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The War In Mexico
July 27, 2010 12:12 AM   Subscribe

No one asks or answers this question: How does such an escalation benefit the drug smuggling business which has not been diminished at all during the past three years of hyper-violence in Mexico? Each year, the death toll rises, each year there is no evidence of any disruption in the delivery of drugs to American consumers, each year the United States asserts its renewed support for this war. And each year, the basic claims about the war go unquestioned. Who Is Behind the 25,000 Deaths In Mexico?
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 (60 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is a great article, thanks.

Previously, and very handy background to take in while reading that article: Statistical Analysis and Visualization of the Drug War in Mexico
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


[via]
posted by koeselitz at 12:23 AM on July 27, 2010


When, in January 2009, Human Rights Watch asked senior Ministry of Defense officials for examples of serious human rights violations prosecuted by the military resulting in the conviction and imprisonment of military personnel, they said there were “many.” However, they were only able to recall one case from 1998.

This report details 17 cases involving egregious crimes by soldiers against more than 70 victims, including several cases from 2007 and 2008. None of the military investigations of army abuses analyzed here has led to a criminal conviction of even a single soldier for human rights violations.
- Uniform Impunity
posted by kid ichorous at 12:30 AM on July 27, 2010


The article makes good points about the civilian nature of the dead, the lack of benefit to the cartels, the brutalities of the army and its miraculous ability to remain unharmed, etc.

But then what the hell is going on? Who does benefit? If it's the army that's doing all this, why? What do they gain by killing tens of thousands and pretending it's the cartels? And why did all this start three years ago? Did Calderón order them to do this? If so, what does he gain? If not, who is ordering this to happen? Did the army just go nuts three years ago?

And if it is, as the article suggests, that this violence is the result of "narcoterrorism" and ideological struggle involving well-organized non-government forces ("'armed commandos' dressed like soldiers and wielding high-powered machine guns are witnessed at the scenes of hundreds of massacres documented since 2008"), what's the point? Is all this violence some kind of civil war? Fought by whom and for what?

I know the article notes that there aren't really answers for this, but it's a baffling and horrific situation. There seems to literally be no point at all to all this death, literally no one who benefits and would want to carry it out.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:42 AM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


If it is a war among the cartels, the goal is control of a stupid rich illicit trade route, and the person who benefits is the toughest, most violent son of a fucking bitch.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:49 AM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


I know the article notes that there aren't really answers for this, but it's a baffling and horrific situation. There seems to literally be no point at all to all this death, literally no one who benefits and would want to carry it out.

Well, our drug enforcement agencies are certainly benefiting, and the "military aid" is BIG bucks. My guess is that it's corruption, pure and simple. The more deaths caused by the Army, the more severe the problem appears, and the more money they can get from the Americans. And our agencies report it as "narco-terror", and get bigger budgets and new toys to play with.

The authorities on both sides of the border, in other words, win big -- they don't care about the violence, because it doesn't happen to them or anyone they personally know. And the Mexicans get lots of money in an economy that's not in good shape, in no small part because of the violence.

It doesn't take very many corrupt people with military-grade weapons to seriously fuck things up. With the way the media amplifies everything, making remote and improbable threats seem like Looming Dangers, just a little corruption can have huge ramifications.
posted by Malor at 1:00 AM on July 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


If it is a war among the cartels, the goal is control of a stupid rich illicit trade route, and the person who benefits is the toughest, most violent son of a fucking bitch.

It's not really more complicated than that. You get the money, you get the power, then you get the women.

While it is all fun and good to blame the man, the Mexican Army appears to be one of the weakest cartels in this fight. It seems to me that the situation is more of a triumph of crime over corruption than crime fueled by corruption.
posted by three blind mice at 1:11 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Among other things, there have been reports that members of the Calderon administration are in bed with the Sinaloa cartel, so Malor's point about endemic corruption bears repeating.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 1:17 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was under the impression, and I can't remember where I had read this, that the government of Mexico has given up on (or was never serious about) removing the cartels altogether. What is really going on is that one cartel is trying to take over another --- and the Mexican government has chosen sides and is supporting one of them. I mean, one of the cartels is Los Zetas, a group founded by former members of a Mexican army elite assassin force, and now filled with loads of ex-government, ex-police, and other former military persons.

I wish I understood the whole situation better. But it's absolutely insane. There are even allegations that hit contracts are being given to prison inmates, who are then released from jail to carry out attacks, and then brought back to jail.
posted by molecicco at 1:18 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you reversed the strategy and flooded the US streets with cheap recreational drugs -- if US soldiers stood on street corners every night and sold recreational quantities of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, Xanax, Adderall, PCP, LSD, and shrooms at cost to any adult -- what would happen?
posted by pracowity at 1:44 AM on July 27, 2010


If you reversed the strategy and flooded the US streets with cheap recreational drugs -- if US soldiers stood on street corners every night and sold recreational quantities of marijuana, heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, Xanax, Adderall, PCP, LSD, and shrooms at cost to any adult -- what would happen?

Uhh yeah, we could do it that way or we could just put the drugs in my friendly PA state store...
posted by furiousxgeorge at 1:47 AM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


If you reversed the strategy and flooded the US streets with cheap recreational drugs -- ... -- what would happen?

Washington politicians would face the wrath of the cartels of drug manufacturers and medical professionals in America who are also making big money from prohibition.

In Mexico it's called corruption, in America it's called business.
posted by three blind mice at 1:59 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Last week in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas someone lobbed a grenade on soccer field. This weekend four bodies were left in front of the Plaza de Toros (español, google English translation caution: gruesome photo). There were messages with the bodies saying in effect one of them was responsible for the grenade at the sports complex. The note also suggest that people that support the "outsiders" (possibly referring to the Cartel del Golfo) will meet the same fate.

Milenio article on blockades and shootings (again, español Google English translation) earlier in the week. Guys highjacked city buses, trucks and cars to block off a major street to keep the military from responding and there was a shootout in the streets.There's some photos on some Mexican blogs that very graphic that I won't link to after trying to find out more last week about this attack I clicked on some and still have nightmares.

From what I've read about Tamaulipas is the Zetas and Gulf cartels are in all out war for the territory. It seems that all the cartels and the military are against the Zetas. There are literally billions of dollars in drug revenue at stake so they aren't giving up the territory.

This is the same Mexican state where the leading candidate for governor was assassinated before the election (his brother stood for him and won).

What is amazing is this story is covered in Milenio and other media outlets outside Nuevo Laredo but because the local press has been threatened by Los Zetas they do no reporting on anything cartel related. Imagine living in a city where there are you hear automatic weapons being fired and seeing all the death on the streets and see the local media is has features on Lindsay Lohan going to jail. I shit you not. Lindsay Lohan. Not a word of anything to do with narcotraficantes. Most of the US media no longer have reporters on the south side of the border for fear of their safety. It isn't so much that there's not interest in covering this story by media on either side of the border, it is just the very real fear of people getting killed.

The Calderon administration's rhetoric about the increased violence as a sign of success of his war on drugs reminds me so much of what Cheney said 5 yeas ago about the increased violence in Iraq being a sign of the final throes of the Iraqi insurgency.

I don't think there's a grand conspiracy where it is the military doing all the killing. But there's a lot of corruption in the government and I do think they military is taking sides. I do believe that it just isn't the cartels putting pressure on reporters but the military as well. From a PR standpoint, they always want to be positive. Cartel on cartel violence has a better PR value than when civilians get killed so every press release from the government overstates cartel deaths and understates military and civilian deaths. We may never, ever know the truth.

$30Billion+ in drugs cross the border each year. Mexico (even with US dollars... especially when a lot of the aide is expensive helicopters and tech gadgets that -- like in the War on Terror may not be appropriate for doing policework) can't fight that. As long as there's a demand, there's going to be someone fulfilling the demand. If magically drugs stopped coming from Mexico, they'd come from Canada, Asia via the Port of Seattle and Los Angeles, or up through the Caribbean like during the days when they were fighting in the streets of Miami.

I've spent a lot of time in Northern Mexico and love the people there. They're the warmest and nicest people I've met. Total strangers invite me into their homes for a meal. It is heartbreaking to see the country being torn apart like this.
posted by birdherder at 2:13 AM on July 27, 2010 [26 favorites]


Who you tryin' to get crazy with, ese? Don't you know I'm loco?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 2:43 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


What if the U.S. military gave its pilots speed?

Not at all what pracowity was talking about, much less remotely a parallel to Mexico; it's a specific category of pilots and all under very controlled conditions. I just never knew we did that until I came across that article.
posted by XMLicious at 3:46 AM on July 27, 2010


The U.S. War on Drugs is one of its most stupid mistakes, and among its longest-running. Talk about not learning the lessons of history - what part of Prohibition do our leaders not understand? Huge amounts of money spent on law enforcement. Criminalizing people who are just trying to feel good. Creating a highly lucrative career opportunity for violent sociopaths. We did it all with the Volstead Act, and we've been doing it all with the WoD. Neither one of them has been the least bit effective in producing its stated goals.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:19 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


what part of Prohibition do our leaders not understand?

The part about not making Prohibition comprehensive. The War on Drugs is not a war against drug use as much as it is a war to support American drug manufacturers and the American medical profession.

Unlike the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s which prohibited all alcohol sales - the War on Drugs is a prohibition of a small schedule of drugs (which can be homemade or homegrown) in order to promote the sale of legal (and expensive) replacements which are much harder to make without industrial facilities and harder to obtain without medical assistance.

America's war on drugs is an industrial policy. Considering the number of addicts there are in America, it has been hugely successful in this unstated goal.
posted by three blind mice at 4:52 AM on July 27, 2010 [7 favorites]


It occurs to me that you could mask a genocide as a drug war. Or as an oil spill.

For a while Mexico disappeared protesters with airplanes that flew out over the ocean. Works well for small numbers. Here or there, a foot washes up in a tennis shoe. Most people are mystified.

But 25,000 is too many to explain with a drug war. About Mexico I can only guess, but isn't it interesting how little we hear about our thousands of dead next-door neighbors while we hear constantly about dozens dying 12,000 miles away??? Dear NPR: what the fuck's up with that?

Basic magic: "Distracting the audience or misdirecting their attention allows you the flexibility to perform your secret moves without notice."
posted by Twang at 5:44 AM on July 27, 2010


Twang, just wanted to nitpick, the airplane thing was Argentina, not Mexico.
posted by Omon Ra at 5:52 AM on July 27, 2010


@three blind mice -- spot on.

Also, what happens when cocaine becomes legal and taxed? Do you think all of these people who have chosen to make money in the drug trade just go into simple old manufacturing and settle for make a quarter or less of the money?

Ive heard that old number about how if marijuana was legalized it would be cheaper than watermelon...any idea how cheap cocaine would be if legal?
posted by lslelel at 5:52 AM on July 27, 2010


Islelel, I'm not a position to answer, but marijuana is a plant, pure and simple, and one that is shockingly easy to grow in almost any imaginable climate. Cocaine comes from a plant that is harder to grow, and then needs processing and refining. Perhaps cocaine would be as cheap as aspirin?
posted by cell divide at 6:01 AM on July 27, 2010


Unlike the prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s which prohibited all alcohol sales - the War on Drugs is a prohibition of a small schedule of drugs (which can be homemade or homegrown)

It's really not all that different. People made booze during Prohibition, and vast amounts of it were smuggled over the Canadian border (for instance). And we got cartels out of it, too. Everybody wins.

If weed gets legalized, it won't be as cheap as watermelon - for one thing, it's going to have the bejesus taxed out of it. Just because people "can" grow it doesn't mean they will; I mean, in theory, pretty much everyone in the U.S. can grow their own tomatoes, and yet there are still huge quantities and varieties of tomatoes available in grocery stores. Many of them are heirloom-this and organic-that and are quite expensive. Marijuana will likely go that way as well.
posted by rtha at 6:09 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


@Omora: Did you read the linked article?
posted by Twang at 6:28 AM on July 27, 2010


This is the same Mexican state where the leading candidate for governor was assassinated before the election (his brother stood for him and won).

Buenos ....... Tardes ...............Amigo.
posted by mannequito at 6:37 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


"Poor Mexico, so far from God and so close to the United States!"
-- Porfirio Díaz, president of Mexico 1884-1911
posted by kirkaracha at 6:38 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


My bad Twang, I skimed for the detail, since I had never read about that before and was curious, but missed it.
posted by Omon Ra at 6:54 AM on July 27, 2010


mannequito it's not that odd for the brother to have won. When Sony Bono died his wife was elected to the House of Representatives in his place, for example. Also Tamaulipas, the state where the guy was killed, has never had an opposition governor.
posted by Omon Ra at 7:00 AM on July 27, 2010


Marijuana will likely go that way as well.

That's probably true to an extent -- people like to spend money on stuff and then brag about it -- but tomatoes and pot generally have two different sorts of potential grower, don't they?

There are millions of people who could be gardeners right now but who just can't be bothered because the idea of a tomato plant growing in the yard just doesn't drive them. A tomato is just a tomato.

If those people could grow pot like some people now brew their own beer, however, I get the feeling that about half of them would suddenly be heading down to the local gardening center for tools and seeds. Compared to brewing beer, growing pot is easy as hell. Growing marijuana is like growing marigolds: seeds + dirt + water + time = woo.

And those who might be too young to buy or grow pot themselves even if it were legalized would be growing their own secretly (assuming the penalties were made very small after legalization) and talking older relatives into putting in a patch. (I love you, grandma! You're the best! Nice garden! Can I try?)
posted by pracowity at 7:01 AM on July 27, 2010


If you want depressing, how about this image from today's newspapers. He probably was the most powerful senator from the center right party and a former presidential candidate. He's been kidnapped for several months now.
posted by Omon Ra at 7:05 AM on July 27, 2010


As a citizen of the once proud state of Nuevo León (now known as Narco León), I would like to say that all this terrible violence has its roots on the overwhelming poverty and lack of opportunities that the Mexican population has experienced (and will to continue to) under the corrupt and indifferent society that is currently in power ... and the cycle will continue.
Tragic isn't it?

Sorry if I'm not optimistic, but I've been hearing of crisis after crisis, poverty, violence and corruption for 35 years, and frankly, it takes its toll.

Oh, and Calderon is a fascist, who is trying to hold his grip on power via the army with the compliance of the business community.
posted by elmono at 7:15 AM on July 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Not to minimize the Mexican crisis whatsoever but if you're wondering why you don't get more information about what's happening there, you should be wondering why nobody seems to notice that the murder rate in Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala is about 5 times higher. And that these countries will end up - if they are not already - being ruled by the mexican cartels. In a way, knowing that the mexican cartels are going for alternative routes and headquarters might mean life in Mexico for them isn't as easy as it seems.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 7:37 AM on July 27, 2010


Sangermaine: But then what the hell is going on? Who does benefit?

They got caught with $380 Billion, which means that the total amount brought in over that unit time is at least double (probably quadruple) that amount.

There are other factors, but with so much money at stake anything is possible.
posted by paisley henosis at 8:12 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


mannequito it's not that odd for the brother to have won. When Sony Bono died his wife was elected to the House of Representatives in his place, for example. Also Tamaulipas, the state where the guy was killed, has never had an opposition governor.

omonra, it was a reference to a song
posted by mannequito at 8:24 AM on July 27, 2010


Usually I can work up some self-righteous anger over the drug war but this just makes me sad.
posted by polyhedron at 8:52 AM on July 27, 2010


When considering the cost, the damage, and the world wide body count the War on Drugs has produced over the last hundred years, at what point can we just start calling it World War 3?
posted by quin at 8:55 AM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


This seems like a fine place to note that Charles Bowden, the co-author of the linked article, is one of the best damn nonfiction writers working today. His harrowing in-depth profile of a narco-assassin, "The Sicario," which appeared in the May 2009 issue of Harper's, is one of the best pieces of magazine writing I've ever encountered. (I'm a magazine writer by trade; that's not casual praise.)

You have to be a subscriber to read the whole thing at the Harper's site, but here's a long excerpt to give you a sense of it.
posted by gompa at 8:55 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, whaddaya know: here's the whole thing . . .

"The Sicario: A Juarez hit man speaks" by Charles Bowden
posted by gompa at 9:07 AM on July 27, 2010 [9 favorites]


furiousxgeorge, three blind mice, et al,

If it is a war among the cartels, the goal is control of a stupid rich illicit trade route, and the person who benefits is the toughest, most violent son of a fucking bitch....It's not really more complicated than that. You get the money, you get the power, then you get the women.

But isn't that one of the points the articles addressed?

If it's just a war among cartels, why are so many civilians dying? The article points out that there is little evidence that any of the victims are cartel-connected. If it's just a turf battle, why aren't they battling each other? What's the point of killing random people on the street instead of knocking out the other guy? When the Mafia was strong and the families fought each other they killed each other, not random people. It just doesn't seem like a simple turf war explains everything.
posted by Sangermaine at 9:11 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


The Atlantic has had published a number of recent articles about what's up in Mexico. This one talks about why Calderon may really be pursuing the "drug war" and how his strategy is arguably exacerbating it. And this article talks about the belief among some in Mexico that the government itself is deeply involved in committing murders.
posted by bearwife at 9:32 AM on July 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oops, should have deleted that first "had," not used it as the link word! Apologies.
posted by bearwife at 9:34 AM on July 27, 2010


The more deaths caused by the Army, the more severe the problem appears, and the more money they can get from the Americans.

My mind boggles at this, that all these deaths could be the result of a system not unlike software companies paying programmers for each bug they find in their own code.
posted by davejay at 9:54 AM on July 27, 2010


He estimates that 85 percent of the police worked for the organization. [...]

In each safe house, there would be anywhere from five to fifteen kidnap victims. They wore blindfolds all the time, and if their blindfolds slipped they were killed. At times, they would be put in a chair facing a television, their eyes would be briefly uncovered, and they would watch videos of their children going to school, their wives shopping, the family at church. They would see the world they had left behind, and they would know this world would vanish, be destroyed, if they did not come through with the money. The neighbors never complained about the safe houses. They would see all the police cars parked in front and remain silent.


What a wonderful and sad essay, Gompa.
posted by kid ichorous at 9:57 AM on July 27, 2010


If it's just a war among cartels, why are so many civilians dying? The article points out that there is little evidence that any of the victims are cartel-connected. If it's just a turf battle, why aren't they battling each other? What's the point of killing random people on the street instead of knocking out the other guy? When the Mafia was strong and the families fought each other they killed each other, not random people. It just doesn't seem like a simple turf war explains everything.

I'm guessing cartels are associated with families, neighborhoods, and areas. Just to be in a certain area, even to want to defend yourself, your neighborhood, out of peaceable respect makes one a target to anyone's cartel. You have any pride, look the wrong way at the wrong person, get in the way of the wrong person--to the killers you are deserving a violent death.

Plus the kids just jumped into gangs, if I understand correctly. If you're poor, the government offers you no protection, so you have to take the protection of those who offer it. Then you're effectively "in" the cartel whether you want to be or not.

It's not really difficult to imagine the various scenarios that decent people get caught up in---even decent drug-dealing people. Sad, sad, sad stuff that I'm afraid has been the rule of the world for the ages, really. It's barbarism and slavery, straight up.
posted by eegphalanges at 9:59 AM on July 27, 2010


It's not just the cartels, los Zetas, la Policia, Federales, and Mexican Army. An acquaintance serves as a specialist in the US Navy CSAR. He has told me about extracting US Seals and other personnel from Mexico. He actually was shot in one such rescue but the standard-issue dragon skin prevented a serious injury. A lieutenant and another CSAR specialist have been killed in his unit in this action - all in the last 12 months. This is all hushed up. After he told me, on promise of secrecy, I tried to find any reports even using the names of the people supposedly shot and I could find nothing.

Of course, he could just be bullshitting me.
posted by sudogeek at 10:08 AM on July 27, 2010


It's also interesting to note how right-wing blogs recently concocted a story that Laredo, TX had been literally overtaken by Mexican drug gangs. Between that, the rumor mill about cross-border incursions by US military/special forces (see sudogeek's comment and related stories), and the continued violence in border cities like Juarez, it's clear where the the next right-wing push for military intervention will be.
posted by HP LaserJet P10006 at 10:30 AM on July 27, 2010


The War on Drugs is not a war against drug use as much as it is a war to support American drug manufacturers and the American medical profession.

Of the top 100 selling pharmaceutical drugs in 2009, there are two which arguably derive some benefit from the War on Drugs (Oxycontin and Adderall XR, primarily the former). I'll be generous and throw in Suboxone and Vyvanse too. Together, these represent approximately 5% of the market, roughly $5-10 million dollars in sales. In contrast, the federal government spent about $22 billion on the War on Drugs in 2009.

The War on Drugs has basically nothing to do with the pharmaceutical industry, which makes the majority of their profits on drugs for cholesterol and diabetes.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:38 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


One of the many depressing things about the Bowden piece is the acknowledgment that the cartels have infiltrated the Mexican police and army, and how those cartel recruits are sent to the U.S. for additional training in how to find contraband in cars and trucks crossing the border, etc. From a series in...the LA Times, I think, that I've been vaguely following over the last couple of years, it's clear that the U.S. border patrol also has...issues - most of which seems to be simple corruption (of the bribe-the-guy sort), but some of which is almost certainly of the infiltrated-by-cartel-members sort.
posted by rtha at 10:57 AM on July 27, 2010


I think you should probably lump in a lot of profits of the alcohol industry, as drug legalization would probably hurt alcohol sales.

However, in general I think you are correct, dephlogisticated: it's more complex than simple protectionism of a single industry. It's broader than that, it's protection of the status quo in general.

It's not as though the WoD is being pushed on an unwitting populace by a small number of elites. Current drug policy is popular -- at least among those who vote. If anything, it's a small (but growing, thankfully) elite who has realized just how bad an idea our drug policy is, but the bulk of the public has yet to be convinced.

Law enforcement and the prison industry and the MIC benefit from the War on Drugs, and to a certain extent they may try to prolong it by any way they can, but behind it all are a lot of very average people who are unconvinced that drug legalization is a good thing. At least not broadly; a consensus has started to emerge in some areas about medical marijuana and perhaps in time will emerge about marijuana generally, but other drugs will probably have a tougher time. The Puritan ethos that anything that makes you feel good (except alcohol) is "abuse" still really hasn't changed much, and I think we're at least a generation away from it.

Plus, you can expect to see unflattering comparisons to European countries and the UK if legalization is pursued. Although it might seem backwards, I think a lot of Americans look at the UK and see gangs of bored, roving youths attacking passers-by, and prefer our system, where downtrodden youth aspire to be drug dealers and kill each other. At least that way they're not out "happy slapping" anyone. No politician will (probably) come out and say it that bluntly, but the war on drugs, insofar as it creates a huge black market economy, employs a huge number of otherwise-unemployable people. If you legalized drugs tomorrow and RJ Reynolds decided to get into the marijuana-cigarette business, all those people who were previously gainfully employed selling bags of weed aren't going to get hired. That is going to be disruptive. Of course, I (and most people here on MeFi, I suspect) believe that such disruption is warranted in order to get rid of such an obviously bad system, but there are a lot of people who just see it as unnecessary boat-rocking.

What pushes the WoD isn't a conspiracy as much as it is just social inertia and reluctance to make anything like a big change. The status quo works as far as a lot of people in the US are concerned, and until the violence currently being seen in Mexico starts to spill over, or something else happens to make it clear that the system really can't continue as it has for decades, I don't think there's going to be a lot of will to make any big changes.

And so the death in Mexico will probably continue.
posted by Kadin2048 at 11:14 AM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


This is all very sad. I live in Monterrey, and if you’d told me years ago that at some point there would be a terror in the city about drug cartels in the city, I wouldn’t have believed you. Monterrey is a great city, one of the most developed in Mexico and it’s a cliché but still true: the people here are hardworking and for the most part, honest and conscientious. Sure, there’s always been corruption in the government but that is almost as part of Mexican culture as tamales and enchiladas. Still, it’s one thing for a government official to ask for his “mordida” in exchange for a building permit or the awarding of a contract, and it’s a very different thing to have government officials practically serving to the wishes of the drug cartels, who, as everyone knows now, are not only in the business of trafficking drugs, but are now also very much in the business of kidnapping people. Sometimes the people get released, sometimes not.

Just so people here in Metafilter get a sense of what it feels like to live here now: imagine being afraid to leave your house every time you leave your house. Imagine being constantly anxious about your mom, dad, sister, friends for being alone in their cars, or for having to go to certain areas of the city. Imagine working really hard and getting a promotion and thinking you’re finally going to get that nice car you’ve been wanting for a long time, only to have to change your plans for fear of being seen in a nice car and kidnapped.

Monterrey is close to border cities like Laredo and Mcallen where “going shopping for the day” is common, and to South Padre Island, where a lot of people vacation during the summer or during spring break. I’ve been going there since I was a child. My parents would rent an apartment for a week and we’d have a great, peaceful week. If you knew someone that owned a condo there, you could get your things and drive Friday night with the idea of spending the weekend there. Now, it’s impossible to take the highway at night. Everyone’s heard stories about awful things happening to people. So now shopping and vacation trips are either very restricted, or done in extreme fear.

Another bad thing is, not only are the drug cartels making everything terrible, now regular thieves are taking advantage of the situation. Car theft has gone through the roof, as some of the cars are being stolen to be used by narcos, and some other bands of thieves are posing as narcos and stealing the cars to be sold for like, $300 dollars.
There are a lot of scary stories going around, mostly by email and I think many are fake. I don’t know who has the intent of scaring anyone so much, but still, I don’t think I’d be incorrect when I say that at this point, EVERYONE has experienced some part of this whole mess first hand. At the very least, everyone at least personally and directly knows a victim. Just for my part, I’ve had an uncle shot by the army by mistake at a highway stop, a friend’s brother had his truck stolen, my husband’s coworker had his wife kidnapped, a close family member had his brother-in-law kidnapped, my dad and a few uncles had gotten one of those calls where they make you believe your kid has been kidnapped…..and the list goes on and on and on.

It’s so sad that I’ve always really liked living here, and I’ve never wanted to live in another city but this one, until now.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 11:21 AM on July 27, 2010 [11 favorites]


dephlogisticated: together, [Oxycontin and Adderall] represent approximately 5% of the market, roughly $5-10 million dollars in sales.

Google tells me that Oxycontin sales surpass $1-billion per year, even more than Viagra.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:41 AM on July 27, 2010


Google tells me that Oxycontin sales surpass $1-billion per year, even more than Viagra.

You may be looking at global sales. According to this, U.S. sales for Oxycontin were $2.9 million in FY2009. As far as opioid painkillers go, Oxycontin is relatively low in sales volume, hydrocodone being much higher (numbers 1 and 3 in terms of U.S. prescription volume, which is just staggering really). That's because Perdue still has exclusive manufacturing rights to Oxy, so they can charge far more for it. Like hydrocodone, most of the other popular recreational prescription drugs have gone generic, so they make relatively little profit. It's the patent-protected blockbuster drugs that keep the pharmaceutical industry running.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:11 PM on July 27, 2010


Of course, a large amount of Oxy / Vicodin / etc sales are for the actual intended use of the drug. Marijuana isn't going to do the same thing [as someone with chronic pain I don't get why weed is supposed to help that -- certainly doesnt for me -- unless thats simply one of those bogus usages people use to get prescriptions]. I suppose maybe you could just smoke opium or something if that was legal, don't know about dosage and/or other issues with that. I've taken Vicodin for pain and don't get why people want it recreationally, but maybe that's because I have access to the good stuff if I want.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:24 PM on July 27, 2010


Weed certainly helps me if I have particularly bad cramps, or if my back is in spasm. I have to be careful about prescription painkillers/muscle relaxants - Vicodin makes me throw up, for example, which is seriously ungood if I'm taking it because my back is fucked up.
posted by rtha at 12:29 PM on July 27, 2010


What pushes the WoD isn't a conspiracy as much as it is just social inertia and reluctance to make anything like a big change.

This. Why does an expensive, unwinnable war continue? Because there are jobs and political careers invested in it. Money to be made and votes to be won. Misconceptions to be deepened and myths to be perpetuated.

If you haven't already - this being Mefi, I'm probably addressing a minority - go rent (or otherwise legally obtain) and watch Season 3 of The Wire. Witness how effective a radical harm reduction strategy is, and how politically and socioeconomically impossible to sustain. Watch the system's internal logic stamp out a new idea just as it's beginning to effect lasting change, and watch the churning gears of the great old machine grind on and on.

Goddamn, sometimes I feel like all the trouble in the world can be explained by what happened to Hamsterdam in Season 3 of The Wire . . .
posted by gompa at 12:55 PM on July 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


You may be looking at global sales. According to this, U.S. sales for Oxycontin were $2.9 million in FY2009.

That's billion, not million. Sales exceeded $1billion in the US as far back as 2001*
posted by The Straightener at 1:21 PM on July 27, 2010


That's billion, not million. Sales exceeded $1billion in the US as far back as 2001

Ah, you're right! The charts I referenced neglected an asterisk—the numbers are listed in thousands. In terms of relative sales, however, drugs like Oxycontin still make up a small percentage of industry profits, at least among the majors specializing in propriety drugs. Generic manufacturers like Teva may indeed make much of their profits from recreational pharmaceuticals, but then again, they would make far more if the drugs were not scheduled.
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:43 PM on July 27, 2010


The louchely awesome nihilist gourmand who runs Who is Ioz has a good take on this (in relation to a different issue, but the point is still relevant).

"We're wasting billions upon billions of dollars on an intelligence system that does not work." What do you mean, we? What do you mean, wasting? What do you mean, does not work?

Institutions, like organisms, seek survival for themselves and their descendants. One of the conceits at the heart of most theories of government, which has perhaps reached its apogee in this age of technocratic, managerial liberalism, is the idea that institutions are fundamentally instrumental. To an anarchist, this is a flatly silly proposition. (An analogue might be a Christian trying to get an atheist to concede that life has a "purpose.") Institutions aren't simple tools. Organizations aren't implements. And when a sufficient number of institutions coexist, they function like an ecosystem. They neither work nor do not work. They survive, reproduce, replace, predate, evolve, alter, consume, and grow. They are no more responsive to the individuals contained within than a person is to a single cell.


More concisely, from Michael Herr's Vietnam reportage Dispatches:"We're over here to kill Gooks. Period."

The point of the War on Drugs is the maintenance and continuation of the War on Drugs.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:12 PM on July 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


If those people could grow pot like some people now brew their own beer, however, I get the feeling that about half of them would suddenly be heading down to the local gardening center for tools and seeds. Compared to brewing beer, growing pot is easy as hell. Growing marijuana is like growing marigolds: seeds + dirt + water + time = woo.

It depends where you live, and it's not quite that easy. Like any other plant you grow for its harvest, there are techniques that work, and simply leaving it to grow doesn't usually work all that well - unless you live in Hawaii, and even then animals and bugs like to eat it (not to mention problems with mold and fungus, disease, etc.). Ditchweed from the remnants of hemp farming before prohibition is pretty hearty but not good to smoke.
posted by krinklyfig at 3:39 PM on July 27, 2010


Under threat from Mexican drug cartels, reporters go silent: Journalists know drug traffickers can easily kidnap or kill them — and get away with it.
posted by homunculus at 5:36 PM on August 16, 2010


I was in Mexico recently, and I found that El Proceso magazine (Spanish, after clicking links you will probably find some disturbing images) offers pretty in-depth coverage of the drug war, and of it's effects on journalism in the country.
posted by molecicco at 6:45 AM on August 24, 2010


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