War on the Border

It’s amazing how little attention this is getting:

President Felipe Calderón and his government defended their fight against public corruption and drug trafficking Friday, asking for greater powers to go after organized crime. They conceded that most Mexicans feel unsafe and that many police are unqualified to do their jobs.

More than 4,500 people have been killed in drug-related violence since Calderón declared war against the cartels in early 2007. The campaign has transformed border cities such as Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez into war zones, complete with 20,000 occupying troops.

Calderón touted the recent arrest of Noé Ramírez Mandujano, a former chief of the anti-organized-crime unit at Mexico’s attorney general’s office, who is accused of taking at least $450,000 from drug traffickers in exchange for information about police investigations. Other top law enforcement officials have also been detained in recent weeks in “Operation Clean House,” including Mexico’s former liaison to Interpol, the international police organization.

There is a full-scale war going on just across the Mexican border, and the cartel leaders still have the resources to buy people at the highest levels of the Mexican Government. All Calderón can do is boast about something that is really just evidence of how much the deck is stacked against him.

In written answers to questions put to him by the National Congress, Calderón reported Thursday that half of the 56,000 police officers evaluated in a federal review failed to reach minimum standards. The examinations included drug and lie detector tests, psychological profiling and reviews of personal wealth.

In the state of Baja California, where Tijuana is located, almost 90 percent of the officers received failing grades. It is not known how many will be fired or retrained. There are more than 375,000 police officers in Mexico.

The revelation that so many rank-and-file police officers fail to pass scrutiny is likely to come as no surprise to most Mexicans, who harbor deep distrust of law enforcement officers. A poll released Friday by a Mexican research group found that 60 percent of Mexicans do not feel safe and that the great majority do not report crimes because they distrust the police.

Due to American demand for illegal drugs, Mexico is now a country where controlling drug markets gives one nearly untouchable power over large areas. It’s simply not possible to arrest or shoot our way out of this situation. And the only solutions to this problem involve doing things that nearly all American politicians consider to be politically impossible. Throw in a worsening economy and higher unemployment driving up demand for drugs and we just get sucked further into the black hole.

Comments

  1. 1

    proud leftist spews:

    Calderon is from the political party (PAN) that is Mexico’s equivalent of the Republican Party, as was his predecessor, Vicente Fox. I think that makes about 7 or 8 years of conservative rule in Mexico. Naturally, the party of Calderon and Fox takes an unrealistic approach to drugs, and to most any other issue. Rightwing nonsense must be abolished.

  2. 2

    Broadway Joe spews:

    Right-wing nonsense? Sorry, but it doesn’t really matter which wing it’s coming from, there is no real possibility of a weak, corrupt government ending the reign of Mexico’s cartels. I do believe that a military coup is only a matter of time, with years of martial law as the only valid option to snuff out the cartels. The US should offer nothing more than materiel assistance should such a situation arise, and only intervene directly should the Mexican military be as blundering as the government (as in targeting civilians indiscriminately, or taking out those meddlesome rebels in Chiapas instead of the real mission at hand), and only as part of a broad coalition of nations, under the auspices of the Organization of American States.

  3. 3

    Rick D. spews:

    In Lee’s delusional world, if illegal drugs were only legalized here in the U.S., Mexico would cease being a shithole 3rd world country that knows no other government than a corrupt one (despite having the 5th richest resources in the world).

    That is linear thinking at best I’m afraid.

  4. 5

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    The Middle Path
    I have some questions for Lee.

    Leaving aside the extreme answer of legalizing all drugs, aren’t there pragmatic things the US could do to help Mexico?

    1. RATIONALIZE US drug policy. A rational start would be a government effort to re-educate the public about MJ combined with a rational effort to introduce THC as an alternative to MJ.

    Cocaine, moreover, is not a true hard drug. Coke is not physically addictive, at least as far as I know (I know much less about Coke than I do about MJ). As Lee has pointed out, a good deal of our enforcement of coke law is racial.

    Coke toxicity, however, is real and Coke is a lot more dangerous than marijuana. Still, I suspect we could find safe ways to make some coke available while focusing our law enforcement on far more dangerous drugs .. the psychoactive drugs and truly addictive drugs.
    Again, I wonder if a controlled legalization might not drive down the value of the Mexican trade?

    The hard drug issue is .. well a lot harder. I wonder, however, whether there is at least some rationality to be had by separating Mexican drug trade from all “drugs?” The scary drugs are the opiates and chemical made in labs. Are either of these a big part of Mexican drug trade? Lee?

    2. INCREASE NAFTA, The US should prioritize Mexico as an economic partner over China or India … just as Europe has done with Greece and Ukraine. Putting assembly jobs in China is asinine when they could be in our sister American country. Similarly, why use uo expensive American oil when we could buy cheap Mexican oil?

  5. 6

    spews:

    @3
    In Lee’s delusional world, if illegal drugs were only legalized here in the U.S., Mexico would cease being a shithole 3rd world country that knows no other government than a corrupt one (despite having the 5th richest resources in the world).

    Yes, that’s correct, and your parenthetical at the end actually helps prove my point.

    That is linear thinking at best I’m afraid.

    Call it whatever you want, but it’s correct.

  6. 8

    YLB spews:

    Mexico would cease being a shithole 3rd world country

    Ahhhh. More pearls of wisdom from little Rickie Dumbass the loser and closet racist.

  7. 9

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    I wish someone would get to be President who actually tolok a pragmatic approach to these things.

    Oh …..

  8. 11

    Jesus spews:

    Drugs or no drugs, the demand for a substance is the real problem. Aslong as people want something, they will get it, no matter how.

    For example: Officially it’s not allowed to smoke in public places anywhere in Mexico now… and guess what people are doing? It’s funny but people do stand up for themselves when the government wants them to leave their smokes and alcohol.

    Officially we’re not even allowed to walk with a beer in our hand in the streets, but take a look at the tourist places all over Mexico, everyone is walking drunk with a bottle in their hand :)

    I believe that the drug problem has only one effective long-term solution: Educate your people, and I mean a FULL and complete education!

    Then the short-term solution would be to allow the consumption of drugs (in other words, not to illegalize the use of drugs). People don’t like other people telling them what to do with their bodies, and some people would just not live without drugs, so why criminalize them, when it’s not a real crime but a crime against their own bodies.

    For now those are the only two solutions that I think might be closer to a solution than what Calderon is doing… you just can’t fight fire with gasoline!

  9. 12

    slingshot spews:

    Legalizing drugs might not have what would seem to be the logical soothing effect on the situation. If the demand & profit disappear, there would probably be an extended uptick in violence. But without reward, they’d have to move on to the boring, less lucrative, non-drug, run of the mill crime. Like murder for hire, for example.

    Pretty soon Lee, municipalities will be too broke to enforce victimless crime, so seed up.

  10. 13

    Mike spews:

    Mexico is our closest enemy,our boarder states are 3rd world today. Time to mount attacks and defend the boarder however,this will never happen with the commie ACLU and the Democrat dopey party in charge.

  11. 14

    Jesus spews:

    I believe the majority involved in drugs, are the consumers, no? If the consumer money is kept away from Drug cartels and taxes are being paid by drug trade, the municipalities would have money to focus on real crime, no?

  12. 15

    Jesus spews:

    Don’t you think we’re at the top of extended violence? I really would love to think that drug bizz is keeping people from kidnapping and murdering, but I think that’s not the deal, right?

  13. 16

    correctnotright spews:

    @13: Mikey boy

    Nice to have you on-board. By the way, even though your English language skills and spelling are poor and probably don’t match those of illegal immigrants, I can’t tell what you are trying to say:

    Mexico is our closest enemy,our boarder states are 3rd world today.

    Actually, Mexico is not considered an enemy.
    Our “border” states ar 3rd world?

    Do you mean our border states like Texas or are you talking about the countries that border the US, like Canada, being third world.

    Either way – it makes absolutely no sense. Please come back and comment on here after you finish the third grade.

  14. 17

    freebeezy spews:

    Lee is right — it’s amazing that this is not getting more attention. Mexico is engulfed in drug violence that is a direct consequence of our own drug laws, and we’re not even really aware of it. Southern Pulse is a security org with good coverage of the situation.

    On the domestic front, I think the decriminalization of coke would be close to a wash. The net benefits in reduced incarceration would be offset by social costs related to increased use/addiction (although I understand the social science research is pretty conflicted here). On the foreign policy front, the gains would be huge. Drug related violence in Mexico, Colombia and the transhipment points in Central America would decrease as prices fall.

    One challenge with any US response to cartels in Mexico is to make sure that the tools we provide (i.e. support for counter narcotics operations) are not redirected by the Mexican military against leftist movements such as the teachers union uprising in Oaxaca. I don’t know how the US does that.

    In day-to-day life the best thing you can do for folks in Latin America is shun coke users. Buying coke should carry the same social stigma as buying diamonds from South Africa during Apartheid. (Obviously Apartheid and the drug war are different; however, the end result is similar: the misery of millions.)

  15. 18

    Dave spews:

    Lee is right — it’s amazing that this is not getting more attention.

    ————-

    We’ve been consumed by an election and now a severe financial crisis that depending on the week appears to be on the verge of flushing our banking system down the drain.

  16. 19

    Mud Baby spews:

    For starters, I would like to point out that the US was a third world country less than 100 years ago. Child labor was perfectly legal, women were chattels who couldn’t vote, black people were technically “free” but subjected to an apartheid-style system, police and political corruption were rampant, public health and sanitation and were practically non-existent, and there were no environmental protection laws whatsoever.

    Second, Mexico is not some third-world shithole. It is a rapidly developing with most of the same elements of modernity that exist in the US, albeit it is in many respects a flashback to earlier times when many of the above-mentioned conditions that prevail in more highly developed nations were not as fully developed as they are now.

    Third, drug cartel related violence wouldn’t be nearly as pervasive in some parts of Mexico if we had gun laws that restricted the availability of weapons that are routinely smuggled into Mexico from the US.

    Fourth, Mexico’s drug cartel related violence problem would be greatly diminished if we in the US took steps to lessen the demand for drugs that are trafficked by Mexican (and other Latin American) drug lords. I don’t use recreational drugs at all, but I strongly favor the legal sale (and taxation) of marijuana to adults in liquor stores. Driving stoned should be illegal the same way driving under the influence of alcohol is. The sale of certain other recreational drugs, perhaps psilocybin, the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms, seems relatively innocuous. I would medicalize the use of heroin by registered addicts the same way it is in Vancouver in order to decrease HIV transmission and property crimes. I have illusions that increasing access to rehab programs would result in anything more than a modest decrease in the number of addicts, but giving people more opportunities to overcome addiction seems light the right and humane thing to do.

    I agree that if we’re going to outsource production of commodities, we should outsource much more to Latin American countries including Mexico. This would raise prices compared to production costs in some other parts of the world, but reduce shipping costs from places such as China and that would be a plus for the environment. Government at all levels in Mexico may have its warts, but overall the level of civil freedom and rule of law in Mexico is vastly superior to those of China. For example Mexico does not butcher religious minorities the way China butchers Tibetans, Uigar Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners. Unlike China, Mexico has freedom of speech and a free press. I have witnessed labor protests and the strong indigenous movement that exists in parts of Mexico. In so many ways Mexico’s geopolitical interests are much more closely aligned with the US than are those of the Chinese, who aspire to be a world power and may well succeed in becoming one to the detriment of much of the world.

    My final point is that the Mexicans are our neighbors. If NAFTA is to continue, it should work out as well for them as it does for us. My heart goes out to Mexican people who live in fear of their lives because of the drug cartels. We need to do much more to help put them out of business.

  17. 20

    Mike spews:

    @16
    “Actually, Mexico is not considered an enemy.
    Our “border” states ar 3rd world?”

    What is ar?

    Should have said, border cities. Actually you need to use spell check I have no time to do so.

  18. 22

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @19 Mudbay

    Good post!

    Some of us remember Lyndon Johnson’s “Alliance for Progress.” Now would be a good time to bring that back!

    Some keys:

    Western Hemisphere Energy Plan … We have wonderful resources from the Artic to the Antartic, IFF we can use them fairly.

    Cuba Returns … We need to grow up. Cuba is about as much a threat to us as Quebec. Our motto should be “One Hemisphere, Many Systems, Mutual Respect.”

    Mexico as more than a “most” favored nation. Mexico has many resources, including cheap labor and, perhaps solar and geothermal energy, that make it a natural partner to the US. If we share an effort at improving the infrastructure … electrical grid, internet, trains, and roads … Mexico could become a hell of a lot better trading partner than China. China has huge transportation costs, little domestic energy, and a political system easily as difficult as Mexico’s. Also we compete for world power with China, but not with Mexico.

    Spanish Our Second Language. This makes even more sense that Canada’s adoption of French. We should not change English as our legal language but a national effort to learn Spanish costs very little and would have huge bennies.

    Metricicize the USA. The French Revolution is long over. They won the war over the inch.

    ATO … we need an American version of NATO a lot more then we need NATO. BTW, we should join our steak eating bethren and get the Brits to leave the ffin Falklanhds to us Mericans!

  19. 24

    slingshot spews:

    When you consider that something like 600 people die every day in the US from diabetes, it really seems absurd for the gubment to be controlling pot.

    Stamp out sugar, by god!

    @22, PTB SJ TD, and don’t forget tequila, man. They have agave.

  20. 25

    Michael spews:

    We need to take a look at why Americans have such a huge desire for drugs. Our per capita drug use is higher than anywhere else in the 1st world by a long shot. Same with porn.

    Why are so many Americans so miserable that they need to constantly escape from their lives.

    From a Richard Rodriguez essay on PBS:

    http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb.....09-30.html
    U.S. officials estimate that as much as $15 billion a year flows from the United States to Mexican suppliers.

    Mexican officials point out that most of the cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines, and heroin in Mexico is destined for points north, not for domestic consumption.

    Who in America is asking, “Why?” Why are Americans so sad?

    We need drugs to escape loneliness. We need drugs to tolerate company. We need drugs to feel and drugs to keep from feeling. We need drugs to fall asleep and drugs to get out of bed. Why?

    Our politicians, and moviemakers, and Evangelical ministers, and doctors, and professors are not asking that question of America. Only the Mexicans ask.

  21. 26

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @24 slingshot

    Sugar does not cause diabetes.

    Type 1 results from a viral infection.

    Type 2 is more complex, related to obesity and high blood pressure.

  22. 27

    _ spews:

    So, let’s get this straight for those paying attention. Unemployment and a worsening economy are going to drive demand up according to lee. In the thread it is suggested we take away money from these illegal operations by lessening consumer purchasing of the drug.

    Voila, bad economy = problem solved. But somehow lee thinks there will be MORE money going to drugs. Please edumacate us from the land of liberal fairy tale economics please Lee.

  23. 28

    new left conservative #1 spews:

    Hi all,

    #27 assumes that demand for all products decreases during a recession, which is certainly not the case. Didn’t I just hear that Walmart sales are up? Lee was only assuming that “illicit” drug sales would go up due to higher unemployment among the young folks already predisposed to buy them and that seems like a reasonable assumption.

    The Mexican cartels will certainly penetrate ever deeper into the United States and there is and will be no defeating them using the tired old “War on Drugs” model.

    Luckily there is a model that works, however, and it’s what we used right here in the US to end a similar regime of gang violence and governmental corruption. All that had to be done was to end the “War on Alcohol” (Prohibition.)

    Isn’t it better to have a few folks legally snorting cocaine and shooting up heroin rather than lose our democracy in a hail of bullets? That’s the choice we have, but we’re collectively too brainwashed to see it and our unwillingness to focus on what’s going on in Mexico is the denial part of that.

    Thanks Lee for trying to inject some reason and sanity.

    New Left Conservative #1

  24. 29

    spews:

    @28
    Thanks, we have a lot of people around here who think they’re a lot sharper than they really are. And also thanks to freebeezy at #17, Mud Baby at #19 and Michael at #25 for your good comments.

    Yes, drug abuse tends to increase in bad economic times, and it’s addiction that really drives drug markets, much moreso than recreational use.

  25. 30

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @28 New Ledt Conservative

    Small correction

    #27 assumes that demand for all products decreases during a recession, which is certainly not the case. Didn’t I just hear that Walmart sales are up?

    “Demand” refers to total demand, not demand at the lowest price vendor which should, one assumes, increase when folks can not afford the servive, quality, and convenience that justifies higher priced vendors.

  26. 31

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    That said, I suspect Lee is correct that drug use will increase if nothing is done.

    Where i have more trouble is with the idea that all drugs can be legalized. The illegalization of marijuana has never had a rational basis, It would make as much sense to illegalize coffee or chocolate, both of which have strong psychoactive effects.

    Opiates are a much harder issue because they are physically addictive. Of course this is also true for antidepressants. If you use the latter as a model, we control their use by prescription for illness. We could … and I think do now … legalize opiates for treatment of addiction or come up with some non-recreational diagnosis. However, my understanding is that methadone, a prescribed opiate, is not effective in reducing use of illegal opiates.

    Lee, you know a lot about this. How effective is methadone NOT in treating addiction, but as a substittue in the market?

  27. 32

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @29 Yes,

    drug abuse tends to increase in bad economic times, and it’s addiction that really drives drug markets, much moreso than recreational use.

    Can you support this with evidence? Or do yo mean something different about addiction than physical addiction?

    I know that marijuana is not physically addictive. In this case its use is simply because folks enjoy the effect … really no different than eating chocolates.

    That is very different than heroin. Do you think if we had an effective drug that treated physical addiction to heroin, the market would go away?

  28. 33

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @25 Michael

    I am not so sure Rodriguez essay is not tainted by concervative hype. I have know many people whyo take drugs, legal and illegal, who certainly are not sad.

    Lee is a pot user, do you think this is a pathologic behavior or just something he enjoys?

    Many folks I know take pain relievers chronically for real problems with pain (try living with a bad back without drugs!).

    What is certainly true is that WE create the demand that drives the traffic in Mexico.

  29. 34

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @34

    In day-to-day life the best thing you can do for folks in Latin America is shun coke users. Buying coke should carry the same social stigma as buying diamonds from South Africa during Apartheid. (Obviously Apartheid and the drug war are different; however, the end result is similar: the misery of millions.)

    This is an interesting perspective. The only problem I can see is that it is antithetical to the stands of the pro-legalization crowd. I doubt, for example, that most marijuana users know whether their drug comes form licit or illicit sources.

    I am a big fan of fixing the easy parts of problems. It seems to me that marijuana is so well proven to be harmless (at least relative to a lot of legal drugs) that the only issue there may be political. Coke may fall into a similar category though it is NOT harmless.

    Addictive and major psychoactive drugs are much harder to deal with. With apologies to WC Fields, “Take antidepressants, please.” A lot of Americans take these powerful drugs and I beleive they do so on scrip. Moreover, once one uses these drugs, as with opiates, withdrawal is difficult. What would would happen if we made Prozac illegal?

  30. 35

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @19 Mudbaby

    I will join Lee is seconding your post. Rationalism!

    One question of fact. Is it really true that most Mexican weaponry comes from the US? Is it even tru that most guns sold in the US are made here? Not t be funny, but ot wold be tragic if the last refuge of US manufacturing was thesix shooter!

    Imagine the headlines in 5 years,

    Colt Requests Government Bailout

    The conservatives would blame Colt’s problems on Obama era requirements to cut back on the use of carbon in gun powder!

  31. 37

    _ spews:

    New Left Conservative said:
    #27 assumes that demand for all products decreases during a recession, which is certainly not the case. Didn’t I just hear that Walmart sales are up?

    No there is no assumption that demand decreases. What decreases is capital! Duh… My goodness how dense are you people. If people can’t pay their house, their credit cards, their car payments, their rising food, their gas prices as we are to believe from the media and usual collective HA ignorance, then what money exactly are they using to buy drugs?

    God help us if you leftists can’t figure out that a worsening economy means less available capital.

    Perhaps that could be Obama’s bailout plan! Fund the drug cartels and people can buy drugs on credit! Way to go Blowbama. (see that, it’s a pun. Coke = Blow + Obama: Blowbama! And this is a drug thread. I slay me…)

  32. 38

    spews:

    @37
    No there is no assumption that demand decreases. What decreases is capital! Duh… My goodness how dense are you people. If people can’t pay their house, their credit cards, their car payments, their rising food, their gas prices as we are to believe from the media and usual collective HA ignorance, then what money exactly are they using to buy drugs?

    But drugs cost less than things like car payments and mortgages. So while the amount of capital overall is shrinking, just like low-cost outfits like Wal-Mart and McDonald’s, drug distribution networks will just end up with a larger percentage of the overall pie.

    Think about the amount of money that a homeless addict spends on drugs (much of which he might get from panhandling or theft). In theory, he could take all that money and make rent. But he doesn’t. The amount of people who end up in that situation increases in bad economic times.

  33. 39

    correctnotright spews:

    @26: Not quite Seattle Jew

    Sugar does not cause diabetes.

    Type 1 results from a viral infection.

    Type 2 is more complex, related to obesity and high blood pressure.

    While a viral infection may be implicated as a possible cause of Type I – many people with that viral infection never get Type I – so that is an incorrect statement. There needs to be the proper genetics (Class II DQ3.2) and the proper cell mediated response also. Oversimplifying is just wrong.

    As far as type II diabetes causes – diet and exercise are the key components (along with some genetic factors). Sugar and a diet high in simple carbohydrates with a lack of exercise may certainly be said to be a major factor in Type II diabetes. High blood pressure is probably more of a co-morbidity and elevated blood pressure may make worsen the pathology of Type II – but is probably NOT causal.

  34. 40

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @39

    Type one diabetes is due to an autoimmune disorder that occurs when a viral infection results in presentation of an antigen that is similar to a property of islet cells. The virus onlky does this in particular genetic groups due to the genes involved in recognizing antigenes. There are other less common causes but AFIK, sugar is not among them.

    Type two diabetes is poorly understood and has a number of etiologies. In general type II is the result not necessarily a loss of Islet cells per se but to a body need for insulin that exceeds the level of production or the senitivity of your cells to insulin. Diet certainly is one factor, certainly this is true if by diet you mean caloric intake.

    If there is any evidence that sugar per se causes diabetes, I have not seen it and would welcome a reference.

  35. 41

    Proud to be SeattleJew Today spews:

    @38

    I think all Les is saying is that in depserate time people value drugs more highly than flat screen TVs or first run movies.

  36. 42

    Jesus spews:

    Alcohol is a million dollar market, if not billions, but it certainly fucks up more people than THC/Weed does… Why is it legal and other drugs aren’t? Who benefits from this? And why are jails all over the planet full of druggies instead of criminals? Not to mention the real trafficers are free and swimming in money that could have been taxed and used for so many other things instead of supporting the Narco gangs and buying weapons, bribing politicians, etc…

    God!

  37. 43

    My Goldy Itches spews:

    Its not just Mexicans in Mexico that are being victimized. I grew up in Chula Vista, CA….south of San Diego about 5 miles from the border and from all the press I read in the San Diego Union-Tribune, there have been many Mexican-Americans (see US citizens) who have been murdered or kidnapped by the cartels…..on US soil! What we are seeing is a battle for control of the drug trafficking market, hence the daily body count in Tijuana. Its sad to see, I used to to Tijuana, or “TJ” as its called locally, all time time. It was like going to another part of town almost, save for the 80 million cars in line at the border coming back. Now, I wouldn’t step foot into TJ.