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More fallout from the War On Drugs, in Mexico.
March 18, 2012 6:32 PM   Subscribe

In Mexico, extortion is a booming offshoot of drug war. 'From mom-and-pop businesses to mid-size construction projects to some of Mexico's wealthiest citizens, almost every segment of the economy and society has been subjected to extortion schemes, authorities and records indicate. Even priests aren't safe. Extortionists have shut entire school systems, crippled real estate developments, driven legions of entrepreneurs into hiding or out of the country.'

'Extortion has grown as the largest drug-trafficking cartels consolidate power, leaving many of the smaller groups searching for new sources of revenue.'

'Genaro Garcia Luna, the nation's public safety secretary and head of the federal police, said his officers have investigated 283,000 extortion complaints since the drug war was launched in December 2006. But that's not the full extent of the problem. Experts say probably two-thirds of extortion cases aren't reported to authorities.'

'The number of Mexican businessmen transplanting themselves, and often their businesses, to the United States has grown enormously in the last five years, as measured by so-called investment visas issued by the U.S. government to wealthy Mexicans, and by the millions of dollars those Mexicans are investing in new enterprises north of the border.

Businesses' flight represents a serious blow to Mexico's struggling economy, in terms of lost investment, lost tax revenue and lost jobs.'
posted by VikingSword (35 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's an extreme crime that the United States continues the prohibition that is fueling the cartels. I really wish some of our more timid political leaders would be willing to be as sensible, sane, and practical as Pat Robertson or Ron Paul on these issues.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:39 PM on March 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think hard drugs should be examined once we handle the softer drug that is the most profitable for the cartels. No need to rush into any of it. There have been tens of thousands of deaths, but the issue can't be solved over night especially now that the extortion and corruption are so deeply entrenched.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:54 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have faith that the Mexican government will fix this problem.
posted by mrhappy at 7:57 PM on March 18, 2012


As usual with any Mexican post, it only took one comment before the thread became about the United States a demand to make hard drugs legal. Carry on.

It is impossible to have a rational discussion about the cartel war in Mexico without considering its causes, chiefly the importation of illegal drugs into the US. The United States needs to step up to the plate and accept responsibility for the resultant deterioration of Mexican society because of our failed drug policy, and to address that failed policy with some sort of substantive change. What do you suggest?
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:01 PM on March 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


FTA: Extortion has grown as the largest drug-trafficking cartels consolidate power, leaving many of the smaller groups searching for new sources of revenue.

This is amusingly/sadly misleading. Rather than small groups doing this, it's more likely it's the larger groups taking a step further to replace the State.

Racketeering is the genesis the a major type of organised crime, and for that matter, the State itself: give me money and I will protect you, don't give me money and I will hurt you. By moving in to taxation and protection, organised crime is replacing the State. Granted, the current operations of racketeering as described in the article outline just how new-day and disorganised it is (like trying to extort clergy), but eventually it could morph in to business-like arrangements (like Roofs in the immediate post-USSR).

Anyone can pretend to be a member of the notorious Zeta criminal gang, for example, and easily make money off the target's panic.

Again, while no doubt some people are doing this, they are likely doing so at considerable personal risk. Organised crime often take their name and reputation very seriously because they are often in situations where you live and die on your name and reputation. Stories of the Chechen Mafiya licensing their name, and wiping out people who were insufficiently fierce, are an interesting parallel to life as a legal franchisee.
posted by kithrater at 8:03 PM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I really wish some of our more timid political leaders would be willing to be as sensible, sane, and practical as Pat Robertson

We live in interesting times.
posted by jayder at 8:12 PM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


So, third-hand story, related to me by a friend who travels frequently in Mexico. A family set off southbound from a Texas border town into Chihuahua by car - a bad region to drive through, these days. They were pulled over by a group of three thugs with guns a couple hours south of the border, and we're carjacked and left standing on the side of the road. They started walking north, and after about half an hour, a new black Suburban pulled up, and the occupants started asking questions. They said they'd been carjacked a ways back, and the Suburban sped off. Not knowing what to think, they continued walking north. An hour later, the Suburban came back, followed by their car. One of the occupants got out, presented them with an ice chest and said "are these the guys who stole your car?" when they confirmed, that yes, the heads in the cooler belonged to the carjackers, the dude handed them their keys and said "Remember -Zetas don't steal cars," then they sped off again.

Can't attest to the veracity, but the teller had no reason to disbelieve it.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:20 PM on March 18, 2012 [19 favorites]


I don't understand... I read the article. I've read a lot of articles on the drug war's effect on Mexico in the last few years and it makes me question what the hell a State is.

I see comments saying 'Mexico better get its shit together or it's going to be a Failed State' and I wonder if it hasn't already happened. Are we just afraid to admit it because it makes it obvious how close to collapse so many other States are?

I'm not even sure how to define the concept of Statehood any longer.
posted by artof.mulata at 8:23 PM on March 18, 2012


kithrater has touched on the heart of the matter. The real danger of organised crime is that it undermines the role of the State to protect its citizens, thereby weakening the State and all its institutions. This is bad for everyone. Life becomes nastier, more brutish, and shorter.
posted by vac2003 at 8:25 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


kithrater - "licensing their name, and wiping out people who were insufficiently fierce, are an interesting parallel to life as a legal franchisee"

I wonder whether Snow Crash's (1992) burbclaves influenced the Chechen Mafia or if Stephenson was riffing on this.
posted by porpoise at 8:31 PM on March 18, 2012


[Folks try again and don't derail out of the gate please? thanks]
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 PM on March 18, 2012


American anarchists, if you ever get your dream of causing the state to fail, you can look forward to this. I'm sure when you scream "point of process" really loudly at the American equivalent of the Zetas, they'll politely put down their AKs and defer to your horizontalist critique. Please let me know how that works out for you.
posted by wuwei at 8:55 PM on March 18, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not even sure how to define the concept of Statehood any longer.

While subject to centuries of academic debate, alongside its important sister concept of Sovereignty, I think almost everyone agrees that a State needs to be able to tax its citizens and protect its citizens from illegitimate violence, and that a State which cannot reliably do either of those is a failed State. While it has been a long while, back when I read academic work on organised crime and states, many works referred to OC as proto-states, alongside other revolutionary/liberation groups.

The real danger of organised crime is that it undermines the role of the State to protect its citizens, thereby weakening the State and all its institutions. This is bad for everyone. Life becomes nastier, more brutish, and shorter.

Furthermore, it's why you also do not want a State that takes bribes or is seen as being illegitimate by significant portions of the population - it makes it the State vulnerable to internal takeovers by hostile proto-States.

American anarchists, if you ever get your dream of causing the state to fail, you can look forward to this. I'm sure when you scream "point of process" really loudly at the American equivalent of the Zetas, they'll politely put down their AKs and defer to your horizontalist critique. Please let me know how that works out for you.

OC doesn't want to abolish the State. They want to replace it.
posted by kithrater at 9:04 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Devils Rancher, I've heard that story too, except the one I heard involved people from Monterrey (my hometown) coming back from Mcallen, Texas, and where driving through a highway in the state of Tamaulipas, not Chihuahua. Other than that, same thing, people got their car stolen and a bunch of guys got it back, including the carjacker's heads. Apparently the Zetas where the carjackers and the other guys were from the Cartel del Golfo.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:04 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I could very well have gotten the places confused - it came up in a long-ranging conversation a month ago.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:10 PM on March 18, 2012


I have a close family member who works for Homeland Security in El Paso. These stories are true. One of my Mom's friends was killed in a funeral procession by the Zetas. The funeral was for a family member who was being extorted for more money than he actually made in his small shop in Juarez, so they killed him. Then killed his family. It is horrific.
posted by kamikazegopher at 9:45 PM on March 18, 2012


The funeral was for a family member who was being extorted for more money than he actually made in his small shop in Juarez, so they killed him.

Isn't not killing a source of income and taking only so much that they can continue to generate money for you covered in Extortion 101?
posted by floam at 10:27 PM on March 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


C'est pour encourager les autres.
posted by Wolof at 10:39 PM on March 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


True, I didn't think hard enough about the message it sends.

You are being squeezed, and don't make enough to even pay what they are asking? That will not be a good enough excuse. Rob a bank to pay them, it is safer.
posted by floam at 10:49 PM on March 18, 2012


I have a friend who is a really good software engineer. He is Mexican. He wants to start a company, he has the skills, the ideas, the team and investors lined up. The only thing stopping him is that his family lives in Mexico, and the moment it became public he got funding some is bound to get kidnapped. He is trying to get his family to the us but immigration laws suck here.

Me, I made a decent chunk of cash in the last startup I worked at. I would love to invest it in my hometown, but I have the same fears. My sister is in Europe, but my parents are in Mexico.

Fuck the drug war. Last time we were about to end the drug war in Mexico it only took a phone call from Washington to get a presidential veto.

I wish all the operation merida money had been spent in drug legalization and anti corruption efforts.

If you want to see how bad things qre , google blog del narco. Warning, photos and videos of people getting killed and their mutilated corpses being hung from highway over passes or dumped outside elementary schools.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 10:53 PM on March 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


"Again, while no doubt some people are doing this, they are likely doing so at considerable personal risk. Organised crime often take their name and reputation very seriously because they are often in situations where you live and die on your name and reputation."

But one of the things that makes extortion so terrible is that no one ever finds out most of the time. The crook calls somebody and says "I've got a gun pointed at your children's school." The victim pays up without ever seeing the crook and keeps his mouth shut, out of fear that the crook will call again. So there's no consequences for the bad guy (from the police or other criminals) and he's free to do it again and again.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:57 PM on March 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


If you want to see how bad things qre , google blog del narco. Warning, photos and videos of people getting killed and their mutilated corpses being hung from highway over passes or dumped outside elementary schools.

Fuck. I wasn't entirely surprised by what I saw, but the volume. I read through what I assumed was months of atrocities and it was just stuff since yesterday.

Google Translate link.
posted by floam at 11:11 PM on March 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


People in the US generally don't give a rats ass. People won't care until their own friends and family start getting gunned down randomly in the streets. The cartels have shown remarkable restraint in keeping the majority of the violence south of the border. I suppose that they know that that would kill their cash cow.
posted by dibblda at 12:00 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


American anarchists, if you ever get your dream of causing the state to fail, you can look forward to this.

Your straw men would probably achieve decriminalization of soft drugs first. The impact this would have on the narcocartels is left as an exercise for the snarker.
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:19 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Racketeering is the genesis the a major type of organised crime, and for that matter, the State itself

The central theory of Charles Bowden's detailed analysis of the drug wars in Juarez is that there is basically no distinction between drug cartel activities of gangs and those of the police and military.

In short: this is the wrong way round: it's not the drug cartels taking on the role of the state, but the state taking on the role of the drug cartels.
posted by MuffinMan at 1:08 AM on March 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


Why do I always read shit like this just before I travel? I'm leaving for Mexico in a few days. I've been there before - I lived there for years - and I love that country. Mexico has a really beautiful culture and a really beautiful people and we hear shit like this and we become afraid and generate stereotypes and respond to those instead of the way things really are.

I remember being in Mexico many years ago, talking with a young Mexican woman about the U.S., and she told me that she wanted to visit the U.S. but she thought it was dangerous because of all the serial killers and child molesters.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:44 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


Most of Mexico is still perfectly safe for furriners who don't act like idiots. Drive on the quotas during daylight hours, and stay out of the obvious war zones, like Juarez and Monterrey. A lot of cavers have stopped traveling to mexico, but quite a few still go, and no one's had any real problems.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:04 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


"It's an extreme crime that the United States continues the prohibition that is fueling the cartels."

At least it keeps the cartels out of the extortion/kidnapping business...
posted by littlejohnnyjewel at 9:43 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


We had legal hard drugs in America less than a hundred years ago -- cocaine and heroin were not fully prohibited until until the mid 1920s -- and while there were plenty of problems with the whole patent-medicine thing, rows of severed heads in the town square were not among them. I find it hard to believe that we can't develop a safer drug-distribution model than a massive black market which allows cartels to profit.
posted by vorfeed at 10:42 AM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


People in the US generally don't give a rats ass.

I hate this kind of comment. *I* give a rat's ass. So does everyone in this thread. So do you, I assume. So what do we do about it? What are you doing about it that the rest of us should take up doing?
posted by small_ruminant at 12:19 PM on March 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Why do I always read shit like this just before I travel? I'm leaving for Mexico in a few days. I've been there before - I lived there for years - and I love that country. Mexico has a really beautiful culture and a really beautiful people and we hear shit like this and we become afraid and generate stereotypes and respond to those instead of the way things really are.
This stuff is new, it developed over the past few years, supposedly. The theory I've heard is that one major cartel was taken down, so new ones sprung up and began competing with each-other, thus the violence.
posted by delmoi at 12:25 PM on March 19, 2012


jayder: "I really wish some of our more timid political leaders would be willing to be as sensible, sane, and practical as Pat Robertson

We live in interesting times.
"

My mind literally inserted a record-scratching noise when I read that....
posted by schmod at 3:52 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Most of Mexico is still perfectly safe for furriners who don't act like idiots.

Somebody better tell Rick Santorum.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:32 PM on March 20, 2012


What a goddam blithering idiot. How does he remember to breathe?
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:17 PM on March 20, 2012


We live in interesting times.

“I think the Denver Broncos treated [Tebow] shabbily,” Robertson explained on Thursday. “He won seven games. He brought them into the playoffs, for heaven sakes. I mean, they were a nothing team. He rallied them together with spectacular last-minute passes and, you know, when they beat Buffalo — I mean, Pittsburgh — it was a tremendous victory.”

He continued: “And you just ask yourself, OK, Peyton Manning was a tremendous MVP quarterback, but he’s been injured. If that injury comes back, Denver will find itself without a quarterback — and in my opinion, it would serve them right.”

posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:37 PM on March 22, 2012


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