In 2007, Mexico, other Latin American countries and the United States signed the Merida Initiative in an effort to crack down on drug, human and weapons trafficking. With that document, we joined Mexican President Felipe Calderón in his courageous war against the drug cartels.
But we are losing the war. While the high-profile bust of more than 50 Sinaloa cartel employees in the U.S. last month was meant to show our commitment to the drug war, we have not been effective in slowing the flow of guns and money from the U.S. to the Mexican cartels. Nor have we even begun to eliminate the reason the cartels kill to keep the drugs flowing: drug use in the United States.
The stakes are high. While there are some details I cannot discuss as a senior member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, I can tell you this: If we lose this war, Mexico will fall. If Mexico falls, the flood of refugees into the U.S. will make the flow of illegal immigrants look like a trickleclearly, a liability that our economy could not sustain.
Our success depends on Calderón's success. The U.S. has always had a liberal policy toward refugees, and rightfully so. But unlike other refugee situations, if we are forced to take in tens of millions of Mexican refugees, we can only blame ourselves.
So far, Mexico has taken the brunt of our failure. Battles for control of the drug flow killed more than 6,200 Mexicans last year and more than 1,000 in the first two months of this year. Guns from the U.S. killed most of them. Of the 20,000 weapons seized from the cartels last year, 90 percent were bought in the United States.
When the U.S. signed the Merida Initiative, we promised to crack down on the flow of guns to Mexico. Obviously, we have yet to be effective.
In a recent appearance before Congress, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano promised to work with the Justice Department, state and local police to crack down on gun and cash smuggling into Mexico. I suggest one way of doing that is to train Mexican border guards and give them the technology to give Americans and U.S. cargo crossing south of the border the same scrutiny the U.S. gives Mexicans coming north.
But left out of Napolitano's promise, and what has been missing since the Merida Initiative was signed, is cracking down on drug users in the U.S. While their crime is often portrayed as victimless, Americans who consume billions of dollars of illegal drugs every year are contributing to a grave national security threat on both sides of the border. If we don't stop the demand for drugs on our end, the cartels' deadly demand for guns and money will continue and the number of victims of America's "victimless" crime will continue to grow, perhaps exponentially.
We need to beef up our drug laws and intensify our prosecutions of "recreational" drug users, increase our prevention efforts among teens and at-risk groups, and strengthen our treatment and rehabilitation programs. If there is no demand for illegal drugs, the cartels will go out of business. Analysts from diverse organizations have concluded that the drug war cannot be won if demand is not severely curtailed, if not eliminated.
As a senior member of both the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary committees, I am pushing my colleagues to intensify our efforts toward cracking down on the consumers of illegal drugs and on gun and money smuggling. Mexico and the United States are at war with a common enemy. A fully implemented strategy will bring victory. A fragmented strategy will bring defeat.