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Narcoland
October 6, 2013 8:24 PM   Subscribe

'Mexico's war on drugs is one big lie'. '"Narcoland shows how contemporary capitalism is in no position to renounce the mafia. Because it is not the mafia that has transformed itself into a modern capitalist enterprise, it is capitalism that has transformed itself into a mafia. The rules of drug trafficking that Anabel Hernández describes are also the rules of capitalism."'

'Hernández's book will be published in English this month with the title Narcoland: The Mexican Drug Lords and their Godfathers, so that we in the English-speaking world that consumes so much of what the cartels deal, and which banks their proceeds, might learn the lie of "cops and robbers", of "upright society versus the mafia" – the received wisdom that still contaminates coverage of drug wars and the "war on drugs".'

'A product of five years’ investigative reporting, Hernández’s meticulously researched explanation of the links between the Sinaloa cartel, the world’s biggest criminal organisation, and Mexico’s leadership makes for jaw-dropping reading.'

'[Texas Observer]: It used to be that the PRI told drug cartels what to do, but it seems the relationship has changed.

AH: Yes it has reversed. That’s the big difference. The cartels don’t do something because Enrique Peña Nieto wants it. It’s not like it was before in the 70s or 80s.'

'AMY GOODMAN: I shake as you speak, Anabel Hernández, because Mexico is one of the dangerous countries for journalists to work again, especially Mexican journalists. I want to talk about your safety. But first, your father was a journalist? Can you talk about what happened to him?

ANABEL HERNÁNDEZ: My father represents everything for me. He was kidnapped and murdered in December 2000. He was a businessman. He was not a journalist. He was just a businessman. In that year, many businessmen were kidnapped by little gangs just for money. He was murdered. When we cried for justice from the police, the chief of police said, well, if you want justice, if you want that we investigate, you have to pay. Of course, we chose not to pay. My family choose not pay because you can’t buy the justice. So until now, I don’t know who killed my father. I learned that corruption hurts.'
posted by VikingSword (25 comments total) 60 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. Great post, VS.
posted by clockzero at 9:15 PM on October 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, lots of great stuff to mine here, thanks for putting this together so well.
posted by nevercalm at 10:40 PM on October 6, 2013


AH: Yes. Many of my sources were killed and others jailed. I think I stayed alive because I denounced and made public the threats against my life. I made public the death threats from Garcia Luna.

This page seems to be a copy of a "press release" from a communication agency hired by Genaro Garcia Luna. I think it needs to be balanced. Loreleil (talk) 19:16, 19 May 2013 (UTC)   Ditto the Spanish version.

posted by jeffburdges at 1:34 AM on October 7, 2013


I'm describing the situation in Australia, but I hear that it's similar overseas:

Drugs are notoriously available in prisons; in fact many people first become addicted while incarcerated. Every criminal lawyer I've spoken to believes that the prison administration is involved - I would hardly imagine otherwise. So basically everybody knows this but nobody does anything. The same goes for special police units that deal with drug crime: they notoriously accept bribes, steal drugs, you name it. Every now and then a particular officer is prosecuted, but nothing much seems to happen.

So if there's this institutionalised corruption at the bottom levels of drug enforcement, how likely is it that it doesn't go all the way to the top? As the quantities increase the value of the drug trade also increases, and the power of traffickers must increase similarly. As Hernández says, "It’s impossible to think that this very huge elephant— tons of cocaine, tons of marijuana — just walks over the border and goes to Chicago, New York or Los Angeles and nobody sees it." I think they do see it; in fact I would be very surprised if customs officials were not working together with the major drug importers.
posted by Joe in Australia at 1:56 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Contemporary capitalism is in a perfect position to renounce the mafia because, at its heart, capitalism is a system where 1) private property exists and 2) transactions are voluntary. Kidnapping and murder are not voluntary transactions. This comparison is absurd.
posted by zanni at 3:34 AM on October 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


"Plata O Plomo"

Silver or Lead. 'Take the bribe or die with your family' is not what I would call a voluntary transaction.

Capitalism without regulation means people can be treated as private property.
posted by dragonsi55 at 4:24 AM on October 7, 2013


Isn't contemporary capitalism all about large corporations encouraging regulatory regimes that prevent small comparators from participating? And actually any meaningful regulation gets bypassed? Or do you mean the contemporary capitalism where "too big to fail" banks play different nations populations against one another to harvest as much tax, bond, etc. money as possible?

Hernández observed that Mexico's drug wars is a lie in the same sense that the War on Terror is a lie or even that the Greek crisis is a lie. All are capitalist adventures in exploiting government to extract money from the population. Does Genaro Garcia Luna honestly believed handing the country to one cartel was better than allowing them to fight? Do Michael Chertoff or Keith Alexandre believe we're safer with the TSA scanners or ubiquitous surveillance? Should we care what these self-deluded kleptocrats think?

Yes, kidnapping is more violent than NYC cops beating up protestors in Zuccotti park, but neither counts as voluntary transactions. Why does that cop assault the protestors? Isn't it ultimately just his boss' business interests?

We're discussing Hernández's comments that Mexico's drug war is an extraordinarily violent expression of modern state capitalism in practice, not abstract capitalist theory. Americans rejected prohibition once they understood it cause similar corruption and violence, but now we've exported the violence so we're free to indulge in the kleptocracy part. I'd imagine Hernández hopes to embolden more Americans by contextualizing the drug war as regulatory capture.

Related : Switzerland Decriminalizes Marijuana, Won't Prosecute For Small Amounts Of Weed
posted by jeffburdges at 4:36 AM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Evil people will exploit any economic system. There's no shortage of crime and corruption in socialist, communist and fascist regimes. Nor in capitalism. Lay the charge where it belongs.

And no, extortion, slavery and police brutality are not voluntary transactions. Of course.

I believe that the Mexican drug war is a lie. But that doesn't make it a capitalist adventure. You're conflating capitalism with greed and exploitation, but they're not equivalent. In any case, although VikingSword chose that pullquote to put above the fold, this is probably a derail.
posted by zanni at 5:01 AM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


zanni, I agree, somehow the economic term derails the underlying depth of the post.

Cui bono, cui malo. At root, the corruption may be seen as 'who pays terrible costs for the benefit of another'. And is there a way to make 'the system' less unjust.
posted by dragonsi55 at 5:17 AM on October 7, 2013


That there is corruption in the Mexican state is not news, but if Hernandez can name names, that might be valuable. At the very least, it can start to make clear which sides the state has taken. The "capitalism is narcoterror" frame is too stupid to even be refuted.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:27 AM on October 7, 2013


Contemporary capitalism...1) private property exists and 2) transactions are voluntary...This comparison is absurd.

You seem to be confusing contemporary capitalism with Econ101. This is a surprisingly common mistake.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 6:31 AM on October 7, 2013 [6 favorites]


The quote on capitalism is by another author, in the foreward to the book, and in the English edition, not the original Spanish edition. The following quote is by Hernández herself:

"the violence and the cartels are not the disease. They're a symptom of the disease, which is corruption. The cartels cannot operate without the support of officials, bureaucrats, politicians and police officers – and bankers to launder their money. These people let the narcos do what they do and they are the issue, this is the cancer. I met these people, the narcos. They have no scruples, they're cruel – but in the end, they're just businessmen, all they can see is money. Life, they cannot see."
posted by dragonsi55 at 6:42 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's exactly the "evil people" approach that created this mess! Both drugs and corruption must be treated with more epidemiology-like or systemic measures. And you cannot escape economics when doing so. Nobody mentioned alternative economic systems.

I read Hernández usage of contemporary capitalism as roughly kleptocracy, which she links with kidnapping and murder. Words like kleptocracy indulge in the "evil people" theory though. Words like "contemporary capitalism" remind us that we need systemic approaches, like say reducing the DEA's purchasing power, recording officials conversations for the courts, etc.

Imagine if some journalist exposed that DEA officials knew they were supporting the Sinaloa through the Mexican government? Isn't that sounding less unlikely now she exposed that their award-winning golden boy Luna's involvement? We want such distrust to reduce the DEAs funding, limit DEA official's career prospects, etc.
posted by jeffburdges at 6:46 AM on October 7, 2013


Why does that cop assault the protestors?

With the legal theory of 'qualified immunity' in effect the answer is:

Because they can get away with it.

Qualified immunity is an interesting idea that one can choose to deconstruct as an answer to the old legal maxim of "Ignorance of the law is no excuse". Ignorance is an excuse with the shield of qualified immunity.

With all of the laws in the US of A - how are you, the citizen, supposed to read them all so you do not suffer from ignorance of the laws you live under?
posted by rough ashlar at 6:48 AM on October 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because I don't want to bother with a FPP about fast and furious as The Blue opted to declare there was nothing going on with that topic/Bluian's willingness to claim whistleblowers are well protected, I'll just leave this Mexican drug/gun whistle-blowing story here.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:54 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Nobody mentioned alternative economic systems.

1) No one can agree on one.
2) A fine topic for a FPP. Feel free to create a FPP on that topic.
posted by rough ashlar at 6:55 AM on October 7, 2013


I believe that the Mexican drug war is a lie. But that doesn't make it a capitalist adventure. You're conflating capitalism with greed and exploitation, but they're not equivalent. In any case, although VikingSword chose that pullquote to put above the fold, this is probably a derail.

The situation in Mexico is absolutely a capitalist adventure. Why do I say this?

This isn't just about drugs - it's about making money by theft of resources, violence and enclosure. The Mexican government isn't just tied in to the drug industry, it is intimately involved in the the very corrupt, polluting and violent mining industry, in theft of land and resources from native people often at gunpoint, and in actively crushing unions and indigenous movements (or allowing their corporate and drug-gang catspaws to do so) which offer any alternative to capitalist social arrangements. All you have to do is look at what happened to the movements in Oaxaca - both the union movements and the indigenous autonomous movements - or to the war with the Zapatistas. What is at stake is the right of some people to make a huge fucking amount of money and the destruction of any alternatives. It is when people organize as indigenous people or in a union that the state crushes them, and it's precisely because this is about capitalist social organization. If there is a large, effective movement toward indigenous modes of self-government, or a large, effective labor organization which will place constraints on capital, it must be smashed.

The drug war is maybe the most visible part of the iceberg, but there's a lot more underneath.
posted by Frowner at 7:16 AM on October 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


You're conflating capitalism with greed and exploitation, but they're not equivalent.

What?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 7:49 AM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


Kidnapping and murder are not voluntary transactions.

Murder isn't a transaction; in this case it's primarily a tool to ensure that specific transactions ie: money for drugs, take place.

Years ago I heard an interview with a retired Los Angeles police officer on the CBC about the war on drugs and it's effects and he said what happened was that the incidences of police corruption started rising dramatically in the 1980s because of the immense amounts of money flowing through cocaine networks.

I can't remember his name but I do remember he belonged to LEAP, an organization of ex law enforcement officers that believes prohibition does not work. And, his main reason, if I recall correctly, was the corruption attendant to prohibition.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 8:33 AM on October 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


the violence and the cartels are not the disease. They're a symptom of the disease, which is corruption. The cartels cannot operate without the support of officials, bureaucrats, politicians and police officers – and bankers to launder their money

And the corruption is a symptom of the fact that you have a multi-billion-dollar industry that the relevant governments involved won't regulate. Growing soybeans is a massive industry in North America but people don't murder each others families over soybean disputes because there are courts and laws and regulation around it. Making an industry illegal does not get rid of that industry, and if the industry does exist and is powerful enough then it's going to hijack the government services that it needs to further its own goals.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:42 AM on October 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


1) private property exists and 2) transactions are voluntary. Kidnapping and murder are not voluntary transactions
zanni

The problem with what you've written is that this isn't the definition of capitalism. Your first part is, and any dictionary or encyclopedia will say something like:

Capitalism is an economic system in which capital assets are privately owned and goods and services are produced for profit in a market economy.

Your second part is a tenet of a particular strain of right libertarian philosophy, anarcho-capitalism. But that's just the worldview of the philosophy. Anarcho-capitalists conflate the two but they are not the same.

There is nothing inherent in the concept of capitalism that requires voluntary transactions or non-violence.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:48 AM on October 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


Another view I heard recently was Charles Shaw, book & movie, Exile Nation. Poor guy got sucked into the prisons. Described here.
posted by bukvich at 10:09 AM on October 7, 2013


This shit is so upsetting. Whether it's as awful as the cartels leaving dismembered bodies out in public, that awful Krokodil stuff, or just the constant incarceration rates and complete lack of education and empathy regarding drug use in this country.

The message seems to be that all of this ALL OF THIS murder and mayhem and bloodshed and corruption is all for some twisted sense of 'the greater good': because of people who find the idea that people by and large like getting high really upsetting, and because of greedy people selling "crack baby" horror stories to them.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 10:50 AM on October 7, 2013


This isn't just about drugs - it's about making money by theft of resources, violence and enclosure. The Mexican government isn't just tied in to the drug industry, it is intimately involved in the the very corrupt, polluting and violent mining industry

But how do those two things relate? It seems like the drug industry is the competition to the mining industry, and if narcoterror disappeared, the mining industry would be not just untouched, but actively improved, as they wouldn't have to worry about well-armed gangs controlling areas they'd like to drill in.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:56 AM on October 7, 2013


Armed gangs usually help keep workers in check and remove indigent populations, either directly through force or indirectly by making them dependent. American unions fared well partially because they hired their own mafia friends, but that required organization and funding.

The relative dangers of drugs according to the British Independent Scientific Committee on Drugs
posted by jeffburdges at 1:24 PM on October 7, 2013


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