Syria may be engulfed in the flames of civil war, thousands are rioting in Istanbul, a young contractor has stolen the secrets of the U.S. international and domestic surveillance system, and the American Congress continues its endless debate on “securing” the border between the United States and Mexico in order to make the not yet approved new immigration law effective. Meanwhile the drug cartels of Mexico just keep rolling along.
As part of the continuing saga of U.S./Mexico relations, an American citizen was arrested late last month and held in a Nogales, Mexico jail on the false charge of transporting twelve pounds of marijuana hidden under her bus seat as she and her husband return from a vacation. The total inability (unwillingness) of the Mexican Attorney General to intervene was initially explained away as his lack of authority in this sort of local police and judicial issue. This should have been expected, of course, as President Enrique Pena Nieto had announced months before that Mexico’s local and state authorities would cease working directly with U.S. agencies in sharing intelligence on drug trafficking. After money changed hands with the arresting police and the power of the Mormon church was brought to bear on the federal level — along with other devices — the unfortunate naturalized American citizen, mother of seven, was allowed to leave Mexico.
The nightly passage of drugs continues to float across the river (Rio Grande/Rio Bravo del Norte) that separates the two countries just as human “mules” lugging 60 –75 lb. burlap bundles of plastic-wrapped illicit narcotics snake their way through the desert for miles to make contact at designated junctures with cars and vans. In spite of the hard work of local and federal patrols on the American side, nothing stops the continuing flow of contraband goods — and the personnel that transport them.
By now this is an old story: Lines of cars are stopped going north at the 11 main crossing points; dogs sniff suspicious vehicles as special x-ray cameras monitor huge trucks with discreet hiding places. The rewards for the individual carriers are barely worth the danger — a deadly game. For the correctly called drug ”lords,” however, the money flowing southward is calculated annually at figures ranging from $20 to $40 billion. The politics of Mexico is skewed by the vastness of the bribes, just as the nation’s economic development has come to depend on the laundered cash from the illicit trade.
The concept of having a completely secure border may sound good, but it’s just not possible as long as there is this type of financial reward available in the narcotics trade. It is equally true that illegal immigration can be stopped only when the drug cartels cease using human trafficking as a remunerative sideline. This aspect of the immigration issue has been scrupulously ignored. While the big business of illegal narcotics transformation, packaging, and transport rolls on as part of trade south to north, the principal associated product — illegal migration — provides both convenient low level transportation as well as fees upwards of $3,000 per migrant head. Each organized trip provides a nice little side business for the larger enterprises, such as Los Zetas and the other border-controlling organizations. Perhaps the best way to explain the cartels’ rationale for continuing involvement in illegal immigration is that it is worth killing over.
This has all been going on for so long that reality programs on the subject of narcotics interdiction and capture of illegals appear regularly on cable television. The police get a chance to show how hard their job is and the low level criminal workers and “innocent” border crossers provide realistic subjects for documentary film-making. In the real world of hard investigative journalism relative to this traffic it is reliably reported that over fifty journalists have either died or just disappeared since 2006. The organization “Reporters Without Borders” recently published its survey that lists Mexico as the fourth most dangerous country in which to gather news after Syria, Somalia, and Pakistan.
Insiders of the Nieto regime have explained that the new president’s policy is to seek to protect the ordinary public from the drug violence that accounted for the 26,000 dead/missing in previous President Felipe Calderon’s six years in office. In practice such a program as the Nieto aides suggest implies that the drug gangs will find it beneficial if they merely kill each other and avoid the killing, maiming, and kidnapping of innocent civilians. There is no question that such a laudatory policy would be quite acceptable to the cartels — if it were profitable. Unfortunately, the Office of the President in Mexico City has no plan that would allow it to hold up that end of the bargain.
Other than oil sales, Mexico’s gross national product relies above all on the infusion of billions of dollars each year from the illicit drug trade. As long as this commerce exists that is fed by the continuing hunger in North America for the narcotics that flow through their “good neighbor” Mexico, there will be no such thing as a secure border. Proclamations by their president, the U.S. president and the U.S. Congress do not change that reality. On the contrary, such statements, pronouncements and congressional bills simply act as well-meaning camouflage for the real sources of the socio-economic legal problem that exists. And impoverished undocumented migrants will continue to find their way to the golden-paved streets of the United States as long as there is “big money” to be made one way or the other on both sides of the nearly 2,000 mile border.