One could be forgiven for thinking that Mexico is a Nordic country based on its statement at the 64th session of the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) that took place this week. The annually-held CND “reviews and analyzes the global drug situation, considering the interrelated issues of prevention of drug abuse, rehabilitation of drug users and supply and trafficking in illicit drugs”.
To be sure, UN hosted events are generally the equivalent of wearing one’s Sunday’s best where countries present themselves as how they would like to be seen rather than how they really are. The Mexican statement, for example, hopes that one of the lessons of the pandemic is to put people, and their development, at the core of drug policy rather than substances. It declares that Mexico’s “drug phenomenon” cannot be addressed in the absence of a regional approach and under the principle of shared responsibility. Furthermore, it highlights three key areas in line with the much-advertised-but-yet-to-materialize Mexican feminist foreign policy:
- Public health: improve access to treatment, differentiating among substances and their effects.
- Prevention and harm reduction: treatment of substance use disorders and prevent violence in illicit markets and criminalization of users.
- Interinstitutional coordination and cooperation: for containing and dissuading production and trafficking of illicit drugs.
The problem, however, is not the ambition expressed by the Mexican government at the CND. After all, if you cannot be aspirational at UN meetings where else can you live your best life? The concern is the dissonance between the Mexico we observe at the international level and what is happening domestically.
For instance, “UN Mexico” wants to improve access to treatment and prevent criminalization of drug users. Yet, “Domestic Mexico” has a national campaign against drug consumption anchored on the doom-invoking message “In the world of drugs there is no happy ending”. The videos used for the campaign show drug users who narrate the tragedies that befell them after using drugs, ranging from losing custody of their children to homicide. The campaign has been heavily criticized by public health experts and civil society who consider the messages as stigmatizing and reproducing dangerous messages about drug use rather than providing factual information based on evidence.
“UN Mexico” also calls for shared responsibility, coordination, and cooperation. “Domestic Mexico”, however, seems to whimsically use the rhetoric of non-intervention and national sovereignty in a context where transnational challenges cannot be solved unilaterally. More importantly, “Domestic Mexico” has yet to establish a serious initiative focused on reducing the supply of fentanyl that continues to kill Americans in record numbers and increasingly Mexican users.
Lastly, “UN Mexico” boasts about its feminist foreign policy, and while there is cautious optimism around its implementation, the response by “Domestic Mexico” to lethal and non-lethal violence against women call into question the sincerity of this aspiration. This has also prompted civil society to call on the international feminist NGO community to hold the Mexican government accountable for violently repressing and undermining feminist protesters (you can sign the petition here).