Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Felipe Calderón is right.

  Joel HillikerColumnist
The Biggest Drug Addict in the World
June 23, 2010 | From

Listen up, America. Last week Mexico’s president printed a 5,000-word editorial in newspapers across his country. Felipe Calderón pleaded with Mexicans to support the war against drugs he initiated 3½ years ago.
What prompted his cry for help? A shocking spree of violence.
In the second week of June, one newspaper reported a new record of drug-related killings in a 24-hour period: 85. By the following Monday, that 24-hour record was shattered with 96 killings in seven states.
On June 10, two dozen gunmen burst into a drug rehabilitation facility in Chihuahua, ironically called Faith and Life. There, they executed 19 patients ranging in age from 16 to 63. One teenager frantically called home on his cell phone, shouting, “Mommy, they’ve come to kill us!”
Last Monday, the deadliest day ever, prisoners in rival gangs assailed each other in the Mazatlan jail with knives, pistols and an assault rifle, leaving 29 people dead. The same day, assassins blocked a highway with burning buses and murdered a dozen federal officers in their convoy and wounded eight more. Three other officers died elsewhere that day.
The very next day, 14 gunmen were killed when Mexican troops raided a house in Taxco, a popular tourist town. Mexican marines battled criminals in the coastal resort city of Acapulco. And in Tepic, a nondescript strip mall became a killing zone for 20 minutes, taking the lives of eight presumed cartel gunmen and one policeman.
This is merely the bloody capstone on years of escalating mayhem. In the 3½ years of Calderón’s war, more than 23,000 people have died in drug-related violence. In Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, about seven people are killed in drug-related violence every day. Almost 1,200 have died so far this year.
For perspective: The entire coalition in Afghanistan has had 1,855 fatalities in the nearly 10 years it has been warring there.
Calderón also assigned blame for the massacres in his country: the United States drug user.
“The origin of our violence problem begins with the fact that Mexico is located next to the country that has the highest levels of drug consumption in the world,” he wrote. “It is as if our neighbor were the biggest drug addict in the world.”
He’s right.
About 20 million Americans—8 percent of the population—use illegal drugs, the government estimates. The dollars they pay to maintain their self-destructive habits—what the United Nations said in 2009 was $142 billion a year (44 percent of global consumption)—are funding a world of evil.
America is the world’s largest cocaine consumer, and about 90 percent of what is sold in the United States comes from Mexico. And most of the distribution networks into and throughout the U.S. are dominated by Mexican criminal groups, according the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs.
Thanks to the American drug user, drug lords are running gigantic and sophisticated smuggling operations, with cross-border tunnels nine stories underground, and semi-submersible vessels that evade radar. A 2009 year-long, multi-agency investigation in Arizona exposed one organization bringing a billion dollars’ worth of marijuana into the U.S. via heavy-duty camouflaged trucks; drivers wore night vision goggles so they could drive in the dark through the desert without headlights; scouts lived in the mountains for weeks on end radioing directives and warnings to drivers.
The cartels also use these routes to smuggle people. They sell their services to various groups for exorbitant fees, who turn around and extort money from the illegals traveling into the States. At hundreds of drop houses in American cities, immigrants are mistreated, tortured, raped—so criminals can extract ransoms from their families. “This is modern-day slavery of terrible proportions,” says Arizona state Sen. Jonathan Paton. Slavery made possible, again, by dollars from drug users.
This is a “made in America” problem. We are funding it all. Mexico’s narcothugs would all be out of business if they didn’t live next door to the world’s most voracious drug-consuming market.
Drug users say, My decisions are my business—I’m not hurting anyone else.
That’s a lie. Their decisions are facilitating a massive arms trade, paying for kidnappings and murders, enabling smuggling operations and the traffic of human beings, and threatening the Mexican government.
Some towns have seen their entire police forces quit out of fear of the gangs. Alternatively, cartels invest some of those American billions into putting the authorities on their payroll. Lethal violence and filthy riches go a long way in harassing and bribing government officials into compliance.
When that happens enough, the state ceases to function as a state. The rule of law turns into the law of the jungle. The U.S. State Department warns Americans traveling to Mexico that they could face the “equivalent to military small-unit combat” if they cross the border.
Now these evils are spilling back over into the States. Americans are getting kidnapped and killed in violence paid for by these self-indulgent American drug users. About 3,500 acres of southern Arizona along the Mexican border is now closed to U.S. citizens due to increased violence against U.S. law enforcement and citizens. A local sheriff said the situation was “literally out of control.”
On June 9, a massive drug investigation culminated in a 15-state sweep that resulted in the arrest of 429 suspects and seizure of nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana, 247 pounds of cocaine, $5.8 million in U.S. currency, and 141 weapons. During its 22 months, the investigation netted 62 tons of marijuana, 2.2 tons of cocaine and about a thousand pounds of methamphetamines. The same day, police in Laredo, Texas, seized 147 AK-47 assault rifles and 10,000 rounds of ammunition bound for Mexico.
Last year, the National Drug Intelligence Center said that Mexican cartels are entrenched in at least 230 American cities. For years, they have subcontracted distribution of drugs to local American street gangs. But as they have grown in power thanks to the enormous and increasing cash flow from U.S. drug users, they are cutting out the middlemen and raking in higher profits, enabling them to expand their filthy business even more.
And it’s not just the border cities. They’re as far north as Wisconsin and Alaska, bringing their criminal culture with them.
Unless something changes, the economics suggest that Mexico’s war for survival may be a lost cause. Mexico’s counternarcotics efforts are funded by its oil exports. These revenues, on which the government heavily depends, and are trending downward nearly a quarter from their peaks, which occurred in 2004 and have fallen every year since. Even if Mexico City was able to maintain current levels of funding, it’s deadlocked with the drug runners, and their incomes are booming.
A single individual, Joaquin Guzman of the Sinaloa drug cartel, personally has over $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine last year, which ranked him the 41st most powerful person in the world.
Mexico is locked in a civil war—a life-and-death struggle—a battle for survival. It is spreading into the U.S. like an aggressive cancer.
Behold the ugly effects of American drug users’ self-induced slavery.