The Mexican Narco-Insurgency

6A011279457F1228A40134841858Fb970C-800Wi Benefiting from the inflated margins of the illegal drug trade, Mexican cartels move billions of dollars worth of cocaine, methamphetamine, & marijuana to the high-demand markets of the United States, using sophisticated weaponry and horrific violence to defend their markets against competitors and directly challenge attempts by state militia to control their activities. In return, they purchase guns from border states like Texas, Arizona, and California to arm their narco-insurgency. The Mexican state apparatus has become a hollow shell, heavily militarized but incapable of managing its territories.

PEMEX, the major oil developer along the Mexican Gulf, has reported that cartels siphon about $1B in oil annually, reselling it on the open market to fund their insurgency.

This tactic has escalated to include the kidnapping of PEMEX workers, possibly to further infiltrate the company. It was recently reported that cartels may be using IED's to attack the Mexican military, suggesting that the techniques of full-scale insurgency developed in Iraq are now finding their way to Mexico.

Of particular interest are cartel incursions into the United States. The DEA is tracking cartel networks across the major cities of the southern United States. Americans have been indicted smuggling weapons south across the border. Arrests of compromised Customs and Border agents has increased 40% in the past year. Agents say that substantial cartel violence in the US is only a matter of time. The US DHS has submitted plans to deal with cartel incursions into the United States.

Recently, Pinal county sheriff, Paul Babeu, states that Mexican drug cartels control parts of Arizona. "We are outgunned, we are out manned and we don't have the resources here locally to fight this," said Babeu, referring to heavily-armed cartel movements three counties deep in Arizona. Even Phoenix has seen ongoing cartel violence.

It's important to understand that the Mexican narco-insurgency is possibly the most direct threat to the stability of American communities, far more so than any of our foreign wars. Immigration laws will not work, just as drug laws have failed to stem the flow of drugs across US borders. Legalization of drugs is perhaps the most obvious solution, though it's not without its own costs. In all likelihood, near-term management will take the form of increased troop deployment to southern states, coupled to advanced enforcement technologies. For example, Wired recently reported that the FAA is considering how to integrate drones into US airspace. Certainly the landscape of the America's southern states is shifting to include a more violent and militarized gang presence.

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  1. And decriminalizing drugs is worse than this.

    Between this article, the oil disaster,$Trillions worth of minerals in Afghanistan and our longest war when will it be too much?

    1. Decriminalization wouldn’t help with this. Decrim = still illegal, still run by criminals.
      Under decriminalization it’s still illegal to buy/sell/grow/distribute/manufacture drugs, it’s just slightly less illegal to posess them. There will still be a risk factor in production, so there’ll still be a huuuuuuge profit margin, so this sort of thing will still go on.

      Only by legalizing drugs would these problems stop. Then, production would be handled by legitimate local businesses who pay taxes and adhere to regulations to keep their licenses. The price would fall through the floor, and there’d be absolutely no motivation for cartels to try and seize the market.

      1. The problem with decriminalization is that it creates a sanctioned way to launder money. This is what happened in Amsterdam. It’s like handing a gift to the cartels.

    2. “Between this article, the oil disaster,$Trillions worth of minerals in Afghanistan and our longest war when will it be too much?”

      When it breaks.

      Seriously. None of this shit is causing the U.S. to behave any differently. The somewhat more intelligent people on the coasts have ZERO infuence over the bahavior of the fucking morons in the heartland. The ‘Fucking Morons’ will continue along their lifescript until the machine, choking on its own miasma, breaks down and stops. This is the Christian deathwish writ large.
      And the fuckers are trying to take everyone else with them.

  2. The strongest evidence that the Tea Party movement is full of ideologically inconsistent hypocrites is that they aren’t gathering en masse to protest our government’s War on Drugs.

      1. I meant their stated ideology (smaller government, lower taxes, more power to the free market), not their actual ideology (“Oh s*** there’s a brown guy in the White House!!”).

        1. Seems like the Cartels are just exercising free market principles and when they are infringed upon, they behave just like the US of A does. Substitute oil instead of drugs and no one would be shocked at what’s happening.

          1. Contrary to popular opinion, the USA is not a friend of free markets regardless of the rhetoric. Look at the government’s actions. They hold tight to Ag subsidies that impoverish third world farmers and then defoliate the illicit crops that those farmers are forced to grow because they cannot compete on the world market with conventional crops. They limit the liability of oil companies so that resources that are to dangerous to exploit can be exploited to the detriment of competing industies. etc. etc. etc.

    1. Which is why I have an urge to punch people that try to lump them in with Libertarians (not saying you’re doing that btw). Of course being a Libertarian I don’t initiate violence so I smoke pot instead.

      Tea Partiers are not Libertarians. Libertarians hate the WoD, Iraq, and we think BP should be held liable for ALL the damage they have caused not just the tiny limit that both the Rep’s and Dem’s decided upon.

      1. Tea Partiers are not Libertarians.

        TP darling Rand Paul is in favor of the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and wants to keep drugs illegal and make abortion illegal. He really seems to like BP, though.

        1. Good point Antinous. Why people think he is a libertarian is beyond me. Wars of adventure? Check. Corporeal Paternalism? Check. Corporatism? Check. Sounds like the old boss to me.

  3. Lets deal with one issue at a time and get our facts straight first. I agree with most everything you’ve written, and I very much think the current state of criminal activity in Mexico is alarming.

    However, your quote “In return, they purchase guns from border states like Texas, Arizona, and California to arm their narco-insurgency” is simply not true. The firearms used by these gangs are automatic, military-issued rifles. Weapons such as these are heavily regulated in the United States, and are certainly not the types of firearms sold to civilians by any company or gun store.

    It’s been found that these gangs primarily obtain these rifles from the Mexican military itself, either through theft or simple bribery. I’m sure a number of weapons also make their way from US gangs to these narco-gangs.

    However, it must be pointed out that these Mexican gangs are not at all arming themselves with weapons legally purchased from the US. When you haphazardly throw in an ill-researched quote about guns, you serve to damage the image of the responsible, legal gun-ownership that has been a part of the United States since its inception.

    As for what to do about Mexican crime? The most obvious solution I think would be to simply get rid of the market for the drugs coming from Mexico by legalizing Marijuana. Even that wouldn’t remove the profitability of Methamphetamine, but it would definitely help to impact these gangs. I also think expanded military assistance to the Mexican government would help, as these gangs are rather uncomfortably large and stable.

    what a mess :(

    1. This is true. The accurate estimates are that only about 15% of the weapons used by the cartels come from the civilian US market. The 90% number that many people quote is the percentage of guns the originate from the US in the set of weapons that is sent to the US government in order to verify source. Not all the guns seized are sent back to the US for source determination. For example, the Mexican government would never send back an AK-47 to the US to see if it came from the US because there is no way it could have originated there. The same would hold true if the weapon had Soviet, Chinese, or Arabic markings.

  4. “They purchase guns from border states like Texas, Arizona, and California to arm their narco-insurgency…”

    Bullshit. For all the diamond-studded toilet bowls on display, low overhead is one of the hallmarks of these organizations. You don’t spend thousands on handguns when you could spend hundreds on automatic weapons.

    Are US guns in use by Mexican gangs? Certainly. But the more pressing issue is where the ones the US government gave them went.

  5. So brown is the new black???? I guess we will have to run that one past the NAACP.

    Remove the profit, and you remove the motivation.

  6. I am not looking forward to whatever new business the cartels get into if they loose their major revenue stream through legalization.

    1. Whatever business that is they’re probably already in it. Guess where they got the startup capital?

      See also: alcohol prohibition. (Specifically, did Al Capone and his buddies get more or less powerful after congress passed the 21st amendment?)

    2. “I am not looking forward to whatever new business the cartels get into if they loose their major revenue stream through legalization.”

      The US Military seems to have the lock-down on opiates through their work in Afghanistan, so not that.

  7. Lord knows we have to keep marijuana illegal, because keeping marijuana illegal means that the incredibly lucrative drug trade has been wiped out forever.

  8. “It’s important to understand that the Mexican narco-insurgency is possibly the most direct threat to the stability of American communities, far more so than any of our foreign wars. ”

    Wait? Did this article just try to scare me into thinking “The Mexicans are coming! The Mexicans are coming!” I’m pretty sure it’s actually killer bees, bird flu, and Russians.

  9. Suggested reading for those interested in learning more:
    Brave New War by John Robb, and his Global Guerrillas blog.
    Illicit: How Smugglers, Traffickers, and Copycats are Hijacking the Global Economy, by Moises Naim.
    Tequila Junction: 4th-Generation Counterinsurgency by H. John Poole.

  10. So simple to fix, but most governments don’t have the guts to legalize drugs.
    Legalize everything, control the distribution of substances and crush immediately any violence associated with whatever black market trade stays.

  11. LEGALIZE
    REGULATE
    TAX
    EDUCATE

    No money for cartels = no cartels.

    Handing their business to legitimate business people, taxing and regulating same, and using the proceeds to educate and treat those that get into trouble from using drugs that are completely available already despite their illegality would do exactly that, while saving the US alone BILLIONS of dollars per year just in direct spending.

  12. It’s important to realize that the Mexican military is NOT making any attempt to fight the cartels or moderate the drug traffic. They are fighting for control of the drug trade. The government has always worked hand in glove with the narcos, but when the PRI lost power in 2000 the agreement between the federales and narcos collapsed. This violence isn’t because the government objects to the drug trade, it’s because it won’t countenance the existence of a drug trade that doesn’t give unto Caesar. The US has no allies in this endeavor, both parties are just branches of organized crime. We’ve all seen how well that situation’s played out in Afghanistan.

    1. “The US has no allies in this endeavor, both parties are just branches of organized crime. We’ve all seen how well that situation’s played out in Afghanistan.”

      The US doesn’t want “allies”, it wants to increase the military, police, and jail presence. Its presence in Afghanistan proves that they were never “in it to win it”, unless you count the whole military-sponsored opiate production as us trying to “win it” for organized crime.

      Again, who gives a damn about the Mexican military when we’re doing the same exact thing?

  13. In case no one’s noticed, we lost the War On Drugs: all that remains to be seen is what Drugs’ terms of surrender are.

    1. “In case no one’s noticed, we lost the War On Drugs: all that remains to be seen is what Drugs’ terms of surrender are.”

      or fight to the death.

  14. The cartels siphon about $1B in oil annually? Why aren’t we hiring THEM to fix the Deepwater Horizon gusher?

  15. If it really is this bad, invade Mexico take the first 60 miles or borderlands and turn them into a buffer zone through which nothing passes. Turn the draft back on. That’s what will happen, you know it, the Mexican G knows it, the cartels know it.

    1. Good luck with that attitude. This’ll bleed your country dry, and frankly, with that attitude you deserve that fate. “What did they do with all that wealth?” “Well they raped their country, the rest of the world, and then they flushed it all down the toilet.”

    2. @ackpht – Nobody has the right to tell me what I can and cannot do with my own body and mind, so long as I don’t infringe upon others’ similar liberties. This situation (prohibition and its consequences) is due largely to the actions of short-sighted fascists like you and your poor grasp of the concept of liberty. Mind your own fucking business.

  16. How are those billions of dollars getting back into Mexico? Truckloads of $100 bills? Transfers from American banks? Or is it just some guys dropping by the Western Union and wiring $100,000 to Grandma every hour? Wouldn’t that be a little suspicious? I hear a lot about walls, guards and guns, but is there much being done to track the money flow?

  17. I’m pro-legalization, and I do believe legalization will make the violent drug trade disappear overnight.

    That being said, it’s a bit hyperbolic to say that “Mexican drug cartels now control parts of Arizona”.

    Follow the links a bit, and the actual quote by Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu appears to be “We are outgunned, we are out manned and we don’t have the resources here locally to fight this”.

    Reporter MaryEllen Resendez takes this to mean “he no longer has control over parts of his county”. She, or the headline writer, reinterprets that once again as “Mexican drug cartels now control parts of Arizona”.

    Arizona is a really big place, and the illegal drug trafficking mostly hides way out in the middle of nowhere. I love Arizona, and it does concern me that there are beautiful, wild places that I probably shouldn’t visit. But it’s a bit spoiled of us to believe that we can always oursource or safety to police. Arizona makes it easy and legal to get a gun to defend yourself against “two-legged snakes” (criminals) when you’re daring enough to venture into places where cell phones get no service and the nearest police are an hour’s drive away.

    Finally, violent crime in El Paso and Phoenix has been dropping despite Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s fearmongering and heavy-handed overreactions.

    http://reason.com/archives/2009/07/06/the-el-paso-miracle

    http://reason.com/blog/2010/05/25/what-the-new-fbi-crime-stats-s

    So, much as I’d like to scare everyone away from Arizona so I can have it to myself someday, it’s not nearly the cartel-owned post-apocalyptic wasteland it’s being made out to be.

  18. Good points, zombieite. Cartels do not control parts of Arizona but it’s alarming and instructional that they are making such blatant incursions into the state. And equally alarming that state authorities can’t manage an effective response. Note that Babeau is also asking for 3,000 US troops.

    Now, according to the Phoenix New Times, an Arizona neo-nazi militia is planning to run armed ops against the cartels along the border, with possible incursions into Mexico. This again reflects the inability of the state to act effectively, opening up opportunities for even the worst of domestic militias to step in.

    http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2010/06/post_5.php

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