The War for Drugs

Pardon me for kicking a hemisphere when it’s down, but our government has been willfully ignorant about Mexico for decades, and so have our newspapers. This week’s slaughter of nine women and children in Sonora did not “shock” Mexico. It was business as usual.

Dragon at Chichén Itzá.

The Mexican government knows who the drug cartel leaders are, and where they are. It could kill them all in a week if it wanted — but it doesn’t want to.

Would you kill the goose that laid golden eggs right into your bank account?

I could name names, but I ain’t gonna, because I don’t want to die yet. But when we talk about a drug war in Mexico, we must understand that it’s not a war against drugs: It’s a war for drugs.

This war is waged not just by the drug cartels, but by the Mexican Army, the Federal Judicial Police and State Judicial Police.

My information comes from a quarter-century of living on the border, most of it as a news reporter or editor, including a stint as a news correspondent in Mexico.

When it comes to our phony drug war, only the names and death count change.

I remember the day a friendly man approached me at a newsstand in Sonora and said in fluent English: “Hello, Robert. How did your interview with ***** go yesterday?”

“Excuse me?” I said, bundle of newspapers and magazines under an arm.

“Give my regards to ***** when you see him tomorrow.”

“Who are you?”

The man smiled. He was about my age. He looked like the old comedian Avery Schreiber. Nice suit but no tie. “I’m the guy who’s assigned to you,” he said. “Just so you know.”

I liked the guy. He seemed honest — not threatening at all. Just wising me up.

Right around then, Mexico staged a giant raid on two ranches in Sonora, with machine-gunners rappelling down from army helicopters and all. They arrested two ranching families who had nothing to do with drugs. In between their two ranches was a ranch that belonged to the Caro Quinteros. Untouched. What a coincidence.

Here’s another one.

During my stint as a border editor, a certain fellow in northern Mexico was supposed to be the Most Wanted Man around, after a massacre in a clinic and godnose how many tons of drugs smuggled. Well, an unimpeachable [sic] source saw our Most Wanted Man at [a public sports event] in *****. The drug lord stood up and stretched his arms out, palms up, looked around, and shrugged.

“Here I am,” he was saying. “Who wants to catch me?”

Here’s one more. After the Mexican army murdered San Antonio Express-News reporter Philip True in 1998, after he stumbled onto a drug plantation the army was guarding, the United States complained — about the dead U.S. citizen, not about the Mexican army guarding a poppy plantation. So Mexico arrested a couple of poor farmers and tortured them until they confessed.
I could go on, but why?

I love the Mexican people and their land. But I do not love its government and I hate its police. I’ll tell you for a fact that no one in Mexico with half a brain would call the Mexican police for anything, unless it was to get their load back.

After the massacre of women and children this week on the Sonora-Chihuahua border, Donald Trump offered to send the U.S. Army to Mexico to fight the drug war.

If proof were needed at this late date of Trump’s abysmal ignorance, there it is.

The U.S. government must immediately cut off all aid to all of Mexico’s security forces, and redirect the money to programs for poor people, above all in Southern Mexico.

That would help reduce emigration.

And since most of the murders committed in Mexico come from guns that were bought in the United States, some reasonable security checks on gun purchases here would probably reduce the murder rate in Mexico, and here too.

Sounds a hell of a lot better idea than sending the Seventh Cavalry into Mexico.

(In memory of the late Chuck Bowden.)

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