MEXICO CITY - Before there was a United States or a Mexico, Bernardo de Galvez, under orders from Spain in 1779, fought battles in Baton Rouge, Natchez, Mobile, Pensacola and Charlotte to prevent arms and supplies from reaching the British to be used against the colonials.
That's why there's a statue honoring Galvez in front of the State Department in Washington, D.C.
Arms embargoes are not a new thing between the neighboring territories, now nations. Galvez was at George Washington's hand in the first July 4 parade.
Francisco Martín Moreno, in his June 3 column in Excelsior, a Mexico City newspaper, brought up bi-national arms control embargoes of the past. Arms purchases might date to field marshal Pedro Garibay, who in 1809 proposed that New Spain buy rifles, cannons, ammunition and shrapnel in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York from the freewheeling arms dealers.
Once the Mexican independence movement began, Jose Maria Morelos, one of Mexico's founding fathers, waited for U.S. arms on the Gulf Coast, but President James Monroe got Congress to restrict U.S. citizens from giving aid to the insurgents against colonial Spain. Madison went so far as to declare which countries could sell arms to Mexico.
In the first decade of the 20th century, reform leader and later president Francisco I. Madero was supported by President Howard Taft and New York bank financing. Opposition Gen. Bernardo Reyes was held in the United States for conspiring against Madero when Taft applied the "neutrality" laws. Taft was the first to decree on March 14, 1912, a prohibition of arms exports to Mexico without it being considered a violation of the Second Amendment.
In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson lifted the arms embargo as a way to minimize violence in Mexico but did not hesitate to intervene after Germany was discovered supplying arms to a rogue element. The United States intervened at the port of Veracruz to halt the arms shipment.
The United States even applied its neutrality laws and detained Gen. Victoriano Huerta, who was returning to Mexico from exile through U.S. territory in an attempt to overthrow the new constitutional government.
These were all considered discretionary acts by U.S. presidents. At one point, arms were sold to the rogue revolutionist Pancho Villa. And Calvin Coolidge made known in 1928 the United States had supplied arms to strengthen President Alvaro Obregon's government in the closing days of the Revolution.
The point Francisco Martín Moreno makes in his Excelsior column is that President Barack Obama has sufficient historical and judicial precedent to declare an arms embargo against those who are supplying U.S. weapons to the drug cartels.
International leaders have made it abundantly clear a new policy is needed to decriminalize some drug use, limit gunrunning, and money laundering by enablers, who are complicit in massive deaths.
Former Mexico President Vicente Fox on June 8 said the price paid by Mexico in the drug war to keep U.S. consumers on a neuroscience high is too great. He had once had congressional approval to legalize some drugs, similar to the proposal put forward recently by an imminent international commission. Fox's proposal was opposed by President George W. Bush. The measure never got to the Official Gazette, which is required for a bill to become law here.
Between 2007 and 2010, only 10,384 of the alleged 114,753 charged drug violators were jailed. As a practical matter, decriminalization might become a practical necessity just to clear the books.
Yet the heart of the matter is the high number of violent deaths. U.S.-encouraged militarized measures have failed to curb the drug trade, whose henchmen have unfettered access to U.S. arms.
If this keeps up, Francisco Martín Moreno and others interested in history might want to research whether a Nobel Peace Prize winner has ever been recalled for failing to act when he could. Or was there ever a Nobel laureate who failed to act against death but made hope the theme at the eulogies of 45,000 graves?
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org