hemisphere was the danger of communism. Under this banner the US encouraged military dictatorships in Brazil, Chile and Argentine, to name just a few examples. The war against the people and the dependency of the local oppressors on US imperialism held back the development of the local economy and ensured the economic subordination of Latin America to the interests of the multinational North American companies.
As communism went out of fashion, after the fall of the Soviet Union and the East European Socialist Block, the justification for violent repression faded and new populist movement started gaining ground.
War on Drugs in the US
The term “war on drugs” stemmed from the declaration of the US president Richard Nixon in June 18, 1971. He then declared drug abuse to be “public enemy number one”.
This gradually developed into war against poor people in the Unites States itself, mostly against black people. Since the declaration of the War on Drugs, the number of people incarcerated in the United States, as proportion of the population, increased more than fourfold.
The usage of the War on Drugs as a tool of oppression against the Black population is apparent in many ways. In 1986 the US congress passed a law that made the penalty for possessing a small amount of “crack”, a drug used mostly by poor blacks, on the same level as the penalty for a 100 times bigger amount of “cocaine”, which is mostly used by the white elite. According to one research, blacks are 13% of drug users, 35% of those arrested for using drugs, 55% of those convicted and 74% of those actually sent to prison for drug usage.
The War on Drugs in Mexico
The War on Drugs in Mexico is just the latest severe example of the international War on Drugs. Actually Mexico became a center of the drug trade only lately, as a result of the partial success in oppressing drugs’ production in Colombia while the lucrative demand from the US continued unabated.
Since 2006, under pressure from the US, the Mexican government deployed the army to fight drugs traders. It caused an alarming rise in violence. According to Wikipedia, by 2013 the estimated death toll was above 120,000 killed, in addition to 27,000 missing. The ideological success of the War on Drugs causes the world public opinion to “accept naturally” this death toll, unlike the much lower (but still horrific) death toll of, for example, the terror campaign of the Argentine dictatorship of 1976-1983.
The high death toll has several reasons. First the army is unfit for policing and uses indiscriminate violence with impunity against suspects. Also, if some traders are killed or arrested, while the demand for drugs stays the same, it causes a sharp rise in drug prices and initiates a fierce fight between different traders to fill the gap between supply and demand.
Also, the violence stemming from the war on drugs is undermining the regular economy, which requires stability. As a result it enhances the lure of drug trafficking as the only way to make a “decent” living for wide strata of society.
Last but not least, in the atmosphere of terror and impunity, the ruling classes have a free hand to terrorize the masses also to serve their economic and political interests.
The mass kidnapping and disappearance of 43 protesting students from a teachers’ college in the city of Iguala in the Mexican state of Guerrero in 2014 is the famous case that threw light to this phenomenon and ignited mass protests against the government’s responsibility.
The mass killings, disappearances, imprisonment and terror against the masses are not an accidental by-product of a well-wishing policy. They are the necessary measures to maintain the Hegemony of the Empire.
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And, yes, if you think about it, the social criminalization of women’s sexuality and the ensuing terror against women is at the core of the system that allowed oppression of women and the preservation of male privileges for thousands of years.