A Muse in the State of the Drug War

I’ve been covering the House of Death mass murder story for more than three years now, and along the way ran across a little subplot called the Bogotá Connection. Both stories revolve around the misuse of U.S. government informants and the treachery that characterizes their activities.

Both stories also reveal the inner workings of the real drug war, not the script sold to us by the mass-narcotic media, and both stories demonstrate that the toll of that war is measured in blood, corpses and government indifference to, if not outright complicity in, corruption.

But I have long past the point of believing my reporting on these matters will, or even can, change anything in a fundamental way, particularly our own government’s insane drug policy, which seems to reward, even encourage, the corruption and death, from the top levels of power down to the street. The allure of money seems to trump justice and integrity in almost all cases.
In those rare cases where honest people do stand up to expose the rot, the vermin that feeds off the decay ultimately destroys them, or at least their lives.

For the most part, though, I have discovered indifference to this cancer, bred out of fear of losing career status and a paycheck. I have struggled with that indifference myself; it’s easy to get distracted in life by the things close to you and lose site of the predators in the distance.

I am not a big believer in über conspiracy theories, though. I don’t see any one person, or even group of people, as being smart enough or strong enough to keep their shit together for the length of time necessary to control the world, or even a small part of it.

But then, I do believe there are other forces that exert control over human nature, for the better or worse — and those forces can be manipulated toward a desired end, and that I think is the game at play.

In following the drug war, admittedly from a perch with a limited view, I’ve come to believe that the forces feeding the rot are greed and violence primarily.

The latter operates by the rules of nature: kill or be killed. It requires no deep analysis; just an understanding of how someone might act if a gun were pointed at his or her head.

The former, though, weaves a more complicated path through the system, and, as far as I can see, it is a terminal social virus being incubated in a Petri dish of unbridled capitalism and blind self-interest.

So, with these two variables in mind, violence and greed, I have come to the opinion that the drug war is perpetuated not to end drug abuse, but rather to ensure that the abuse spreads.

And because so many people, from the street level to the heads of governments, have a stake in the spread of this cancer, I see no happy ending here, just more bloodshed from the violence and more misery spawned by the greed.

Human Nature

No one of importance will be held accountable for the violence, the murders, resulting from the House of Death and Bogotá Connection, because in order to open up that can of worms, the Colombian, Mexican and U.S. governments would have to reveal far too much of their complicity in that violence and also risk sacrificing the spoils of the greed and self-interest that underpins their economic policies.

Again, this is not a conspiracy. It’s just human nature – the dark side of it run amok, admittedly.

It’s a product of a compliant, anesthetized population and power-drunk public- and private-sector leadership. And the drug trade, like a treatment-resistant virus, feeds on both the numbness and the megalomania.

I could pull together plenty of examples of the pathology of this disease, but I believe one of the best diagnoses I’ve run across comes from the mouth of the House of Death informant – who appears to suffer from this disease himself.

The following exchange occurred on Aug. 11, 2005, between that informant, Mexican citizen Guillermo Ramirez Peyro, and his Texas attorney, Jodi Goodwin, as part of a deportation removal hearing in a U.S. Immigration court:

Goodwin: You indicated that you have recorded some conversations with [the Juarez, Mexico-based narco-trafficker] Santillan where he explained arrangements that were made with [Mexican] military and politicians. What, what specific arrangements did he tell you about politicians?

Ramirez Peyro: No, that he didn’t precisely, himself, well, the cartel [the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes (VCF) narco-trafficking organization] had arrangements with people that were close to President Fox [of Mexico]. He explained to me that President Fox took, took the position to arrange, consult with the cartel from Juarez [the VCF] to — which it, which it means that he was going to attack the, the enemy cartels being from Tijuana and from the Gulf, and then the cartel from Juarez would be operating with this court, you know, without the government being —

Goodwin: This is —

Ramirez Peyro: — on —

Goodwin: — what —

Ramirez Peyro: — top of them.

Goodwin: This is what Santillan told you?

Ramirez Peyro: It's one of the law conversations that we did have. Also, when I did go to Colombia to make arrangement with the Colombians, the plans was to come by sea, and the Mexico's navy, the ships, they're the ones that would get the drugs in the, in the sea - marina - ocean borders, you know, of the national territories. They, yeah, they kept close to what you call ground, firm ground, and the PGR then would fly this drugs to the - to Juarez, the city of Juarez.

Goodwin: So from, from the, from the source of the drugs through the distribution, was all these arrangements made with different government parts?

Ramirez Peyro: That's, yeah, that's the purpose to make arrangements with them so they won't have any losses. So they invite them, you know, to take part of the vehicle, and that way they avoid a war….

Now neither the Mexican or U.S. governments have yet stepped forward publicly to admit state complicity in the drug trade. Can you even imagine such a day?

At the same time, though, the U.S. government is seeking to deport their informant, and the Mexican government is promising him safe quarter – even though Ramirez Peyro claims both governments are fully aware, even complicit in assuring, that he will face certain death at the hands of the narco-traffickers he betrayed if he is returned to Mexico.

Cracking the myth

For the sake of argument, even absent official government contrition, let’s assume Ramirez-Peyro is on the money with his allegations. What would that say about Mexican President Felipe Calderón’s current crackdown on “narco-trafficking” in Mexico?

To this point, the new Mexican president’s efforts, with the backing of the U.S. government, appear to be focused heavily on the Gulf Cartel and the Arellano-Felix organization based in Tijuana.

From a Jan. 22 article in the Christian Science Monitor:

This past weekend, Calderón was praised by US officials for taking key steps toward that goal with his decision to extradite four major drug traffickers – including the alleged head of the notorious Gulf cartel, Osiel Cardenas – to the US. Mexican and US officials say this will end Mr. Cardenas's ability to conduct turf wars against rivals from his cell in a maximum-security prison near Mexico City.

Calderón has also opened new fronts in the border city of Tijuana and the Pacific resort town of Acapulco. He sent 3,300 soldiers and federal police to Tijuana and 7,600 troops and police to Acapulco this month.

The Zurich, Switzerland-based ISN Security Watch echoes the notion that the Gulf Cartel is a prime Calderón target:

Calderón’s first mission is to break the back of the Gulf Cartel. He made this clear by honoring the US' extradition request for its well-known leader Osiel Cardenas Guillen in January. Since then, more arrests have further dismantled operations. On 17 April, Mexican authorities arrested five Gulf Cartel operatives in Reynosa, just south of the Texas border. Among them was Juan Oscar Garza, reported to be an important cartel lieutenant. Eleazar Medina Rojas, another high-ranking Gulf Cartel leader, was arrested in Nuevo Laredo less than a week later.

And then there’s this Jan. 29 insight from an editor at the San Diego Union Tribune:

Mexico and the United States, working together, are steadily dismantling the murderous Tijuana drug cartel, the infamous Arellano Felix Organization. Once among the most powerful and feared criminal syndicates in Mexico, the AFO is now a shambles. Its top leaders are dead or in custody. Most if not all of the AFO leaders now behind bars face trial in the United States, where bribery cannot buy the criminal justice system and intimidation doesn't work.

… Mexico's extraditions -- which included eight drug kingpins, among them two top AFO lieutenants and an AFO assassin, plus the former head of the Gulf cartel - sent the cartels another jarring signal. Mexico's new president, Felipe Calderón, is more determined than any past Mexican president to break the drug mafias that threaten to turn Mexico into a narco state. After just seven weeks in office, Calderón did what no other Mexican president has done -- delivered Mexican drug traffickers en masse to the United States for trial.

Great mainstream drug-war press for Calderón in the states, right?

But what about the VCF, which has now morphed into a Federation of players whose reach extends throughout Mexico? The DEA’s own intelligence speaks to the power of this “Federation,” which is an outgrowth of the VCF that Ramirez-Peyro claims has a “special” relationship with the Mexican government.

From DEA congressional testimony on Aug. 17, 2006:

Currently, the most powerful DTOs [drug-trafficking organizations] in Mexico are led by Ignacio Coronel-Villarreal, Joaquin Guzman-Loera, Arturo Beltran-Leyva, Juan Jose Esparragosa-Moreno and Ismael Zamada-Garcia. These leaders comprise the Federation (also known as the Alliance), a confederation of DTOs founded upon long-standing relationships among several of Mexico’s major drug kingpins.

Two other major DTOs also operate out of Mexico: the Arellano-Felix organization (also known as the Tijuana Cartel) and the Gulf Cartel. Although the Arellano-Felix organization and the Gulf Cartel have been weakened under the Fox Administration, they remain formidable organizations and continue to control the strategic border states of Baja California and Tamaulipas. Capitalizing on disruptions to the Arellano-Felix and Gulf Cartels, the Federation continues to wage a violent campaign of elimination against these rival cartels to gain control of these important transit corridors.

So Fox beat down the Federation’s rivals and Calderón is continuing the pounding, it would appear.

In the end, if this premise is on the money, and Calderón is successful in bringing the Gulf and Tijuana organizations to their knees, or substantially reduces their power, forcing them to do business with the “Federation,” then what has been accomplished and to whose benefit?

First, Mexico’s narco-trafficking landscape essentially becomes an oligarchy overseen by a group of aligned narco-traffickers operating with the tacit approval, if not outright assistance, of the Mexican government. For a business that controls the staple crops of a multi-billion dollar black market that represents a major current within global capitalism, that is no small matter.

Who would benefit from such a state/narco-corporate alliance? That’s where the human nature part comes in – not a conspiracy I remind you. First, with an oligarchy firmly entrenched, supply can be manipulated nearly at will, which means price, the price of the drugs, can be controlled much like OPEC can exert control over the price of oil. In other words, the drug organizations in Mexico would become a true “Cartel” — as opposed to a cluster of warring cells.

That assures relative calm for both the U.S. and Mexican governments on the violence front, a steady and predictable flow of dollars – laundered through the U.S. and Mexican financial systems and available for buying “legitimate” products – a good thing for those in the investor and political classes who feed on greed.

In a very cynical way, it’s an ideal arrangement, an appeasement if you will of seemingly opposing forces – government and crime. Nearly everyone with power in such a system would benefit. The drug trade can now be securitized and sold through the markets of global capitalism; dirty money is made clean with the stamp of the government’s drug-war policy. The only people who get screwed are, as usual, the compliant, anesthetized masses.

The Great Fall

If I have any hope of this system collapsing, it has for too long been wasted on government institutions like Congress, or the mainstream media or even a mass movement of the people (though I still believe the people will play a key role in the revival after the Great Fall — should that day come).

But all is not lost, I believe. You see, the well-heeled club-house boys in the government and business worlds who have chosen to play the street-wise narco-traffickers in this game of monopoly have unleashed a third force of human nature upon themselves: Pride — the sin that brought us Satan, a metaphor for tragic fate to some, a real demon to others.

What will cause the Great Fall as I term it, in my opinion, will be the pride of the people who brought us the drug-war state – along with assorted other unholy alliances built on the pathology of nasty human vices.

Pride, in its extreme, easily leads to lust, which has as its ultimate goal power.

So, if I’m allowed to twist class theory a bit:

I’d suggest that it is not far fetched to expect that the criminals from the lower classes (the street-wise narco-traffikckers who have attained power through the government’s complicity in the drug war) will eventually want to be accepted on equal terms (likely even superior terms) by the criminals in the aristocracy (the “legitimate” business and political leaders) who have struck this Faustian bargain.

This dynamic could lead to great disharmony, and even real bloodletting, among the upper crust. (Might that theory also help to explain the bin Laden factor, at least to a degree? Hmmm, a rich, powerful criminal from a Third World country who has a chip on his shoulder.)

And then Humpty Dumpty will have a Great Fall ….

Or not, but it’s a thought about change…..

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