The jailing of a notorious cocaine smuggler will not end the drug wars. We must fight them with more regard for the victims

There’s not much justice in the world. The Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán will probably die in an unpleasant American prison after being found guilty on 51 out of 53 charges relating to his long and lucrative career in the cocaine business. But his family is safe, and we must assume that much of his immense fortune is, too. That would be regarded as astonishing good fortune by most of his victims. Although we know of few murders that he himself directly committed – one witness testified to seeing Guzmán shoot a suspected traitor and then have him buried alive – he must have ordered countless deaths.

Since his arrest, the multinational and enormously profitable business has continued without him, destroying lives and killing tens of thousands of people every year, some directly in the wars between rival producers and distributors, many among the consumers of his product and their victims. In the last 10 years, 200,000 people have been murdered in Mexico where the government announced earlier this month that there are now 26,000 unidentified corpses in their morgues and a further 40,000 people are missing without a trace; in Colombia, where the coca grows, the male homicide rate is 25% higher than in Mexico. In the US the bodies of young black men are the primary battleground of the drug wars: one in three can expect to be jailed.

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