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When U.S. Says 'Insatiable,' Mexico Hears '12-Step Program'

New America Media, News Report , Louis E.V. Nevaer Posted: Apr 06, 2009

Editors Note: Mexicans see the United States as finally taking the first in a 12-step program on the road to recovery: admitting that it has a drug problem, writes NAM contributor Louis Nevaer.

MERIDA, Mexico When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke in Mexico recently of Americas insatiable appetite for narcotics, her comments were broadcast live on Mexican television, and there were audible gasps of disbelief across the nation.

Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade, Clinton said. Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians.

The statement, a formal acknowledgement of the demand for illicit drugs in the United States, which drives the production, transport and smuggling of narcotics, has never been publicly made by Washington officials. Off the record, American policymakers and diplomats admit that drug abuse is a crisis on a societal level. But the official stand has been one of denial: Illegal drug use is a scourge visited upon Americans by drug traffickers who must create demand for the narcotics they have to sell to stay in business.

This line has strained relations between the United States and Latin America since the 1970s, when the first war or drugs was declared by the Nixon administration.

It is shocking to hear an American politician admit there is an issue, said Denise Dresser, a prominent Mexican commentator and political scientist, echoing the sentiment that has created a buzz on Mexican talk radio and in caf conversations.

The view throughout Latin America has long been one of resentment: nations are coerced into declaring a war on drugs, not because there are epidemics of drug abuse in those countries, but because of the insatiable demand in the United States.

The hemispheres drunk finally stood up and admitted hes an alcoholic, a March 26 caller to TV Azteca told news anchors, who chuckled. To hear Americans until now, youd think that Mexicans were crossing the border, putting guns to their heads, shoving a tray with lines of cocaine and demanding, Snort! Snort! Snort! Or Ill blow your brains out!

Laughter erupted among the studio audience.

In a country obsessed with self-improvement, Mexicans are familiar with the 12 step programs that are designed to help addicts.

The first step in recovery is admitting the truth to others: We admitted we were powerless over alcoholthat our lives had become unmanageable, is how alcoholics begin sober lives.

Therein lies the resonance of Clintons speech. Only by admitting this shared responsibility for the drug problem will there be constructive solutions that will benefit both countries, an official at the Mexican Consulate in New York said, on condition of anonymity.

Mexicans see Clinton as a different breed of secretary of state. She is, as far as Mexicans are concerned, moving in the right direction, with nuanced understanding that comes from her own personal experience.

Some Mexicans, especially women, go so far as to attribute this understanding to her personal life and her relationship with Bill Clinton, who reportedly received counseling for a sex addiction after his extramarital affair.

I think that only Hillary could have come out and stated the simple truth, said Estela Esquivel, a Merida schoolteacher in her 40s. In her own life shes had to deal with living with a man addicted to sex. And Im sure that she made him stand up and say out loud, I am a sex addict, which is why I cheated on you with Monica Lewinsky, so she knows that speaking the truth is the first step in recovery.

Only someone who has had to endure abuse from an unhealthy marriage can understand the power of speaking the truth, said Zenaida Romero, a retired social worker. Its the familiar blame the victim mentality: You made me hit you, you drove me to drink, you make me take drugs. It takes someone like Hillary Clinton to stop the denial in Americas foreign policy.

The euphoria Mexicans feel at vindication Washington now acknowledges that demand for illegal drugs by American drug users is what fuels the drug trade may be short lived.

In her speech, Clinton cited the United States and Mexicos co-responsibility in solving the drug problem.

As anyone familiar with recovery programs knows only too well, co-responsibility is often a word addicts use when they dont want to talk about the inherently unhealthy nature of codependence.

Going from denial to talk of codependence may not be much of an improvement, but it is a step in the right direction.

Related Articles:

Clinton: 'U.S. Shares Responsibility In Mexico's Drug War'

White House Announces New Border Plan to Combat Drug Cartels

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