A Conversation With Terry Goddard, Attorney General of Arizona

Sunday, April 5, 2009

As Mexico's war against its drug cartels heats up, Arizona is becoming a front-line state. Phoenix leads the nation in kidnappings. The border south of Tucson and Yuma has become the main conduit for smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants into the United States. Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard has made waves for employing controversial techniques to fight money laundering and for suggesting that the United States might need to rethink its drug laws. Goddard spoke with Outlook's John Pomfret about Mexico, marijuana and an operation known as Tumbleweed. Excerpts:

Is Mexico a failed state?

No. Not even close. The thing that I find appalling about the failed-state analysis is that the instability and the violence is precisely because the Calderón administration made the strategic decision to take on the cartels and to reestablish national sovereignty and the rule of law. And we're criticizing them for it.

Is Mexico's violence going to spread north?

Yes. I hate to say that, but I don't think there's anything about our current response that keeps it from coming north.

Talking to one of the border sheriffs recently, I asked: How long do you think it will be before there's a violent episode in your county? And his response was, I think it'll happen this year. It's going to be a gun battle between two criminal organizations and one of my rookies is going to get caught in the crossfire.

Most Americans think that drug smugglers make their big profits off cocaine, but you say otherwise.

Marijuana is the horse. Marijuana is the profit center for the cartels. We think approximately 65 percent of the total revenue that the cartels get from drug smuggling is based on marijuana. You could say indirectly that much of the carnage in Mexico is financed because of profits from marijuana.

Should marijuana be legal?

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