How can foreign governments be convinced to combat narcotics in the source nations?

For any nation faced with the problem of illegal drug trafficking, the biggest challenge is in reigning in the sources of origin of these drugs. But it is usually the case that the regions of origin have a weak political system and an impotent law enforcement agency. In the case of drug trafficking in the United States, the two primary source nations are Mexico and Columbia. The internal political chaos and the instability induced by rebel militia outfits in Columbia is fairly well documented in print and electronic media. The Mexican political system is fairly democratic and offers a semblance of stability, but its economic backwardness when compared to the United States and Canada, makes it an ideal intermediary destination for traffickers operating from elsewhere. Conventional methods of waging war on drugs have proved inadequate. These methods have tried to attack the supply side and have yielded poor results. As a result,

“drugs are cheaper, purer, and more plentiful than ever. Despite crop-eradication programs, there is substantially more opium poppy and coca cultivated today than there was two decades ago. Attempting to stamp out the supply of drugs is like pushing on a balloon–cut off production in one country and another quickly fills the void.” (Petras, 2002)

The primary method of convincing foreign governments such as Columbia and Mexico would be tactful diplomacy. But going by statistical evidence, the fairly amicable diplomatic ties between these nations and their neighbors (including the United States) had not diminished the scale of narco-trafficking. Resolutions carried through in NAFTA meetings have also had little effect in reducing drug traffic from Mexico. In this scenario, more stringent measures are called for to deter source nations. One such method is the application of economic sanctions. In the second half of the twentieth century, there were several instances when Western democracies successfully applied sanctions against perceived rogue states. While this method may not directly undermine the illegal narcotics network, it would weaken allied industries in the source nation, thereby ultimately reducing drug trafficking. In the case of Mexico, for example, most of its exports are to its North American neighbors. Several special trade agreements and concessions were granted to Mexico through the channel of NAFTA. The destination nations such as the United States can pressurize source nations by stating in unequivocal terms that for the legitimate trade agreements to remain valid the source nations have to take decisive actions toward controlling illegal narco-trafficking (Petras, 2002).

The opposite of economic sanctions, namely financial grants is also a sound measure. In fact, there is already a precedent to this strategy, when the United States government, under the leadership of Bill Clinton, promised Mexico to fund anti-drug trade operations. Reporting on this new announcement from the Clinton Administration, the May 6, 1997 edition of Washington Times reported thus:

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