Drug Wars are Secondary to Foreign Policy Interests

March 21, 2010

This article in today’s NYT underscores the big problem with the US/Mexican war on the drug cartels historically and currently. It’s about a town in Afghanistan called Marja who’s main source of income is growing opium, and how the military has elected to not destroy the opium fields in order to win over the hearts and minds of the local citizens. Even though the main buyers for the opium harvest have a big chance of being associated with the Taliban, people who work with them, or the Taliban’s financial backers. And then the heroin made out of it will be smuggled here, and some drug dealer might get arrested with a gram of it in some east coast city and be put in jail.

It’s just an important fact to realize that drugs and their production are part of the overall economy, and that in many cases US policy, despite what we say at home, bends to this. When NAFTA was being negotiated in 1993 and the DEA has conclusive evidence linking Mexican president Carols Salinas de Gortari to the drug trade, along with his brother Raul, who was Carlos’s point of contact with guys like Amado Carrillo and the Arellano-Felix brothers, the powers that be decided NAFTA was too important for this information to get out or to do anything about it, so the DEA report was silenced and they were told to go back to trying to catch loads coming across the border, trying to pick needles out of a haystack.

A few years later, Raul was arrested as the conspirator behind the murder of Francisco Ruiz Massieu, a young PRI official who Carlos had groomed to be his successor and then went off the reservation policy wise, disavowing himself from the prior regime. He was killed, Raul was arrested, and they found more than $87 million in bank accounts in his name in Switzerland. Records showed he had probably laundered hundreds more. Carlos’ term ended just as speculation and evidence was beginning to point to his involvement with his brother’s business dealings, and he fled Mexico to live in Ireland for several years, a state that has no extradition agreement with Mexico. He’s been back a few times since on unannounced trips, but still lives in London today.

But NAFTA went through, US corporations got rich as a result in the 90’s, while the average Mexican’s real wage went down more and more and American manufacturing jobs took a huge hit.

Point is, we could do something about all this, or at least a lot more than we are doing, but we don’t because our leaders choose not to. Instead, we keep drugs illegal (which, don’t forget, keeps their price and market thriving), and arrest your friend of a friend for selling weed or poor, disadvantaged teenagers in the inner city for selling the drugs we more or less secretly sanction.

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