The Changing Character of the Mexican War on Drugs: State Building Process, Bureaucracy and U.S. Policy (1940-1980)

The talk looks at the complex relationship between the U.S. and Mexico and the “war on drugs” from 1940 to 1980. During this period, the U.S., in particular their drug agencies, deployed a series of pressuring mechanisms, which shaped drug policy in Mexico, where the state developed a policy remarkable for its strong prohibitionist and punitive dimension. However, this would not have been possible without the combination of two endogenous factors: the existence of a tradition of low tolerance regarding the use of psychoactive substances and the assimilation of the “war on drugs” rhetoric by Mexican state officials for the purpose of reaping political and bureaucratic benefits. By showing the internal motivations and incentives of the Mexican federal state to construct its own war on drugs, the talk shows how the punitive and prohibitionist dimension of drug policy in Mexico was not so much an imposition of the United States but rather part of a strategy linked to the state building process in Mexico.

Dr. Carlos Pérez Ricart (St. Antony’s College) is Postdoctoral Fellow in the Contemporary History and Public Policy of Mexico at the University of Oxford. He is member of both the History Faculty and the Latin American Centre (LAC). He holds a PhD in Political Science at the Freie Universität Berlin and has a degree in International Relations of El Colegio de México. His general research and teaching interests include the relationship between Mexico and the United States, security and organized crime, drug policies and state formation. He is currently conducting a research project which aims to examine the history of the Mexican police from a long-term historical and global perspective.

A sandwich lunch will be served at 12.40