The drug war in Mexico must become a serious issue on the American policy agenda. Not only for humanitarian reasons; the deaths of 15,000 people in the last year alone should be enough of a neighbourly reason to get involved.
The drug war in Mexico is an American war, the only difference being those fighting and those who are dying happen to almost be exclusively Mexican. So what's the link? Aside from the obvious fact of Americans using and abusing drugs controlled by Mexican cartels, Americans also happen to be arming these same cartels. And not just with petty firearms, but now AK-47s and AR-15s. That's some serious weaponry.
Most recently, there has been the "Fast and Furious" disaster which involved the transfer of some 2,020 firearms to the Sinaloa Drug Cartel (which is also partnered with the ruthless Los Zetas cartel, responsible for a majority of the most violent murders) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) beginning as early as 2009. The ATF, amongst other liaising agencies, never had a practical plan to track any of the weapons. As soon as the guns fell into the hands of the Sinaloa cartel members, they were deemed lost. A number of those guns have reappeared in violent crime scenes.
Even before Fast and Furious, this past September, American customs agents in Texas seized 30 high powered assault rifles when they searched a car heading into Mexico. This was said to be the largest gun bust at the American-Mexican border this year. This news is significant. But it shouldn't be surprising.
In 2009 the U.S. Government Accountability Office made a report to congress: over 90 per cent of firearms seized in Mexico and traced over the past three years have come from the U.S.. 40 per cent of those firearms are coming from Texas. The government is aware that American guns are travelling into the hands of very dangerous people, however nothing is really done. Rick Perry has spoken of a potential American involvement in Mexico, complete with sending troops over the border and maintaining order. But is this effective? Basic firearms are smuggled in a very unique way. Law abiding American citizens with clean criminal records are buying weapons from U.S. gun stores on behalf of Mexican cartel members. These Americans are called "straw purchasers." The cartel rewards the "straw purchaser" with cash after they have safely smuggled the firearms over the border.
But "straw purchasers" only are able to buy basic firearms from gun stores. One cannot buy serious militia machinery at a local Walmart. In 2008, an M26A2 fragmentation grenade was used against a U.S. consulate in Mexico. Automatic weapons, including a U.S.-made M16 was found at a cartel crime scene in May of 2009. So where are these weapons coming from?
According to leaked diplomatic cables uncovered by Fox News, there are three sources. First, the U.S. Defense Department's shipments to Latin America were known and tracked by the U.S. State Department as "foreign military sales." Seems fishy. Second, weapons were ordered by the Mexican government and tracked by the State Department as "direct commercial sales". Getting fishier. And finally, there are arsenals of military weapon stores in Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. What's really incredible is despite the measures the US government will take against the selling of drugs, they won't limit or respond to the selling of high grade American weapons to a group of international criminal murderers.
If it was discovered that the U.S. government was turning a blind eye to sales of weapons to Hamas, or Somali militants, this would be a much more serious issue with much more public attention and would result in a call for action. So why is this happening undetected? The Sinaloa cartel has strong connections within the Mexican government, and thus is able to influence and control Mexican policy. It also doesn't help that some cartels pretend to be individual militant groups attempting to rid their neighbourhoods of gang influence and control. The Mata Zeta group at first glance seemed romantic -- a group of concerned and fed up civilians taking justice into their own hands and defending their families. In reality, the Mata Zetas are ruthless killers using a very old and very good rule of PR: if you pretend that you are doing it for the people, those who are less informed will automatically give you the sympathy vote. There is a reason why the Mexican government has arrested numerous amounts of the group's members. However, the selling of detrimental weapons to small militant Latin American groups isn't unusual in American policy making, remember selling of weapons to the Contras in Nicaragua.
The recent leaks of information regarding these weapon sales leads to some difficult decision making. Ideally and unrealistically, the solution is isolationist. Americans stop buying Mexican drugs, stop selling weapons and smuggling said weapons and then stop aiding the government and completely recluse into an isolationist relationship, allowing the Mexican government to freely take the steps they need to take to fight the cartels.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon has blamed America for the drug related problems now facing Mexico. Here he is wrong. Although there is shady American involvement within this drug war, the reality is that this is an unfortunate situation of Mexicans slaughtering Mexicans. The cartels are controlled by Mexican citizens, who, regardless of American ties, are still choosing to inflict this war and this violence on their own fellow citizens and neighbours. Although these cartels have expanded into Chicago, New York, Boston and Miami, they are based in Acapulco, Tijuana, and Mexico City. The violence really happens in Mexico, after all when was the last time a bunch of mutilated corpses were found in a garbage can in Boston? Or left on a highway in DC?
This drug war shouldn't exclusively be fighting the distribution and selling of drugs. The focus should shift to the elimination of these active cartel thugs. The current war on drugs is fighting for an intangible utopia of a world without drugs. Fighting a tangible enemy is much more effective, and much easier. Fighting the cartels puts a face to the evil. After all, worrying about a shipment of cocaine seems like a waste of time when murder, exploitation and kidnapping are running rampant and turning the current government, who is bravely attempting to thwart these cartels, into an unfunny joke. Attorney General Eric Holder seems unsympathetic to the cause, after all, his government only helped to arm the Sinaloa cartel, it's not like he bought coke from them.
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