They behead people by the hundreds. They heap headless, handless bodies along roadsides as warnings to those who would resist their power. They have penetrated the local, state and national governments and control entire sections of the country. They provide employment and services to an impoverished public, which distrusts their actual government with its bitter record of corruption, repression, and torture. They seduce young people from several countries, including the United States, into their murderous activities.
|Driven By Money|
|Driven By Religion|
|Masked New Generation Cartel|
|Masked ISIS Members|
And as the national security state have used the spectre of IS to create an atmosphere of panic and hysteria in the USA, so have they also used the drug cartels' grotesque theatre of violence to justify their demonization of immigrants from Latin America and the massive militarization of America’s borderlands.
The War in Mexico
If there was an official beginning to Mexico's war on drugs, it would have to be considered the election of Felipe Calderón as the country’s president in 2006. The candidate of the right-wing Partido Acción Nacional, the National Action Party (PAN), Calderón was only the second Mexican president in 70 years who did not come from the Partido Revolucionario Institucional, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). His predecessor, Vicente Fox, had been the first.
It was Calderón who, with encouragement and assistance from the United States, changed Mexico's war on drugs from a metaphor into the real thing, in which guns and grenades would fuel the deaths of more than 60,000 Mexicans through 2012. Thats 25 times the US military death toll in the Afghanistan war, 13 times more than the US military death toll in the Iraq war.
The current president, Enrique Peña Nieto of the PRI, admits that another 27,000 Mexicans were murdered in the first year of his presidency. To put that into perspective the 17 EU countries recorded 125 gunshot homicides for 2011, or three times more than the US in the same period. 25,000 more have been disappeared since 2007. It was Calderón who brought the Mexican military fully into the fight against drugs, transforming an ineffective policing policy into a full-scale shooting war with the cartels. At least 50,000 military personnel have been deployed.
In addition to ordinary citizens, journalists and politicians have been particular targets in this war. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports that murders of Mexican reporters have increased dramatically since 2006. Among those whose killers have been positively identified, 69% died at the hands of the drug cartels, and at least 22% were killed by government or military personnel.
Wikipedia lists over 100 politicians who have lost their lives in Mexico's war on drugs. That list does not include a woman named Aide Nava González, whose headless body was dumped this month on a road in Guerrero state. Nava was contending for the Partido Revolución Democrática, the Democratic Revolution Party, slot on the ballot in the town of Ahuacuotzingo. Her husband, the former mayor, had been murdered there last year. A note from Los Rojos, a local drug gang, was left with Nava's
"This is what will happen," it read, "to anyone who does not fall in line, fucking turncoats."
Guerrero is the home of Ayotzinapa, a town where 43 teachers-in-training once attended a rural teachers college. All 43 “disappeared” last September during a demonstration in the neighbouring town of Iguala. Their arrest by police, and apparent subsequent murder at the hands of a local drug gang, Guerreros Unidos, was one of the few stories of Mexican suffering to break into the U.S. mainstream media last year. The mayor of Iguala has since admitted that he instructed the police to
hand the students over to the gang and has been arrested, along with his wife. The town’s police chief is still on the run.
Like the "war on terror" globally, Mexico’s war on drugs has created endless new pretexts for government repression, which has its own lengthy history in that country. That history includes the long-remembered police murders of some 300 students, among the thousands protesting in Mexico City's Plaza de las Tres Culturas a couple of weeks before the Summer Olympics began in 1968. Juan Méndez, the U.N.'s Special Rapporteur on Torture, wrote in his 2014 mission report on Mexico:
"The National Human Rights Commission recorded an increase in the number of complaints of torture and ill-treatment since 2007 and reported a peak of 2,020 complaints in 2011 and 2,113 in 2012, compared with an annual average of 320 in the six years prior to 2007. Between December 2012 and July 2014, the Commission received 1,148 complaints of violations attributable to the armed forces alone."
What is not difficult to pinpoint is the nature of the torture. Méndez notes the "disturbing similarities" in the complaints of those tortured. The police and the military are regularly reported to use a combination of "punches, kicks, and beatings with sticks; electric shocks through the application of electrical devices such as cattle prods to their bodies, usually their genitals; asphyxiation with plastic bags; water-boarding; forced nudity; suspension by their limbs; [and] threats and insults."
Washington Fights a “War” in Mexico
Who pays for Mexico's war on drugs? You won’t perhaps be too surprised to learn that the United States foots a major part of the bill. Between 2008 and 2014, Congress has appropriated $2.4 billion to fight the cartels, as part of the Mérida Initiative, a "security cooperation agreement" between the U.S. and Mexican governments. That money supports a failed war in which tens of thousands have been killed and thousands more tortured.
|"El Ponchis", the 14-year-old cartel hitman for Los Zetas|
|ISIS Child Soldiers|
Seventy percent of the guns used in Mexico's drug wars also come from this country. Most are purchased at one or another of the 6,700 licensed firearms sales outlets along the U.S.-Mexico border. The University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute estimates that, between 2010 and 2012, about 253,000 firearms were bought each year for transfer to Mexico. And most of them made it across the border. The Institute reports that "Mexican authorities have seized roughly 12.7% of the total annual
trade" in weapons. U.S. interdiction efforts account for a measly 2% of those seized.
And not all of the weapons that ended up in Mexico did so against the wishes of the U.S. government. In the debacle known as "Fast and Furious," the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) allowed "more than 2,000 weapons, including hundreds of AK-47-type semi-automatic rifles and .50 caliber rifles," to "walk" across the border and into the hands of the Mexican cartels. Its ostensible purpose was to follow the guns in hopes that they would lead to the arrest of
high-level cartel leaders. But relevant agencies of the Mexican government were never informed about the operation, and it seems that there was no actual effort to track the weapons once they crossed the Mexican border. The weapons turned up at crime scenes in both Mexico and the United States. On December 14, 2010, near the Mexican border in Arizona, one of them killed Brian Terry, a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
ATF wasn't the only agency involved in "Fast and Furious." Personnel from ICE, the Department of Homeland Security, the DEA, and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Arizona also participated, along with the FBI and the IRS.
Nor was the Mexican government entirely informed, although it seems clear that one man, Eduardo Medina Mora, knew about it. A former director of Mexico's equivalent of the CIA, Medina is considered the "legal architect" of that country’s drug war. He was Mexico's attorney general when Fast and Furious got under way. By 2010, he'd been removed from that post (possibly because one of his top deputies was arrested for taking bribes from the cartels) and appointed ambassador to the United Kingdom.
|Eduardo Medina Mora|
The Pentagon and CIA are also involved in Mexico in significant ways. Since at least 2011, the Pentagon has deployed both piloted aircraft and drones in the Mexican war on drugs. The CIA has also sent operatives to do intelligence gathering. And without specifying which agencies are responsible for such activities, the New York Times reports that "the United States has trained nearly 4,500 new [Mexican] federal police agents and assisted in conducting wiretaps, running informants, and interrogating suspects.” Furthermore, the "Pentagon has provided sophisticated equipment, including Black Hawk helicopters.”
|Earl Anthony Wayne|
The Drug War Comes Home (Along With Plenty of Blowback)
All in all, the U.S. drug war in Mexico has been an abject failure. In spite of high-profile arrests, including in 2014 Joaquín "El Chapo” Guzmán, Guzman's stunning second escape from a maximum-security prison in July 2015 sparked an immediate, massive manhunt for the Sinaloa Cartel head.
Skepticism has emerged about the official story regarding the escape of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman from the country’s most sophisticated, maximum security prison.
According to confidential sourses Mexico Attorney General Arely Gomez told President Enrique Peña Nieto that Chapo did not escape via an elaborate mile-long tunnel, but walked out the front door. The tunnel excavation project would have required the workers to remove over seven tons of dirt, sand, and other materials. This would have required trucks with 20-ton capacity to make close to 400 trips to the small, lonely house on the hill overlooking the prison. And doubts have circulated around other small details, such as why Chapo had hair in the video showing him just And doubts have circulated around other small details, such as why Chapo had hair in the video showing him just prior to his escape,prior to his escape, yet in the picture the authorities provided to the public following his escape, he is bald.
|One Mile Tunnel|
The Washington Post reports that almost 9% of Americans “age 12 or older -- 22.6 million people -- are current users of illegal drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration." That represents a one-third increase over the 6.2% in 1998. It takes a lot of infrastructure to move that much product.
And that's where U.S.-based gangs come in. Urban gangs in the United States today are not the Sharks and Jets of West Side Story. Certainly, there are still some small local groups formed by young people looking for family and solidarity on the streets. All too often, however, today's gangs represent the well-run distribution arm of the international drug trade.
In Chicago alone, 100,000 people work in illegal drug distribution, selling mostly into that city's African-American community.Gang membership is skewing older every year, as gangs transform from local associations to organized, powerfully armed criminal enterprises. Well over half of present gang members are adults now. The communities where they operate live in fear, caught between the gangs that offer them employment while threatening their safety and militarized police forces they do not trust.
Just like U.S. military adventures in the Middle East and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Mexico war on drugs has only left a larger problem in place, while producing blow back here at home. A particularly nasty example is the cartels' use of serving U.S. military personnel and veterans as hit men here in the United States.
On July 25 an El Paso, Texas court handed down a life sentence to Army private first-class Michael Apodaca, 22, after he admitted to beingrecruited and paid $US5,000 by the Juarez Cartel to shoot and kill Jose Daniel Gonzalez-Galeana, a cartel member who had been outed as an
informant for U.S. customs.
|Soldiers Of Fortune|
But the effects are far bigger than that. The DEA told the Washington Post that Mexican cartels are operating in more than 1,200 U.S. cities. In all those cities, the failed war on drugs has put in prison 2.3 million people -- in vastly disproportionate numbers from communities of colour -- without cutting demand by one single kilo.
$177.26. is the retail price, according to Drug Enforcement Administration data, of one gram of pure cocaine from your typical local pusher. That is 74 percent cheaper than it was 30 years ago when the war on drugs began.This number contains pretty much all you need to evaluate the Mexican and American governments’ “war” to eradicate illegal drugs from the streets of the United States.
Conceived to eradicate the illegal drug market, the war on drugs cannot be won. Once they understand this, the Mexican and American governments may consider refocusing their strategies to take aim at what really matters: the health and security of their citizens, communities and nations.
Prices match supply with demand. If the supply of an illicit drug were to fall, say because the Drug Enforcement Administration stopped it from reaching the nation’s shores, we should expect its price to go up.
That is not what happened with cocaine. Despite billions spent on measures from spraying coca fields high in the Andes to jailing local dealers in Miami or Washington,a gram of cocaine cost about 16 percent less last year than it did in 2001. The drop is similar for heroin and methamphetamine. The only drug that has not experienced a significant fall in price is marijuana. The most enthusiastic supporters of the war on drugs are the cartels themselves and those that work with them because without the war on drugs they would all be out of business.
And yet, though that war has only visibly increased the drug problem in the same way that the war on terror has generated ever more terror organizations, in both cases there’s no evidence that any other course than war is being considered in Washington.