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Mexico Drug War Update


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#21 notsofasteddie

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Posted 23 December 2011 - 03:06 PM

Mexico Drug War Update

by Phillip Smith,
December 21, 2011

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 45,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year and approximately 13,000 this year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Tuesday, December 13

In Chihuahua, two bodyguards were killed during an attack on the public safety secretary of the town of Gran Morelos. Miguel Angel Gomez Carrera was wounded along with his wife and two children. The two bodyguards were following them in a pickup truck. Carrera has been in the position since November 21, when his predecessor was arrested with a known drug trafficker.

In Monterrey, eight people were murdered. In one incident, five young men were kidnapped, taken to a street corner, lined up against a wall and shot.

Thursday, December 15

In Saltillo, Coahuila, a series of fire fights left 10 people dead, including one soldier and one bystander. The violence began early in the afternoon when soldiers began chasing a convoy of armed men. During the gun battle, a woman was shot and suffered wounds from which she later died. One gunman was killed when his vehicle crashed. Three men were later arrested during a raid at a safe house in connection with the incident.

Later that night, seven gunmen and a soldier were killed in a fire fight.

Near Culiacan, two men were executed and dumped off the side of a highway. One of the men, Juan Guzman Rocha, "El Juancho" is reported to be a first cousin or nephew of Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman. He is also thought to be a member of Los Antrax, a group of Sinaloa Cartel enforcers.

In Zacatecas, armed men thought to be from the Sinaloa Cartel attacked targets in five towns, killing four people and wounded eight others. In one incident, armed men entered a hospital and threatened staff before taking away three men who were being treated there for wounds suffered earlier. Grenades were used in several of the attacks. In the town of Jerez, a convoy of 20 vehicles -- totaling around 70 gunmen -- briefly kidnapped and beat several local police officers before releasing them.

Friday, December 16

In Michoacan, the dismembered bodies of two men were found on a road in the municipality of Iguala. A note -- which was held in place by the two heads -- said that the men were executed for being kidnappers and extortionists.

Monday, December 19

In Durango, soldiers discovered a grave site containing 10 bodies. This is the 14th mass grave found in the state of Durango this year, totaling 287 bodies. Officials have said many of the killings are a result of an internal dispute within the Sinaloa Cartel.

In Mexico City, the army announced that between December 1, 2006 and December 19, 2011, soldiers had been involved in a total of 1,948 violent incidents with gunmen, in which a total of 126 soldiers and 2,268 gunmen were killed -- a 1:18 ratio. A total of 2,180 gunmen were captured and 348 wounded, compared to 744 soldiers wounded.

During that timeframe, the Army received 5,962 human rights complaints, for which 92 non-binding recommendations were issued by the governmental human rights commission.

Tuesday, December 20

In Arizona, authorities announced that some 200 alleged members of the Sinaloa Cartel were arrested following a 15-month investigation. Approximately $7.8 million dollars were seized, as well as 650 pounds of marijuana, 435 pounds of meth, 123 pounds of coke and 4.5 pounds of heroin, as well as over 40 weapons.

In Sinaloa, the former mayor of the town of Cosala was shot and killed in his home. He was mayor between 2008 and 2010.

Editor's Note: We have been conservatively estimating Mexican drug war deaths this year after El Universal quit publishing a box score. As of mid-November, we had estimated 8,100 deaths so far this year, but in light of new figures have revised that figure upward by about 3,000 deaths. Even that figure is an estimate, no more, until there is some official toll reported.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011 (approx.): 12,000

TOTAL: > 45,000


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#22 Organic Gardener

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Posted 24 December 2011 - 08:48 AM

good to know it's still failing . . .

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#23 notsofasteddie

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 07:23 PM

Mexico Drug War Update

by Phillip Smith,
January 04, 2012

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 45,000 people, including more than 15,000 last year and approximately 12,000 this year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrest or killing of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Thursday, December 22

In Veracruz, suspected Zetas attacked three passenger buses with gunfire and a grenade in an apparent robbery spree, killing eleven people. Three of the dead were later confirmed to be US citizens who were visiting relatives in Mexico for the holidays. The army later announced that it killed the five gunmen after they were shot at attempting to arrest them.

Friday, December 23

In Culiacan, army commandos captured the head of security for the Sinaloa Cartel. Felipe Cabrera Sarabia, "The Engineer," is thought to have run cartel operations in Durango and in part of Chihuahua. No shots were fired during the arrest operation. Over the course of 2011, Cabrera was involved in a bloody dispute with another Sinaloa Cartel faction in the state of Durango.

In the port of Manzanillo, authorities seized 21 metric tons of precursor chemicals used to produce crystal meth on a ship headed towards Guatemala.

In Tampico Alto, Veracruz, ten bodies were discovered. The bodies all bore signs of having been tortured and several were decapitated.

In Los Mochis, Sinaloa, three decapitated bodies were discovered at a location where the body of a municipal police officer was found on December 18th.

Saturday, December 24

In Michoacan, the body of a teenage American citizen was found in the trunk of a burned car along with two others. The teenager, Alex Uriel Marron, 18, was reportedly from the Chicago area and visiting family in the village of Quiringuicharo.

In Saltillo, Coahuila, three gunmen were killed in a fire fight with police. A fourth person was wounded. Several assault rifles were confiscated from a car in which the gunmen were traveling.

Sunday, December 25

In Tamaulipas, authorities discoved 13 bodies in an abandoned truck just across the state border from Veracruz. A banner left with the bodies indicated that the killings were due to an ongoing cartel battle for control of the Veracruz region.

Tuesday, December 27

In Mexico City, the leader of a small cartel was arrested at the airport. Luis Rodriguez Olivera, "Whitey," is thought to have been head of the "Blondies" Organization which has been allied to several larger cartels. US authorities were offering a $5 million reward for his capture, and accuse him and a brother of smuggling cocaine and meth to the US and to Europe.

In Nuevo Leon, police discovered seven bodies buried in a shallow pit or in a well. The bodies, which were found in Linares and Montemorelos, were discovered using information provided by a group of captured kidnappers alleged to be Zetas.

In Sinaloa, a former high-ranking federal police official was sentenced to 10 years for helping the Sinaloa Cartel. Javier Herrera Valles was arrested in 2008, although the arrest was controversial because he had recently accused some of his commanding officers of corruption or incompetence.

Wednesday, December 28

In Michoacan, six gunmen were killed in two separate clashes with the army. In the first, which took place Wednesday night, three men were killed after encountering an army patrol in the Buenavista Tomatlan area. Later, early Thursday morning, another three were killed in a nearby village. All the dead men are thought to be members of the Knights Templar Organization, which is active in the area. In 2011, troops in 21st military district in Michoacan shot dead a total of 91 gunmen from several organizations.

In Ciudad Juarez, a leading cartel enforcer was arrested by police. Arturo Bautista, 31, "El Mil Amores," is thought to be a high-ranking member of La Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juarez Cartel. It is unclear, however, if that is his real name. He has been identified as a resident of El Paso, Texas. Bautista was arrested along with three other men after the murder of a woman whom police say was thought to have been passing intelligence to a rival criminal group.

Friday, December 30

In Veracruz, the Zetas hung up a banner stating they were not responsible for the December 22 bus attacks which killed at least seven people, including three US citizens. The banners claim that corrupt police officers were responsible for the attacks.

In Coahuila, seven suspected Zetas were captured by the army on the Saltillo-Torreon highway. One of the men was identified as a high-ranking member, but the army has so far not identified him.

Saturday, December 31

In Ciudad Juarez, at least four people were murdered in several incidents. According to researcher Molly Molloy, this brings the city’s 2011 homicide numbers to 1,980 for the year. This is nearly 40% lower than the 3,622 murders that took place in 2010, but still considerably higher than the 2008 total of 1,623. In total, since 2007, 10,299 homicides have taken place in Ciudad Juarez. February was the bloodiest month in 2011, with 231 murders having taken place.

Sunday, January 1

In Mexico City, the National Human Rights Commission said that they concluded that five men held in connection with a July 2010 car bombing in Ciudad Juarez had been tortured to obtain confessions. They recommended that six federal police officers and a doctor be questioned in relation with the incident. The men were also accused of the killings of two federal agents. Although cleared in those incidents, the men remain incarcerated on narcotics and weapons charges.

Tuesday, January 3

In Sonora, at least five people were murdered. In one incident, the bodies of three young men were found on the side of a highway. In another part of the state, two men were found dead in a bullet-riddled truck. Several weapons, including an AK-47 were found in the truck.

Drug-related violence was confirmed in at least six other states, with nine people confirmed dead.

[Editor's Note: Our 2011 estimated death toll is 12,150, pending the release of official figures.Our new 2012 death toll is also an estimate.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Total Body Count for 2011 (approx.): 12,150

Total Body Count for 2012: (approx.) 15

TOTAL: > 46,000

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#24 notsofasteddie

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Posted 02 February 2012 - 06:48 AM

Mexico Drug War Update

by Phillip Smith,
February 01, 2012

Mexican drug trafficking organizations make billions each year smuggling drugs into the United States, profiting enormously from the prohibitionist drug policies of the US government. Since Mexican president Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006 and called the armed forces into the fight against the so-called cartels, prohibition-related violence has killed more than 50,000 people, including more than 15,000 in 2010 and another 15,000 last year. The increasing militarization of the drug war and the arrests or killings of dozens of high-profile drug traffickers have failed to stem the flow of drugs -- or the violence -- whatsoever. The Merida initiative, which provides $1.4 billion over three years for the US to assist the Mexican government with training, equipment and intelligence, has so far failed to make a difference. Here are a few of the latest developments in Mexico's drug war:

Thursday, January 26

In Ciudad Juarez, a man was shot and killed inside a restaurant in front of dozens of customers. Several people who were with the victim ran from the scene.


Friday, January 27

In Nuevo Laredo, four gunmen and a soldier were killed during a fire fight. The incident began when gunmen traveling in six vehicles opened fire on an army patrol. Five soldiers were wounded and taken to a local hospital.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least ten people were murdered in several incidents. Ten more would be killed on Saturday.


Saturday, January 28

In Torreon, five people were gunned down by a group of men wielding assault rifles. Four other individuals were wounded in the incident.

In Monterrey, three bodies were found dead along with a message from a criminal organization.


Monday, January 30

In Sinaloa, the commander of army forces in the state said that marijuana and poppy growers have been severely hampered by drought and that his forces are detecting fewer grow sites than in previous years. Another army spokesman said that the drought did not mean a drop-off in overall cartel production.

In Nuevo Leon, police announced the capture of a suspected Zeta who allegedly confessed to killing 75 people, at least 36 of whom were taken from passenger buses. Enrique Elizondo Flores, "El Arabe," was arrested on January 20 but authorities say they delayed the announcement to give them time to verify his claims. Over 90 people were killed in three bus attacks thought to have been carried out by the Zetas in January and March 2011.

In Ciudad Juarez, at least seven people were killed. In one incident, three gunmen were killed in a fire fight after attacking the police. At least eight municipal police officers have been killed in January in attacks that have been blamed on the New Juarez Cartel. In other incidents, a couple was murdered in an industrial park, a man was shot dead on a bus, and a body was found in a car after having been kidnapped on Sunday.

In Guasave, Sinaloa, three soldiers were killed during a fire fight with armed men. According to reports, an army patrol was chasing several vehicles with armed men who resisted. Several gunmen were also reported killed but the bodies were taken away. A pickup truck and several weapons were left abandoned at the scene. After the shooting, a tense standoff took place between soldiers and municipal police forces, who had ignored distress calls from the soldiers involved in the shooting.

In Monterrey, seven suspected Zetas were arrested on kidnapping and other charges. Two victims were rescued from their safe house.


Tuesday, January 31

In Mexico City, a top official confirmed that an army general and 29 of his troops are on trial for crimes they committed while operating in the Ojinaga, Chihuahua border area in 2008 and 2009. General Manuel Moreno and his underlings are accused of committing at least 10 killings and reselling seized narcotics, as well as stealing property during raids. They were originally charged in August 2009.

Off the coast of California, a motorboat laden with over a ton of marijuana was intercepted by authorities. Three Mexican nationals were arrested.

In Mexico City, Mexican prosecutors announced that three former Tamaulipas governors are being investigated. Authorities have declined to say why exactly the men are being investigated, however.

[Editor's Note: We are no longer going to keep a running tally of the death toll; the figures are too unreliable. The latest figures below were released by the Mexican government in January.]

Total Body Count for 2007 (approx.): 4,300

Total Body Count for 2008 (approx.): 5,400

Total Body Count for 2009 (approx.): 9,600

Total Body Count for 2010 (official): 15,273

Partial Body Count for 2011 (official): 12,093*

Total Body Count (official): 47,705*

* Official figures through September 30, 2011. Unofficial estimates put the entire year's death toll at around 16,000, meaning more than 50,000 people had been killed by the end of 2011.


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#25 p_light420

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Posted 27 February 2012 - 12:27 AM

Here is a great website full of information about the Mexican drug cartels and all of the most current drug war news out of Mexico. Things are not getting better down there.

http://www.borderlandbeat.com/

Most recently, a prison riot in the state of Nuevo Leon has left 44 inmates dead and unknown numbers escaped. The story is that prison guards had been bribed by the paramilitary style criminal organization known as Los Zetas to allow access from the cell block holding Zetas affiliates to the cell block holding prisoners associated with their main rival, the Gulf cartel. A riot ensued in which some inmates escaped.

The Mexican government has announced that it will build 8 new prisons in response to this incident. How will more prisons address the problem of rampant government corruption?

What can you as an American or Canadian do about it?
1. If you must buy marijuana, only buy it from domestic sources whenever possible, such as medical dispensaries (where available) or good people who grow their own.
2. Grow your own marijuana.
3. NEVER use or buy cocaine, as almost all of it is distributed through Mexican drug cartels.
4. NEVER buy or use methamphetamine because much of it is now manufactured and distributed by Mexican drug cartels.

I feel that marijuana is a major cash cow for all of the violent cartels, because it is the most widely used illegal drug in the world and it is easily grown in most parts of Mexico. The amount of marijuana that is seized by law enforcement on the border far outweighs all other drugs, which leads me to believe that it is the number one money maker for the cartels. While drugs such as cocaine and meth have a much higher profit margin, they are not as widely used as marijuana. This is just speculation, as there are many factors to consider, such as the ease at which marijuana can be detected due to it's bulk and it's odor. This is just what I think.

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#26 notsofasteddie

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Posted 28 February 2012 - 07:01 AM

Review Essay: The Border and Mexico's Drug Wars

by Phillip Smith,
February 27, 2012

Border Junkies: Addiction and Survival on the Streets of Juarez and El Paso, by Scott Comar (2011, University of Texas Press, 214 pp., $24.95 PB)

Border Wars, by Tom Barry (2011, MIT Press, 171 pp., $14.95 HB)

Dealing Death and Drugs: The Big Business of Dope in the US and Mexico, by Beto O'Rourke and Susie Byrd (2011, Cinco Puntos Press, 119 pp., $12.95 PB)

El Sicario: The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin, edited by Molly Molloy and Charles Bowden (2011, Nation Books, 209 pp., $15.99 PB)




In addition to an ever-increasing death toll, now more than 50,000 since President Calderon sent in the army in December 2006, Mexico's drug wars are generating an increasing level of concern and interest in the US, including a burgeoning literature. Next week, we'll review a trio of new works that seek to describe the emergence and significance of the so-called cartels, but this week, we look at a quartet of books that focus on the drug wars (and the drug scene) along the border.

If there's anywhere in America more attuned to the Mexican drug wars—by which I mean the prohibition-related violence among competing drug trafficking organizations, between them and Mexican law enforcement and the military, and, sometimes, even between different factions of the Mexican security apparatus—it's El Paso, just across the Rio Grande from one of the epicenters of the drug trade and the violence, Ciudad Juarez.

That's reflected in these titles. One is written by a pair of El Paso politicians, two more are largely set in the El Paso-Ciudad Juarez bi-national metroplex, and the last covers the US border region of which El Paso is front and center. The view from El Paso, staring across the river at the killing and mayhem, can be frightening, but also enlightening.

In Dealing Death and Drugs, El Paso city council members Susie Byrd and Beto O'Rourke (he of the famous city council resolution calling for a discussion of legalization and now running for Congress) bring a home-town perspective on the drug wars, provide some lessons on the economics of the illicit marijuana business and present a concise, yet cogent, argument for legalizing weed as a means of weakening the cartels and reducing the violence.

Marijuana is critical for the cartels, Byrd and O'Rourke argue, because unlike cocaine, which must be purchased from producers elsewhere or methamphetamine, which requires imported precursor chemicals, the cartels control it from farm to market, generating profits each step of the way. They take you from the pot fields of the Sierra Madre Occidental, where a pound costs $23 to Juarez, where it goes for $73 a pound. Getting it past the border and into El Paso drives the price up to $240, and getting it past the Border Protection Service checkpoints a few miles into Texas gets it to its final US wholesale price of about $550 a pound.

US and Mexican law enforcement seized or eradicated 22 metric tons of Mexican weed in 2008, Byrd and O'Rourke note. That's as much as 90% of high end estimates of all the pot smoked in the US, which means either those estimates are way low or that the business is way profitable. And throwing billions of dollars at the problem through law enforcement hasn't helped.

Legalizing, regulating, and taxing the marijuana market is "the least bad" solution, Boyd and O'Rourke write. Their argument, like the book itself, is pithy, yet compelling, and, as Boyd notes in an afterword, even Calderon is starting to come around. But not policy-makers in the US.



With El Sicario, we take a deep, dark turn toward the underbelly of the Mexican drug wars. Border sage and drug war critic Charles Bowden and translator and Juarez body count keeper Molly Molloy bring the terrifying realities of the business into chilling focus through their interviews with a former cartel hitman now in hiding with a contract on his head. This may be the single scariest book I've read about the Mexican drug wars, not for its calm and collected accounts of horrifying acts of brutality, which can be truly stomach-turning, but for the picture it paints of absolutely corrupted and complicit law enforcement, including the military.

Can you imagine if you don't know whether that cop who just stopped you is going to write you a ticket or shoot you dead without warning, or kidnap and torture you because he's actually working for the cartels? That's the case in Mexico now. Our interlocutor in El Sicario attended the Chihuahua state police academy, rose to the rank of comandante, and underwent training by the FBI, all while carrying out killings, kidnappings, and tortures for the Juarez and Sinaloa cartels. Even more perversely, while he was running the anti-kidnapping squad for the state police, he was using police vehicles to kidnap people and transport drugs.

And he is by no means alone. According to the hit man, about a quarter of his graduating class at the police academy were on the cartel payroll—from the very beginning of their law enforcement careers! The Mexican police are heavily salted with cartel men; it's a long-term business strategy that has paid handsomely for the cartels, but has absolutely shredded any trust the public has in state and local law enforcement there.

But it's not just rotten on the Mexican side of the border. The hit man details how he and his colleagues transported tens of millions of dollars worth of drugs across the border and how he personally paid a US Customs officer $50,000 to let cars full of drugs get through. El Sicario shows that dirty knows no borders, even if the cartels are smart enough to keep the blood-letting almost entirely south of the border.

But there are other ways US law enforcement is benefiting from the Mexican drug wars. In Border Wars, journalist and Center for International Policy analyst Tom Barry uses a series of interlocking essays to argue that since the September 2001 Al Qaeda attacks, the US has spent billions of dollars "securing the border" against a triple threat of illegal immigration, drugs, and terror, and has accomplished little good, quite a bit of bad, and plenty of stupid.

Barry opens with the death of Jesus Manuel Galindo, who died for lack of proper medical treatment in 2008 in a privately operated, publicly owned federal immigration prison in remote Pecos, Texas. He recalls that until 2006, we typically handled illegal immigration administratively, often simply deporting Mexicans back across the Rio Grande. But since then, the Bush administration began treating illegal immigration as a criminal matter, and now some 20,000 people languish in those distant prisons. Barry paints chilling, Kafkasque scenes of assembly-line "justice" where judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys, all in the pay of the Us government, process dozens of shackled would-be immigrant laborers into the ever-expanding federal immigration detention system.

There is money to be made there, sucking off the federal teat, although more of it appears to go to lawyers, consultants, deal-makers, and lobbyists than to the desperate rural towns hoping a private prison will provide them with a semblance of an economy. There's even more money to be made by border sheriffs and border state law enforcement entities in the seemingly endless billions of Department of Homeland Security dollars to fight drugs and terror.

Barry takes us to Texas and Arizona border counties where the numbers show little violent crime, but the sheriffs and politicians cry to high heaven about "spill over violence," Korans found on the border, and the threat of narco-Hezbollah conspiracies, for which there is no evidence. Some of these counties are among the poorest in the nation, lacking social and public services, yet in one of them, the sheriff's department is so awash in federal grant money that each deputy has two official vehicles, one patrol car and one SUV.

Along the way, he exposes the ugliness of border security politics and some of it practitioners, such as Govs. Rick Perry of Texas and Jan Brewer of Arizona, who use a politics of fear and hate to firm up support among their most reactionary supporters, who hype non-existent violence on this side of the border, and who constantly tout their border security efforts "without help from Washington" even as they take in billions from Washington to pay for their loudly-touted initiatives. It's rank cynicism, opportunism, and hypocrisy at its worst, and Barry nails it.

For Barry, the central problem is our inability to enact comprehensive immigration reform, a goal always pushed further into the future as we "secure the border" first. And, he says, we have to separate national security from public safety. The gargantuan Department of Homeland Security should worry about terrorists; a separate Customs and Border Protection Service should deal with illegal immigration and drugs.

"The standard of success for our border policy shouldn’t be how completely sealed and secured our border is," he writes, "but rather how well it is regulated. New regulatory frameworks for immigration and drug consumption are fundamental prerequisites for a more cost-effective border policy." And a more sane and human one.

Finally, with Border Junkies, University of Texas-El Paso borderlands historian Scott Comar takes us back to "the good old days" in Juarez, a decade ago, before the city earned its blood-drenched reputation. In an eye-opening work of auto-ethnography, Comar tells mainly his own story of his descent into abject addiction, in which he moved with appalling speed from owning his own moving truck to panhandling on the streets to feed his habit.

In telling his own story, though, Comar unveils a never-before-written-about world, that of the street junkies of Juarez. His account, based largely on his journal entries, details the day-to-day struggle of the border junkies, the strategies they adopt to survive and score—and not necessarily in that order—the kinship and friendship networks that envelop them, the heroin distribution systems that feed their insatiable appetites. For those with a taste for anthropological examinations of the junkie life, this is fascinating stuff, right up there with the work of Philippe Bourgois.

Border Junkies is notable in one other respect: I don't think there is one mention of the cartels in it. Comar recounts constant harassment by the Juarez police (and the El Paso police, too) and petty corruption, he mentions that some of his fellows belonged to gangs, though only passingly, but the existence of the cartels, the source of their dope, is so distant from their daily lives that is as if they don't exist.

Of course, that was before the death toll in Juarez started climbing to thousands every year. Now those street gangs that in Comar's time seemed to be engaged mainly in minor thuggery, a little smuggling, and posing with pistols have, in the pressure cooker of the Mexican drug wars, morphed into true killing machines like Barrio Azteca, the Artist Assasins, and La Linea. Those guys who quietly peddled smack on the corners or out of their houses in Comar's day died by the hundreds when the violence swept through just a few years later.

Wretched as the border junkie's existence is, it is doable. Comar did it for three years, commuting over the river to panhandle in El Paso, then back across to cop and nod. It was a gritty, miserable existence, but Comar makes it seem almost routine, banal. And, along the way, he has some interesting things to say about addiction and recovery, too.

Perhaps it's fitting to end with the image of the junkie straddling the border, because the root causes of Mexico's drug wars certainly do. Whether it's America's never-ending appetite for Mexican weed, the cartels' addiction to money and power, their alcohol and cocaine-numbed killers, or border state and federal law enforcement's addiction to immigration/drugs/terror funding booty, it's all entangled there on the line.

Mexico may be another country and, thankfully, the violence, at least, remains on that side so far, but we are all in this together. Legalizing marijuana or even ending drug prohibition in the US won't make the cartels magically disappear, but failing to do so will only ensure that they grow ever more entrenched, while continuing to provide sustenance to malign political forces and authoritarian, if not downright Orwellian, policing tendencies here.


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