Sunday, March 29, 2009

Breaking down the Mexican Drug War

It is interesting to see how quickly the debate about border security has become dominated by the issue of violence and drugs. I thought i was just hearing more about it because i became interested in the parallels between the drug war and the war on migrants, turning to narco news for information, which also resulted in me getting google news alerts on the merida initiative or plan mexico. I have several articles bookmarked, waiting for me to read so i can better understand the implications of the plan mexico and other responses to the violence and the drug trade.

The drug cartel violence has been in the news in the US more lately because Hillary Clinton went down to Mexico to talk about it, and Obama recently decided to send more agents down to the border. I believe that some people are mainly afraid of the violence touching US citizens. I believe there are other stronger political motivations for getting involved.

What i have made of it so far is that the violence has increased because the drug war in Columbia caused cartels to form or grow in mexico to transport the same cocaine, along with marijuana and other drugs. The political corruption in Mexico is well known. In fact, most people figure that in the war on drugs, it's just that one cartel has been favored over the others, leading to more access to resources and impunity and therefore more war over turf. Of course the mexican government would rather control the cartels, and several within the government probably want there to be no cartels. However, since illicit drugs are the number one source of revenue in Mexico, it's no wonder that so many people, from poor youths to police officers, to the president, and from what i hear even people in the US DEA, are involved in it.

An important part of this is Los Zetas, "former Mexican soldiers from an elite US-trained Special Forces team who deserted to work in the more lucrative drug trade". They were trained as death squads, and in torture at the School of Americas. "While Los Zetas started out as the Gulf cartel’s private army, they appear to be diversifying their operations. The DEA reported this year that it believes Los Zetas are attempting to break free from the Gulf cartel to form their own cartel... Los Zetas have entered the immigration industry in southern Mexico with relative ease and little resistance from other more established Mexican cartels." This and more information can be found at "Wall of Violence" on Mexico's Southern Border by Kristin Bricker. See also: US created monsters: Zetas and Kaibiles death squads by Brenda Norrell.

Despite knowing that Los Zetas were trained by the US and now are involved in the violence of the drug war that the US is so concerned about, the government wants to provide more resources and training to the mexican army. This also despite the common knowledge of the corruption. Of course, this isn't so unusual since we know that Osama bin Laden and others were also trained by the US.

The bad decisions made under the guise of a war against drugs also fits the pattern of the previous failed attempts in the war against drugs in Columbia. Efforts have not been made to deal with the demand for drugs (legalization, decriminalization and/or treatment). I believe that everyone mainly wants drug cartels under control. Whether or not they really want to stop the drug trade is another story. In fact, there is much evidence that the US government, or at least certain individuals are directly involved in the drug trade.

What I am primarily concerned about is what the training, resources, and whatever else is going to the mexican army will mean for indigenous and rebellious communities in mexico. There are already too many examples of disappearings, murder, torture, imprisonment, and other abuses as it is. Zapatista communities have been invaded by soldiers claiming to be looking for marijuana plants, despite the communities having a policy against drugs and alcohol. See another case: Video: Plan Mexico threatens peaceful Mexican communities. See also EZLN Criticizes the Drug War.

I think it was John Ross's book Zapatistas: Making Another World Possible: Chronicles of Resistance 2000-2006 in which he described foreign investor's concern that the Mexican government get the Zapatistas under control after the uprising in 1994. US investors have a lot of stake in being able to exploit mexican people and resources. Something that could not continue if they were able to break free. It is likely not a coincidence that the huge uprising in Oaxaca occurred recently and now the US government is getting involved militarily to help maintain the stability of the the country. On a side note, i find it interesting that so many anti-immigrant folks would argue that migrants should go back to mexico to fight for a better country. I hope that if it came down to it, those people would protest any effort the US government makes to help the mexican government stop a rebellion. I don't see that happening.

The Merida Initiative will also benefit the military industrial complex by putting money into buying US-made aircraft and other technology, as Kristin Bricker describes in US Releases $90 million in Plan Mexico Military Hardware and Training.

This drug war is, in a way, already affecting people in the US. Sheriff Arpaio is giving as his primary reason for pulling over every brown-skinned driver, the fact that some undocumented immigrants are falling victim to those involved in drug and human trafficking in maricopa county. This is resulting in the undocumented immigrants who get caught up in the sweeps lingering in jail, detention centers, or being deported, in addition to getting abused, in some cases, by officers (although aside from broken arms, i'd call the whole operation abuse).

In addition, youth of color in the US may be further targeted in the drug war. According to Kristin BrickerGangs: New Target in the War on Drugs? "Since the US is the world's biggest drug market and Mexican drug trafficking organizations' primary source of weapons, US officials can't blame Latin America for all of its drug woes. So they're turning to gangs. The US government recently released three major drug-related reports: the National Drug Threat Assessment, the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, and the National Gang Threat Assessment. In all reports, gangs figure prominently in drug trafficking. The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report is broken down by country, and gangs feature prominently in almost every country report."

So the question is, what can be done? Although i never thought of myself as someone who would put effort into the legalization of drugs, this seems like a reasonable way to stop the drug cartels. In fact, i'm seeing more discussions about drug legalization in mainstream media and apparently El Paso's city council are talking about it as well. We know that the economic situation, as well as the natural corruptness of those in power are the main problem. People in the US need to bring to light was is really going on here, stop the Merida Initiative, and all militarization on the border, and in our communities. We need long term strategies fighting neo-liberal projects, capitalism, and the state in Mexico and the US.

Further reading:

US Police Train Mexican Police to Torture

Estado Fallido en México: Una justificación para la militarización (babel fish translation)

Why Plan Mexico will Crash and Burn

Video: Plan Mexico threatens peaceful Mexican communities

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