I asked García Luna if this was an acceptable definition of success in the war on drugs: violence down, the police seemingly in charge, the cartels operating less conspicuously and less violently. He ducked the question but did not dispute the implication. “Given the temptation,” he said, “there are people who are always going to play the game, whether by airplane or helicopter, by land, by sea, because there is a real market. ... There is no product like it in the world.” (When I asked David Johnson, the assistant secretary of state for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, about the reason for mounting drug violence in Mexico, he said, without prompting, “In significant measure, it grows out of violent people taking advantage of the continuing strong demand in the United States.”) García Luna mentioned Colombia, invoking an analogy that Mexican and U.S. officials generally resist. Colombia has received billions of dollars in U.S. anti-drug aid under Plan Colombia, and violence has fallen significantly in the past several years. “Do you know how much the amount of drugs leaving Colombia has gone down?” García Luna asked me. “Check,” he said with a smile. And indeed, by all evidence, there has been no significant decrease in drug flows out of Colombia or in the availability of cocaine or heroin in the United States — and yet, Colombia is considered a success story.
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