Sunday, July 29, 2012
Drugs, Billions, and Mexico
Mexico has always been seen as somewhat entertaining in American culture. In films from the midpoint of the last century, Mexicans were either buffoonish, but evil cutthroats or amusing sidekicks. For years Mexico was a vacation destination for Americans. Not any more.
Today and in a growing crescendo for many years, Mexico is a place whose leading exports are drugs and oil. And, if the murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry hadn’t blown the lid off an Obama administration’s program to “walk” guns into Mexico, specifically for the use of drug cartels, they would likely still be crossing the border in the most inept and criminally stupid plan—“Fast and Furious”—to blame American gun stores for the rising tide of murders there.
In a June article for Businessinsider.com, Michael Kelley reported that “The sting operation led to the sale of over 2,500 firearms, of which fewer than 700 were recovered as of October 31, 2011, and has not led to the arrest of any high-level cartel figures targeted in the operation.”
Ted Galen Carpenter, a senior fellow for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute, has authored “The Fire Next Door: Mexico’s Drug Violence and the Danger to America.” It will be published officially in October, so you are likely reading about it first here. The Cato Institute is a Libertarian think tank, a public policy foundation in Washington, D.C., funded primarily by some 15,000 individuals.
Carpenter’s book is a damning indictment of both Mexican and American policies regarding drugs. “The global trade in illegal drugs is conservatively estimated at more than $300 billion per year, and Mexico’s share is something in excess of $30 billion.”
Carpenter warns that “The deteriorating security conditions in Mexico, and the risk that the frightening violence there could become a routine feature of life in American communities as the cartels flex their muscles north of the border, makes it urgent that leaders of both countries reconsider their approach to the crisis.”
Let it be said that no one on either side of the border comes away with clean hands regarding this threat. If Americans are bothered by the flow of illegal aliens, many of whom are Mexicans seeking to escape the horrors of the cartel wars, the prospect of those wars occurring in the cities of America will really get their attention. The Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center estimates that cartels operated in 1,286 U.S. cities in 2009 and 2010. It is more than five times the number reported in 2008.
Up to now there have been fairly isolated cases such as Brian Terry’s murder and the murder of Arizona rancher, Robert Krentz in March 2010. Rarely mentioned is the murder of Jaime Zapata, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent.
When you put together “Fast and Furious” together with the Obama administration’s efforts to thwart and punish Arizona for passing laws to grant wider powers to its law enforcement authorities, the pattern that immerges is one of indifference for the safety of Arizonans and all others in the border and all other states.
When you add in the refusal of the Obama Department of Justice to make documents subpoenaed by a Congressional committee investigating “Fast and Furious” available and the subsequent indictment of Attorney General Eric Holder for contempt of Congress, as well as the declaration of executive privilege, you are witnessing a level of governmental criminality that rivals Watergate.
The Mexican response has been to return the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) to power. It governed Mexico for decades and was widely seen as corrupt. It did, however, have “a de facto policy of (relatively) peaceful coexistence with the cartels.” For Mexicans that is a better alternative than the current bloodshed.
Carpenter says “There are approximately a dozen drug trafficking organizations that are significant players in Mexico. And several of them—especially the Sinoloa cartel, the Tijuana cartel, the Juarez cartel, and the Zetas—control major swaths of territory. But it is an ever-shifting competitive environment.” With $30 to $39 billion at stake, that is understandable.
There have been many estimates of the cartel’s death tolls in Mexico. Carpenter cites between 47,000 and 51,000 lives, noting that since President Felipe Calderon decided in December 2006 to wage a military-led offensive to crush the cartels, the increasing trend is ominous. Compare this with the 15,000 dead in Syria’s year old civil war and it is obvious that there is a war south of our border and one that is not getting much attention in the nation’s media or at the highest levels of the current administration.
While observers continue to say that Mexico is not yet a failed state, the prospect is out there and America shares a 2,000 mile border with it.
Carpenter suggests that America has to consider the legalization of drugs as a significant way of reducing the enormous income they represent to the cartels.
Vincente Fox Quesada, the president of Mexico from 2000 to 2006, in a forward to Carpenter’s book, says “The fear that legalization would lead to an explosion of drug use seems unfounded. Portugal’s experience with its bold drug policy reforms over the past decade indicates that drug use might actually decline once prohibition is ended.”
So, perhaps the time has come for America to reform its drug laws. If it reduces the obscene amount of money the cartels earn, it’s worth it.
© Alan Caruba, 2012