Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with a large U.S. delegation went to Mexico City yesterday and met with Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa and other officials to discuss the ‘drug crisis.’ Secretary Clinton recognized that the U.S. is part of the problem.
One statement from Secretary Clinton was candid: “The grim truth is that these murders are part of a much larger cycle of violence and crime that have impacted communities on both sides of the border.” (Los Angeles Times-U.S. pledges more help in Mexico drug war by Ken Ellingwood-March 23, 2010)
The focus is changing to get at the root causes of the drug problem. The economy is weak and social institutions have deteriorated. This would have to be on both sides of the border. “This new agenda expands our focus beyond disrupting drug trafficking organizations” to include “strengthening institutions, creating a 21st Century border, and building strong, resilient communities,” said Mrs. Clinton. (BBC News-U.S. to step up Mexico drugs effort-March 23, 2010)
The aid to Mexico by the U.S. is known as the Merida Initiative and is a $1.4 billion aid package over three years. Previously, it has been mainly military, such as helicopters, truck scanners and law enforcement training. Clinton wants to change the focus to strengthen community institutions and improve areas where the violence has been worst. (LA Times-ibid)
Ciudad Juarez is the most damaged city in Mexico from the drug wars. This is true because it’s believed to be a fundamental rendezvous point for illegal drugs to make their way into the U.S. from Mexico. Now the drug cartels rule this border town. Substantial numbers of citizens are moving out in droves; 116,000 homes have been abandoned and 400,000 people have fled the violence. (The Wall Street Journal-Cartel Wars Gut Juarez, a Onetime Boom Town by Nicholas Casey-March 20, 2010)
Juarez was once a thriving city when the North American Free Trade Agreement was a stimulus for the creation of assembly plants in the car industry, electronics and even toys. Since 2005, 10,600 businesses have closed their doors. This would comprise 40% of all businesses. Along with this, one third of all people, mainly the middle class, have abandoned the once bustling city. (The Wall Street Journal-ibid)
Not that anyone was paying that much attention (that’s a Mexican problem) until two American citizens (consular employee Lesley A. Enriquez and her husband, Arthur H. Redelfs) were killed on March 13th in Juarez. The problem is that the killers may be from the Barrio Aztecas gang, that operates out of El Paso, which is on the American side.
An increase in U.S. citizens killed as a result of these drug wars can be discerned. 79 Americans were killed in 2009 from 35 in 2007 and in Ciudad Juarez alone, 23 killed in 2009 from just two in 2007. It’s just not safe for Americans to go to Mexico now, and this is crushing the tourist trade in the border towns. But let’s not forget that 18,000 Mexicans have died since President Felipe Calderon declared war on the drug cartels in 2006. (SFGate.com – Mexico’s drug war takes growing toll on Americans by Mark Stevenson-March 20, 2010)
The 50,000 Mexican troops dispatched by Calderon in 2006 to deal with the drug cartels has not proven to be effective. At one time the military was the most trusted institution in Mexico, but now it has slipped to third place, behind the Roman Catholic Church and higher education. And complaints of human rights violations are at an all time high, 3,400 since December of 2006. (Los Angeles Times – Mexico military faces political risks over drug war by Ken Ellingwood-March 23, 2010)
So the military solution is not working. 7,000 troops patrol Juarez and this does nothing to stop the narco-traffickers. 5,350 deaths are related to this drug-trafficking in Juarez since 2006. The demand for illegal drugs in the U.S. is at an all time high. And this comes at a time when marijuana is practically legal, with medical marijuana outlets tolerated in so many cities. But the suppliers are still the gangster cartels.
Suddenly a light comes on and the Prohibition-Era gangster wars of the 1920s – ala Al Capone – come to mind. Only that was alcohol, not drugs. But more experts are seeing that legalizing drugs may be a better fix to the malaise of illegal drug trafficking and the endless cycle of violence associated with it. You might remember, a similar pattern of violence was associated with illegal booze. Don’t forget the St. Valentines’ Day Massacre in Chicago!
What is so shocking is that the drug cartels seem to have more power than the Mexican government or the military. They’re functioning as an alternative government. The pirates of old did this too in the late 17th century – you know, Captain Teach and Captain Kidd ruled the ocean blue. It’s the money behind it that is the source of power. $10 billion is the annual cash flow from U.S. consumers to the cartels.
Now the traffickers have their own gods to boot. Malverde grips his ‘fistful of dollars’ and a cowboy-hat-wearing San Simon are the patron-saints of these drug lords. The Virgin of the Guadeloupe and Virgin Mary effigy sales now come in second place to the Grim Reaper and Malverde. Time to reassess!