Tag Archives: Drug Wars

Wednesday smorgasbord.

An infrequent article dump to clear the tabs on my computer. Topics include: Latin America; the end of Fannie and Freddie (I can only dream); biblical misconceptions; autism; innovation and unemployment; Leon Panetta’s strategy to cut defense spending; and things happy people do. Enjoy!

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The Washington Post interrupts “the current gloom about the global economy to bring you a word about progress. In Latin America and the Caribbean, the portion of the population living in poverty fell substantially from 1990 to 2010, from 48.4 percent to 31.4 percent, according to a new United Nations report. And this occurred as the population grew from 440.7 million to 582 million.”

Meanwhile, media outlets in Mexico report that over 12,000 people were killed last year in drug-related violence. “Annual indexes of torture, beheadings and the killing of women all showed increases.”

William M. Isaac and Richard M. Kovacevich, writing for CNN Money, explain their plan for closing Fannie and Freddie.

John Shelby Spong, a former Episcopal bishop of Newark, New Jersey, explains the three biggest bible misconceptions: “First, people assume the Bible accurately reflects history. That is absolutely not so, and every biblical scholar recognizes it… The second major misconception comes from the distorting claim that the Bible is in any literal sense “the word of God.” Only someone who has never read the Bible could make such a claim… The third major misconception is that biblical truth is somehow static and thus unchanging. Instead, the Bible presents us with an evolutionary story, and in those evolving patterns, the permanent value of the Bible is ultimately revealed.”

The New York Times explains the romantic relationships of those with autism.

On a day early this month, before their planned trip to the animal shelter, Kirsten and Jack stood before a group of young adults with autism at the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support in Philadelphia, answering their questions while Jack’s father addressed their parents in a different room. “Did you ever think you would be alone?” one teenager wanted to know.

Kirsten answered first. “I thought I was going to be alone forever,” she said. “Kids who picked on me said I was so ugly I’m going to die alone.”

Her blunt tip on dating success: “A lot of it is how you dress. I found people don’t flirt with me if I wear big man pants and a rainbow sweatshirt.”

Then it was Jack’s turn to answer, in classic Aspie style. “I think I sort of lucked out,” he said. “I have no doubt if I wasn’t dating Kirsten I would have a very hard time acquiring a girlfriend that was worthwhile.”

A mother who had slipped into the room put up her hand.

“Where do you guys see your relationship going in the future?” she asked. “No pressure.”

Kirsten looked at Jack. “You go first,” she said.

“I see it going along the way it is for the foreseeable future,” Jack said.

One of the teenagers hummed the Wedding March.

“So I guess you’re saying, there is hope in the future for longer relationships,” the mother pressed.

Kirsten gazed around the room. A few other adults had crowded in.

“Parents always ask, ‘Who would like to marry my kid? They’re so weird,’ ” she said. “But, like, another weird person, that’s who.”

Francisco Dao, writing for the Washington Post, explores whether innovation is leading to higher unemployment:

Instead of the normal evolutionary rise and fall of industries, our economy is now at something analogous to the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event (the end of the dinosaurs). Going forward, those who will prosper will be characterized by their ability to leverage technology, while everyone else will find themselves relegated to obsolescence by exponentially more powerful machines.

What is different now is the power and scale of technology at our disposal. One hundred years ago, “leveraging technology” meant using a better plow to plant more land than your neighbor. Eventually he would go out of business and you would take over his farm.

Today, it means a handful of people at Instagram and Flickr can bankrupt Kodak and put hundreds or thousands of people out of work.

According to the NYT, “Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta is set this week to reveal his strategy that will guide the Pentagon in cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from its budget, and with it the Obama administration’s vision of the military that the United States needs to meet 21st-century threats, according to senior officials.”

Lastly, Mark and Angel Hack Life reports on 12 things happy people do differently.

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Filed under Economy, Health & Nutrition, Latin America, Mexico, Miscellaneous, Religion

The balloon expands into Costa Rica

I previously blogged about the “balloon effect” of our war on drugs.

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.

The one country to escape this was Costa Rica, who is usually acknowledged as the exception to any discussions of the various plagues in Central America. That may be changing.

Today Costa Rica draws nearly a million U.S. tourists each year to its beaches and national parks. It has traffic cops who don’t expect bribes, tap water you can drink and a national motto — “pura vida” (pure life) — that serves as a greeting, a farewell and an all-around expression of tropical beatitude.

And now, with Mexican drug cartels moving in, Costa Rican exceptionalism is being challenged by the same criminal forces dragging down the rest of Central America.

Costa Rican officials and U.S. drug agents say this country of 4.6 million is one more chess piece in the traffickers’ push for control of smuggling routes through the region, now the primary conveyance for billions’ worth of South American cocaine bound for the United States. Costa Rica’s cops, courts and politicians have never confronted a test like the one they are facing from the vast corrupting powers of the cartels, Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla said in an interview with The Washington Post.

“I don’t remember in our whole history a menace like this menace from organized crime,” said Chinchilla, who was elected Costa Rica’s first female president in February 2010 on a law-and-order campaign that tapped into voters’ growing security fears.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of ideology your government has, whether it’s left or right,” she said. “This has to do with the survival of our institutions.”

One institution they famously do not have is an army.

“This is a perfect location, and when you have a country with no army, that is extremely worried with people’s privacy rights, who is going to stop them?” the U.S. official said.

One thing that could stop them is the legalization of marijuana and cocaine in the United States, but don’t count on that anytime soon.

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Filed under Latin America, 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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Filed under Drug Wars, Latin America, Mexico

“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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Filed under Drug Wars, Latin America

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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Filed under Drug Wars, Latin America