'War on Drugs' Gives Way to the Dangerous New Face of Narco-Politics.
A shotgun blast of news this year shredded what most Americans believe about what used to be called the “war on drugs” — that it was being fought to curb what were seen as simply criminal enterprises. Instead, it left us all facing the new dangers of narco-politics, whether it is cartels challenging governments and attacking social institutions, capitalizing on corruption, or involvement in the drug trade by terrorist groups.As a veteran California law enforcement officer told Politics Daily: “What we’re seeing in Mexico is cartels as new ‘state making’ agencies.”That’s politics, even if, as that street cop noted, it doesn’t sound like politics “in the sound byte sense.”A study by the private Center for a New American Security released in 2010 reported that ” … crime, terrorism and insurgency are interwoven in new and dangerous ways that threaten not just the welfare but also the security of societies in the Western Hemisphere … the capability to destabilize governments has made the cartels an insurgent threat as well as a criminal one.”A March report by our government’s Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that the number of “foreign terrorist groups” involved in the global narcotics trade “jumped from 14 groups in 2003 to 18 in 2008.”Terrorists may “tax” smugglers of drugs, sometimes as a prelude to taking over the business — CRS, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the California street cop cite as an example Columbia’s FARC group, which formed in the 1960s with the goal of overthrowing the government and replacing it with a Marxist regime.The Taliban, which is not on the State Department terrorist list but is at war with the U.S. in Afghanistan, has alliances with narcotics traffickers, although al-Qaeda does not appear to sanction such connections, according to the CRS.By the end of 2010, narco-related violence will have accounted for nearly 30,000 murders in Mexico — everything from grisly beheadings to thug vs. thug gunfights, to raids by squads of cartel gunmen.Mexico’s Congress failed to act on President Felipe Calderon’s plan to squeeze the cartels by cracking down on money laundering and reorganizing local police forces so that they could better stand up to them. Mexico’s ordinary citizens are losing faith in their government. Cartel-fostered lawlessness has prompted ordinary Mexicans to resort to vigilantism to protect themselves from rapes and kidnappings including, in at least one instance, digging a trench around their town to prevent thugs from reaching it by going off-road in their SUVs.Cartels attack every element of “legitimate” society – cops, teachers, medical personnel. Cartels attack journalists, prompting El Diario, the leading paper of Juarez, Mexico, this September to publish an extraordinary Sunday front page “letter” to the cartels, saying: “Explain to us what you want from us. What are we supposed to publish or not publish, so we know what to abide by? You are at this time the de facto authorities in this city …”In a blood-soaked irony, many guns in cartel arsenals – including AK-47s and other assault rifles — come from the United States, according to a Washington Post investigation. They are often legally bought here and then smuggled across the border by gunrunners called hormigas (ants) even as cartel drug mules smuggle narcotics in the opposite direction. Efforts to regulate guns are hot-button political issues in the United States, and The Post article quotes Chris W. Cox of the multimillion-dollar lobbying group, the National Rifle Association, as saying: “To suggest that U.S. gun laws are somehow to blame for Mexican drug cartel violence is a sad fantasy.”Meanwhile, Mexican cartels — already key importers of heroin, cocaine, and marijuana to the U.S. – now dominate what was once our “homegrown” market in meth, the killer drug that began ravaging our heartland in the 1990’s.Economists talk about “contagion” — a political, cultural, or social force “infecting” a neighboring group. Contagion is an issue for the United States beyond the cartels’ core business of, say, providing the meth that destroys a teenager in Montana.