Category Archives: Drug Wars

Drugs at the UN

I doubt anyone will report these as missing.

If you are a United Nations diplomat missing 30 pounds of cocaine, it is now in the hands of theNew York Police Department.

The shipment turned up last week in the mailroom of the world body, where phony diplomatic pouches into which the drug had been stuffed attracted the staff’s attention, the head of security, Gregory Starr, said Thursday.

Authentic pouches have the words “United Nations” and “Diplomatic Mail” printed on the outside, as well as the body’s logo. But these cheap cotton bags had only the logo. There was no wording, no address, no manifest, no airway bill. They had been delivered from Mexico by the courier company DHL, according to diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the seizure.

When the bags were opened, the contents appeared to be 14 notebooks wrapped in cellophane, Mr. Starr said, but on further inspection they were found to be hollowed out and each one filled with a kilogram, about 2.2 pounds, of cocaine.

The contents were handed over to the Police Department and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for further investigation. The contents did not originate from United Nations offices in Mexico, Mr. Starr said, and DHL handles official mail, he said. Nor did he think it was intended for anyone at the world body.

More likely, he said, is that someone had the idea to use the counterfeit diplomatic pouches to escape inspection at the Mexican border, and the plan went awry when they were actually delivered to the United Nations.

Source.

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Filed under Drug Wars, Mexico

Hackers vs. Drug Lords

Who will win?

An internet video has threatened to expose allies of Mexico‘s Zetas drug cartel in the local police and news media unless the gang frees a kidnapped member of the international hacker movement known asAnonymous.

The YouTube message, which claims to be from Anonymous “Veracruz, Mexico, and the world”, says it is “tired of the criminal group the Zetas, which is dedicated to kidnapping, stealing and extortion”, and threatens to fight back with information instead of weapons. It said it knows of police officers, journalists, taxi drivers and others working with the Zetas.

The video refers to an unidentified person kidnapped in the coastal city of Veracruz, and says: “You have made a great mistake by taking one of us. Free him.”

H/t Marginal Revolution

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It Will Be a Zoo

Today’s Washington Post has a good summary of the international search for Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. He’s worth billions, is in hiding but not on the run, is ruthless with those who try to claim his territory, including the Mexican government, and has a small personal army that may or may not have shoulder-to-air missiles.

He was the barefoot son of a peasant who became one of the richest moguls in the world, a billionaire entrepreneur with a third-grade education. He controls a vast drug distribution empire that spans six continents, but he still carries his own AK-47. He is generous and feared, a mass murderer and a folk hero. He is a ghost who has become a legend.

In the fifth year of a terrible war in Mexico that has exhausted the military, consumed the presidency of Felipe Calderon and left more than 43,000 dead in drug violence, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the founder of the Sinaloa cartel, reigns supreme.

He also has daughters who are American citizens, but that’s a separate story.
Felipe Calderon has pledged to arrest El Chapo, his nemesis, before he leaves office. I wish him luck. But then what?

Then there’s the possibility that removing Guzman will unleash an even bigger bloodbath across Mexico, as rivals rush to fill an enormously lucrative power vacuum. U.S. drug agents warily agree. “It will be a zoo,” one said.

This is not to say that I don’t wish Guzman brought to justice. I sincerely do, and wish him a long life of pain and humiliation in prison. It is only to say that the war will go on with or without him.

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Colombian President Backs Drug Legalization

Juan Carlos Hidalgo of the Cato Institute reports:

One of the worse kept secrets in Latin America is that Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos believes in drug legalization. Back in the 1990s he co-signed an open letter to then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan calling for an end to the war on drugs. And, since assuming office last year, Santos has hinted on several occasions that a new approach is needed in drug policy.

Earlier this week, Santos finally came out supporting the legalization of soft drugs, such as marijuana. In an interview published by Metro World News, Santos said that he favors legalization “provided everyone does it at the same time.” However, Santos balked at the idea of being the first sitting president to propose this in an international forum, citing mostly political reasons: “I would be crucified if I took the first step,” he said.

Despite Santos’s lukewarm endorsement of drug legalization, he adds his voice to the growing number of Latin American leaders calling for ending prohibition.

Colombia legalizing drugs won’t solve the problem; the U.S. must do it. Santos says that everyone must do it at the same time, but leaders in Colombia and Mexico are willing. They are only waiting for the U.S..

They will be waiting a long time.

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The War on Drugs Has Widened

And this is unexpected.

Kids around the country are getting high on the internet, thanks to MP3s that induce a state of ecstasy. And it could be a gateway drug leading teens to real-world narcotics.

At least, that’s what Oklahoma News 9 is reporting about a phenomenon called “i-dosing,” which involves finding an online dealer who can hook you up with “digital drugs” that get you high through your headphones.

And officials are taking it seriously.

I think this may actually be easier to regulate than marijuana or cocaine, but it’s too early to tell.

“Kids are going to flock to these sites just to see what it is about and it can lead them to other places,” Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs spokesman Mark Woodward told News 9.

I-dosing involves donning headphones and listening to “music” — largely a droning noise — which the sites peddling the sounds promise will get you high. Teens are listening to such tracks as “Gates of Hades,” which is available on YouTube gratis (yes, the first one is always free).

(The link to “Gates of Hades” has already been taken down, the gateway closed.)

It will be interesting to follow this development.

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“We, Hondurans, have lost the right to live without fear.”

From Yahoo! News:

The 2011 Global Study on Homicide calculated a rate of 82.1 homicides per 100,000 people for Honduras and 66 per 100,000 people for El Salvador. Cote D’Ivoire in West Africa followed with 56.9 and the Caribbean nation of Jamaica with 52.1. The United States had a homicide rate of 5 per 100,000 people in 2009, the report said.

Honduras Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio said Thursday that he was worried about rising crime and feared worse figures are yet to come.

“We, Hondurans, have lost the right to live without fear,” Custodio said in a news statement.

He said the enemy in the 1980s was the army, police and secret corps, but now the threat is organized crime.

U.S. officials say crackdowns on drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia have pushed gang activity to Central America, which has long been a lucrative corridor for trafficking.

(H/T to FP.)

This is in part due to the “balloon effect.” The drugs entering America used to be trafficked from Colombia through the Caribbean. Due to a nationwide crackdown on the Cali and Medellin drug cartels and to increased control of the Caribbean waters by the U.S., the balloon was squeezed and expanded in Mexico. As crackdowns in Mexico squeeze the balloon it expands southward into Central America. Already plagued by high levels of violence, their situation worsens.

This is far more of a concern for Mexico and their southern neighbors than it is for the US. Mark Kleiman calls this the “great asymmetry.

Mexico and the United States do not occupy symmetrical positions in the binational drug situation. The United States is central to Mexico’s drug problem, whereas Mexico is incidental to that of the United States. Before the mid-1980s, when the heavy use of U.S. naval and air power shut off the Caribbean smuggling route from Colombia to the Gulf Coast, Mexico was not the main source or transit country for illicit drugs entering the United States. But the U.S. drug problem was at least as severe then as it is now. By contrast, Mexico’s current drug-trafficking problems relate almost entirely to exports to the United States. In other words, if the United States stopped importing drugs, Mexico’s drug violence would shrink dramatically. But an end to Mexican exports would, once new routes and sources replaced Mexico in serving the U.S. market, have only a modest impact on the U.S. drug problem.

If stronger Mexican efforts against drug trafficking could substantially reduce drug abuse in the United States, Washington’s repeated demands for more vigorous law enforcement in Mexico would have some real basis. But to call on Mexico to make increasing sacrifices for no more potential benefit than redirecting the flow of illicit trade is surely unjustifiable. The upsurge in violence since Mexican President Felipe Calderón began his crackdown against traffickers in 2007 shows how increased enforcement can lead to increased bloodshed.

This line of reasoning seems to support the reply U.S. officials often hear when they demand that Mexico strengthen its antidrug efforts: that the basic problem is not supply from Mexico but demand from the United States, and that it is incumbent on the United States to reduce the quantities of illicit drugs its residents sell, buy, and consume.

If only we could help them pop the balloon.

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Filed under Drug Wars, Latin America, Mexico

Troops Are Not Needed

The legalization of drugs is.
Rick Perry has decided that American troops may be required to end the drug war raging in Mexico.

Mr Perry was speaking during a campaign appearance in New Hampshire.
“It may require our military in Mexico working in concert with them to kill these drug cartels and keep them off our border,” he said.
Such a move would go far beyond current US involvement in Mexico’s drugs war.
The suggestion is also likely to irritate Mexico’s government over the sensitive issue, correspondents say.
Governor Perry gave no further details of what sort of possible military intervention he would consider.
“I don’t know all the different scenarios that would be out there,” he said.
“But I think it is very important for us to work with them to keep that country from failing”.

Let us hope that he didn’t clear this idea with his campaign advisers. First, the Mexican government would most likely not approve such support. (Without their support, it is no longer assistance, but rather an invasion.) So perhaps it’s a moot point. Second, the move is entirely unnecessary for a nation with a broken army, deficits as far as the eye can see, and overflowing prisons. If Perry, or any leader, truly wanted to win the drug war, they would defund the violence by legalizing the drugs the cartels are fighting to traffic. It is sad that no serious political leaders – except for and – are willing to state the obvious: we Americans like our marijuana and cocaine, and Mexicans are dying to get it to us.

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Filed under Domestic Politics, Drug Wars, Election 2012, Foreign Policy, Mexico

Los Mata Zetas

A new group of armed vigilantes, Los Mata Zetas (the Zeta Killers), has surface in Mexico to combat Los Zetas, arguably the most violent and ruthless of Mexico’s five major drug cartels, all of whom are waging a bloody battle for turf to control the drugs trafficked from Central and South America to consumers in the U.S. Some have argued that Los Mata Zetas are not a paramilitary group simply out to defend innocent and unarmed Mexicans, but rather another drug cartel looking to exploit the population’s fear and loathing of Los Zetas and win popular support.

The WSJ reports:

Nevertheless, the rise of a group like the Mata Zetas raises troubling questions for ordinary Mexicans and the government: Is it a good thing when members of a bloodthirsty cartel known for murders, extortions, and kidnapping are themselves summarily killed by other criminals?

While Mexico’s federal government has condemned the killing, the response by Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte was widely seen as more equivocal.

“It’s lamentable the assassination of 35 people, but it’s more so that these people had chosen to dedicate themselves to extortion, kidnapping and murder,” the governor wrote on his Twitter account a day after the event.

Forty-three thousand Mexicans have been killed in this drug war since 2006, and every tactic of the federal government to turn the tide has thus far fallen short. Would the government welcome this, or at least look the other way? What about the civilian population?

Jorge Chabat, a security analyst at the CIDE think tank in Mexico says that the emergence of illegal groups such as the Mata Zetas—perhaps with some help from local or national government authorities—wouldn’t be a surprise, given the level of violence inflicted by the Zetas on the Mexican population and the Mexican state’s inability to provide its citizens with protection.

Officials “would never tell you openly, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some sectors of government look the other way, and I fear that parts of the civilian population would also see this with approval,” he said.

It is an unfortunate measure, but will it be seen as necessary? Perhaps, at least until the U.S. ends the drug war by legalizing drugs.

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Heroin vs. Xanax

Which kills more Americans annually? The answer is a bit more complicated than the post title, but prescription drug abuse is growing more and more costly each year.

While most major causes of preventable death are declining, drugs are an exception. The death toll has doubled in the last decade, now claiming a life every 14 minutes. By contrast, traffic accidents have been dropping for decades because of huge investments in auto safety.

Public health experts have used the comparison to draw attention to the nation’s growing prescription drug problem, which they characterize as an epidemic. This is the first time that drugs have accounted for more fatalities than traffic accidents since the government started tracking drug-induced deaths in 1979.

Fueling the surge in deaths are prescription pain and anxiety drugs that are potent, highly addictive and especially dangerous when combined with one another or with other drugs or alcohol. Among the most commonly abused are OxyContin, Vicodin, Xanax and Soma. One relative newcomer to the scene is Fentanyl, a painkiller that comes in the form of patches and lollipops and is 100 times more powerful than morphine.

Such drugs now cause more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined.

The increased drug use is attributed to the perception of both its legality, thus harmlessness, and lack of a stigma, as opposed to illegal drugs, of which people are aware of both the health risks and the stigma. But how can something you get from your doctor be bad? “People feel they are safer with prescription drugs because you get them from a pharmacy and they are prescribed by a doctor,” says Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Steve Opferman, head of a county task force on prescription drug-related crimes.

The solution must start with the admission that doctors, in trying to provide us with a world without pain and suffering, have overprescribed us. We must rein in our lax use of these drugs as a fix for all of life’s unpleasantries. Previous generations have suffered through, and thrived from, greater hardships. Luckily for them they didn’t have such pharmaceutical advancements. We have drugged ourselves to reduce our pains and displeasures, but our numbness is now literally killing us.

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Filed under Drug Wars, Health & Nutrition

Blog del Narco Is Targeted

We knew this would happen, but it is still troubling. The Blog del Narco (website in Spanish) is the best open source of information on the Mexican drug wars, with the goal of documenting the narco-violence in Mexico that until recently “was found in the shadows.” As the violence in Mexico has worsened, this blog, launched in March, 2010, has grown in popularity and influence, to the tune of more than 3 million hits weekly.

And now they are being targeted. As Al Jazeera reports:

The bodies of two young people have been found hanging from a bridge in northern Mexico accompanied by a hand-lettered sign warning social media users from reporting on violence.
The corpses of a young man and woman, dangling from a pedestrian walkway in the city of Nuevo Laredo near the US border, showed signs of torture and were badly mutilated, an official at the state prosecutor’s office said on Tuesday.

“Watch out, I’ve got my eye on you,” the placard said, according to photos from the scene, warning that the same would happen to all “scandal mongers” on the internet.
The placard was signed “Z”, a reference to the Zetas, a notorious drug gang that operates in the area.

The victims, who have not been identified, were aged between 20 and 25, said the official, who asked not to be named. Al Jazeera could not confirm if they were social media users.
Two popular websites covering the Mexico drug war, Blog del Narco and Frontera al Rojo Vivo, were mentioned and threatened on the placard.

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