Civil Conflict

RSS Feed for this category

The Drug Cartels are Becoming More Powerful Than the Government

They’re even doing their own diplomacy:

CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico – Mexico's warring cartels are negotiating a truce that, if it holds, could end one of the bloodiest eras since the 1910-20 Mexican Revolution, according to a U.S. official and experts familiar with the talks.

A peace agreement would be the second in two years and, like the last one, its chances of surviving are slim, the U.S. official said.

"In the end, greed prevails over reason," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. [Dallas Morning News]

Actually, it was the drug war that prevailed over reason. We were all watching when Calderón declared war on the cartels and…wait for it…a huge bloody war broke out! Why is anyone acting confused or surprised by what happened? It’s all perfectly clear. If you throw rocks at a beehive, expect swarms of angry bees.

The fact that they’re negotiating their own peace agreements does not reflect well on the decades-long war that was supposed to disrupt the drug industry. They’ve become a second government that even controls its own territories:

Already, the violence is crippling regions and cities, some of them on the border with Texas. Some top U.S. officials and analysts describe these cities, including Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, as "failed cities," in which cartels, not city or police officials, have control. [Dallas Morning News]

Amazingly, the U.S. and Mexican governments actually believe we should continue the policies that produced this outcome.

The Drug War Only Causes Violence. It Can't Create Peace.

Someone help me understand what Mexico’s U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza is thinking:

"Calderón must, and will, keep the pressure on the cartels, but look, let's not be naïve – there will be more violence, more blood, and, yes, things will get worse before they get better. That's the nature of the battle," Garza said. "The more pressure the cartels feel, the more they'll lash out like cornered animals." [Dallas Morning News]

This is correct except for the part about how Calderón has to do this (no, he doesn't) and the part about how things will get better (no, they won't). We’ve heard all this a thousand times before and it just gets sillier every time. The bottom line is that cracking down on the cartels either works or it doesn’t. It makes no sense to say that aggressive drug war policies will create violence in the short term, and then eventually that same approach will begin reducing bloodshed. That’s not logical.

The drug war causes violence. Just admit it. Stop pretending that it’s going to produce the opposite result at some point in the future. It isn’t going to.

Mexican Gangs Threaten School Children

Every day, the stories coming from Mexico get worse. Nothing surprises me at this point. Not even this:


MEXICO CITY – Elementary school teachers are the latest victims of an exploding extortion racket in the border city of Ciudad Juárez, as criminal gangs threaten educators to either hand over their coming Christmas bonuses or see harm done to their families or students, teachers' groups say.

With Monday a school holiday and news of the threats spreading in the media, on the Internet and by word of mouth during the long weekend, there were fears that an increasing number of parents would keep their children at home today, forcing additional schools to close. [Dallas News]


Is anybody going to come forward and claim this is just a temporary problem? Shall we double our drug war donations to restore law and order? Let’s get real. The drug war is destroying the entire country before our eyes and there’s no limit to how bad it can get.

It’s amazing to witness the criminal feeding frenzy that is now erupting all over the country now that the drug war has turned Mexico’s justice system into a complete mockery. Dangerous levels of police corruption have created a horrific laboratory in which violent criminals have begun experimenting with all sorts of terrible schemes. Can you even imagine what’s next?

If anything can solve the crime problems plaguing Mexico, it will have to be the exact opposite of everything we're doing right now.

Mexican Drug War Violence Has Begun Spilling Into the U.S.

The harder we push back against Mexican drug cartels, the more violence we’ll begin see within our own borders. Just look what’s happening in Pheonix:

A CBS News investigation has discovered that as of last weekend, there have been 266 reported kidnappings and 300 home invasions this year alone. Sources say the real figures could run as much as three times higher because so many go unreported.

"It wasn't uncommon to have a new kidnapping case coming into our offices on a daily basis," Burgett said.

Law-enforcement sources say the kidnappings signal the brutal expansion of the raging Mexican drug wars spilling across the border.

Now CBS News has learned enforcer gangs just south of the Mexican border have added military-grade hand grenades to their arsenal - something special agent Jose Wall expects to see in Phoenix any day.

It's not just hand grenades, kidnappings and home invasions that have law enforcement on edge. They say it's only a matter of time before innocent civilians are caught in the crossfire. [CBS News]

It’s really just amazing that this can continue to escalate before our eyes without provoking a widespread, spontaneous revelation that something is fundamentally wrong with our drug strategy. How much more obvious could it be? The harder we push the worse it gets. That’s how this works. It’s the only outcome the drug war formula ever produces.

The only thing we’ll get in exchange for the hundreds of millions we’re pouring into the Mexican drug war is more violence within our own borders. Nothing short of a full reversal in our strategy can prevent that result. And since Obama has pledged to continue this madness, we can be reasonably sure this is going to get a lot worse before it gets better.

Mexican Drug War Scaring Off Investors

Further evidence that the Mexican drug war is making progress…in the exact wrong direction:

MONTERREY, Mexico, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Companies in Mexico are scrapping plans to float shares on the stock exchange for fear of raising their profile amid a brutal drug war and a surge in kidnappings, the bourse president said on Tuesday.

Stock exchange President Guillermo Prieto said that aside from market volatility in the past two months due to the global financial crisis, crime was a major issue for firms thinking about initial public offerings (IPOs).

Going public to raise funds for expansion requires far greater company disclosure and a higher public profile for company executives who go on roadshows to attract investors.

This is a whole new level of economic disruption, as the drug war begins to chip away at financial institutions. If this kind of thing continues, there’s no limit to how far-reaching the damage could become.

Violence and corruption are just the first symptoms of the disease of drug prohibition. If left untreated, the sickness spreads throughout every social institution, weakening anything it touches.

Southwest Asia: US, UN Squabble Over Afghanistan Opium Production Drop, But Taliban Stash Suggests No Shortages Any Time Soon

In August, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) released its annual survey of Afghan opium production, reporting for the first time in several years a slight -- 6% -- decrease in overall production. Last Friday, the White House Office on National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP -- the drug czar's office), released its own US government estimate, claiming that production was down a whopping 31%.

http://stopthedrugwar.org/files/afghanistanopiummap08.gif
opium security map, ONDCP, July 2008, from whitehousedrugpolicy.gov
Both the UNODC and ONDCP concurred that acreage devoted to poppy production was down, but the UNODC said increased productivity in remaining poppy fields meant the decrease in production was not as great as the decrease in acreage. The ONDCP report said yields were decreasing, not increasing. Both UNODC and ONDCP agreed that 18 provinces were now poppy-free, up from 12 two years ago.

"Afghanistan needs peace, a flourishing economy and the rule of law to succeed as a democracy," said drug czar John Walters as he announced the figures. "Each of these conditions is undone by narcotics production. That is why today's news is so encouraging to the people of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has been victimized for too long by the violence, misery, and addiction caused by the illegal drug trade. We look forward to continuing cooperation with the Government of Afghanistan and our allies as we work to defeat the narcotics industry and the terrorist groups that rely on the drug business to kill innocent people and attack democracy and freedom across the globe."

Despite the US report, UNODC officials in Afghanistan were sticking to their numbers. At a Kabul press conference Monday, UNODC Afghanistan head Christina Orguz said she had "high confidence" in the UNODC numbers because they were based on ground inspections, analysis of the actual opium yield of the latest crop and satellite imagery.

"Whichever figure it would turn out to be right would be a tragedy because it's still far too much produced, in any case," she said.

Both the US and the UN reported some successes in luring farmers away from the poppy crop with public information campaigns and alternative development programs. Eradication and interdiction have been less successful, but now NATO and the US have committed their forces to deeper involvement in the anti-drug effort. Still, Afghanistan remains the world's leading opium producer by far, accounting for 93% of global production.

And, if UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa is correct, Afghanistan has for the past several years produced more opium than the global illicit market can absorb. According to the UNODC, global demand for illicit opium is steady at about 4,500 tons a year, while Afghanistan has been producing considerably more for the past few years. Some 6,000 to 8,000 tons are surplus, and Costa thinks he knows where they are.

"Where is it? We have been asking," he told Time. Because of the surplus, "the prices should have collapsed," said Costa. "But there has been no price collapse."

Costa said he believed the missing opium was being stockpiled by the Taliban for lean times and as a price control mechanism. "This is classic market manipulation," he said.

So, while the US and the UN can congratulate themselves on production reductions and squabble over how big they really are, the Taliban is sitting on a gold mine of opium. At an estimated $465,000 a ton for opium, that adds up to a $3.2 billion war chest, and even a dramatic drop in production or successful eradication will not impede the Taliban's ability to wage war against the West and the government in Kabul.

Latin America: Citing Continuing Human Rights Violations, Amnesty International Urges US to Halt Military Aid to Colombia

The human rights group Amnesty International harshly criticized Colombia in a 94-page report issued Tuesday and urged the US to halt military aid to Colombia unless and until it manages to rein in the killings of civilians and other human rights abuses.

The US government has provided more than $5 billion in assistance to Colombia, the vast majority of it military, since the Clinton administration initiated Plan Colombia in 1999. Originally sold as a purely counter-narcotics package, the US assistance has since 2002 morphed into a counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism mission aimed primarily at the guerrilla army of the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). The FARC supports itself in part through participation in Colombia's coca and cocaine industry.

Washington has lauded Colombian President Álvaro Uribe for taking the fight to the FARC, and Colombia has seen a decrease in kidnappings and an increased sense of security in some big cities. But in the report, Amnesty questioned Uribe's claims that Colombia "is experiencing an irreversible renaissance of relative peace" and "rapidly falling levels of violence."

"Colombia remains a country where millions of civilians, especially outside the big cities and in the countryside, continue to bear the brunt of this violent and protracted conflict," the report says, adding that "impunity remains the norm in most cases of human rights abuses."

According to the report, more than 70,000 people, the vast majority civilians, have been killed in the past two decades of the 40-year-old war between the FARC and the Colombian state, with somewhere between 15,000 and 30,000 "disappeared" and another 20,000 kidnapped or taken hostage. Colombia is also the scene of one of the world's worst refugee crises, with between three and four million people forcibly displaced.

And despite Uribe's protestations, for many Colombians, things aren't getting any better. According to the report, 1,400 civilians were killed in 2007, up from 1,300 the previous year. Of the 890 cases where the killers were known, the Colombian military and its ally-turned-sometimes-foe the rightwing paramilitaries were responsible for two-thirds. Similarly, the number of "disappeared" people was at 190 last year, up from 180 the year before.

Colombia's internal refugees didn't fare any better, either. More than 300,000 were displaced last year, up substantially from the 220,000 in 2006. Much of the displacement and many of the killings took place as paramilitaries attempted to wrest control of coca fields from the FARC and its peasant supporters.

In addition to pressure from donor countries, one key to improving the human rights picture is to get the Uribe administration to admit that it is in a civil war. Uribe refuses to do so, instead labeling the FARC belligerents as "terrorists."

"It's impossible to solve a problem without admitting there is one," said Marcelo Pollack, Colombia researcher at Amnesty International. "Denial only condemns more people to abuse and death."

The report also found that despite Uribe's claim that demobilization of the paramilitaries has succeeded, the paramilitaries remain active and continue to commit human rights abuses. Disturbingly, the report concluded that the FARC in the last year has been creating "strategic alliances" with the paramilitaries in various regions in the country as both groups seek "to better manage" the primary source of income, the cocaine trade.

Will Mexico's Drug War Violence Come to the U.S.?

A troubling alert from the FBI:

The FBI is warning that one of Mexico´s most brutal drug cartels is attempting to violently regain control of drug trafficking routes in the United States and has been ordered to engage law enforcement officers to protect their operations, according to an intelligence report obtained by The Washington Times.

Los Zetas, the enforcer of Mexico´s infamous Gulf Cartel, is reinforcing its ranks and stockpiling weapons in safe houses in the U.S. in response to recent crackdowns in the U.S. and Mexico against drug traffickers, said the FBI San Antonio Field Office's Joint Assessment Bulletin. The bulletin was dated Oct. 17 and was sent to law enforcement officials in the Texas region. [Washington Times]

As difficult as it is to imagine Mexico-level drug trade violence within our borders, it’s a much more likely outcome than, say, winning the drug war. The harder we push, the more bloodshed and disorder awaits us. And just as intolerable levels of violence have invigorated the drug war debate in Mexico, there is no doubt that increased casualties here at home would draw yet more attention to the role of prohibition in funding and sustaining violent organized crime. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

The Drug War is Destroying Mexico Right Before Our Eyes

Everywhere you look, it is just so obvious that the drug war is making Mexico’s problems worse, not better:

A record number of Mexicans are fleeing to Canada, claiming their own country cannot keep them safe as it struggles to contain a grisly narcotics war that is spilling into nightclubs and restaurants.

There are currently 9,070 Mexican refugee claimants waiting to have their cases heard, the largest number yet from one country since the Immigration and Refugee Board was established in 1989.

The brutality is intense: human heads lobbed into discos; bound men found asphyxiated in cars; shootouts in shopping centres in the middle of the day. In September, grenades were lobbed at a public celebration of Independence Day in Morelia, a colonial town about 240 kilometres west of Mexico City, prompting some to call it "narco-terrorism" as the victims were civilians. [Globe and Mail]

How much more of this can the Mexican people withstand? The number of refugees may soon grow exponentially as it becomes increasingly clear that there is no plan to stop the violence, or rather, that the plan currently in effect is exactly what’s causing the problem. As bad as things already are, the potential for greater bloodshed and disorder is virtually limitless and it seems we’re now marching forth into a true test of wills as the drug war faithful must behold and somehow defend the unfathomable disaster they’ve created.

It stands to reason that there exists a threshold beyond which the insanity of the drug war cannot be sustained. This has to stop somehow, because it really is as bad as the drug war’s critics have long maintained. I believe we may be witnessing the emergence of a tipping point at which the totality of drug war destabilization, festering for decades, has now exploded all over the map. Calderon can’t turn back without admitting the drug war’s failure, nor can he push forward without placing in great jeopardy the very foundations of the society he’s sworn to defend.

We are witnessing the deadly consequences of a failed international drug strategy. The virus of prohibition that entered the sociopolitical bloodstream decades ago is now shutting down vital organs and inflicting damage that won’t soon heal. It cannot be allowed to continue as it has for so long. This must end and although legalization isn’t a magical or perfect solution, it is at least something that can be tested and manipulated to maximize benefits and minimize harm.

Already, the most apocalyptic visions of drug legalization’s legacy pale in comparison to the nightmare of prohibition that smolders right in front of us. It may soon become very difficult for our opponents to continue presenting reform as the dangerous, frightening approach to the drug problem.

Drug Czar Tells Cartels to Surrender or Die

If the traffickers don’t surrender soon, drug czar John Walters will kill them with his bare hands:

U.S. drug czar John P. Walters, in Mexico City to reassure officials that aid to fight drug gangs is in the pipeline, said traffickers resort to "fear and horror" in their campaign to take over government institutions but will ultimately fail.

Ultimately, he said, the drug lords will face a stark choice: "They surrender, or they die." [LA Times]

Walters then pulled a hand grenade from his vest and destroyed a speeding SUV from 100 yards away.

Drug War Issues

Criminal JusticeAsset Forfeiture, Collateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Court Rulings, Drug Courts, Due Process, Felony Disenfranchisement, Incarceration, Policing (2011 Drug War Killings, 2012 Drug War Killings, 2013 Drug War Killings, 2014 Drug War Killings, 2015 Drug War Killings, Arrests, Eradication, Informants, Interdiction, Lowest Priority Policies, Police Corruption, Police Raids, Profiling, Search and Seizure, SWAT/Paramilitarization, Task Forces, Undercover Work), Probation or Parole, Prosecution, Reentry/Rehabilitation, Sentencing (Alternatives to Incarceration, Clemency and Pardon, Crack/Powder Cocaine Disparity, Death Penalty, Decriminalization, Defelonization, Drug Free Zones, Mandatory Minimums, Rockefeller Drug Laws, Sentencing Guidelines)CultureArt, Celebrities, Counter-Culture, Music, Poetry/Literature, Television, TheaterDrug UseParaphernalia, ViolenceIntersecting IssuesCollateral Sanctions (College Aid, Drug Taxes, Housing, Welfare), Violence, Border, Budgets/Taxes/Economics, Business, Civil Rights, Driving, Economics, Education (College Aid), Employment, Environment, Families, Free Speech, Gun Policy, Human Rights, Immigration, Militarization, Money Laundering, Pregnancy, Privacy (Search and Seizure, Drug Testing), Race, Religion, Science, Sports, Women's IssuesMarijuana PolicyGateway Theory, Hemp, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Marijuana Industry, Medical MarijuanaMedicineMedical Marijuana, Science of Drugs, Under-treatment of PainPublic HealthAddiction, Addiction Treatment (Science of Drugs), Drug Education, Drug Prevention, Drug-Related AIDS/HIV or Hepatitis C, Harm Reduction (Methadone & Other Opiate Maintenance, Needle Exchange, Overdose Prevention, Safe Injection Sites)Source and Transit CountriesAndean Drug War, Coca, Hashish, Mexican Drug War, Opium ProductionSpecific DrugsAlcohol, Ayahuasca, Cocaine (Crack Cocaine), Ecstasy, Heroin, Ibogaine, ketamine, Khat, Marijuana (Gateway Theory, Marijuana -- Personal Use, Medical Marijuana, Hashish), Methamphetamine, New Synthetic Drugs (Synthetic Cannabinoids, Synthetic Stimulants), Nicotine, Prescription Opiates (Fentanyl, Oxycontin), Psychedelics (LSD, Mescaline, Peyote, Salvia Divinorum)YouthGrade School, Post-Secondary School, Raves, Secondary School