Marijuana legalization in the US making Mexican drug gangs poorer

We’re still not sure of the full impact of marijuana legalization, in terms of pot use and abuse, in the states that have legalized. But a report from Deborah Bonello for the Los Angeles Times shows one way that legalization for recreational and medical purposes is working:

The loosening of marijuana laws across much of the United States has increased competition from growers north of the border, apparently enough to drive down prices paid to Mexican farmers. Small-scale growers here in the state of Sinaloa, one of the country’s biggest production areas, said that over the last four years the amount they receive per kilogram has fallen from $100 to $30.

The price decline appears to have led to reduced marijuana production in Mexico and a drop in trafficking to the U.S., according to officials on both sides of the border and available data.

As Bonello reports, the drop in price — and competition from higher-quality US-made marijuana — is hitting drug cartels, too. So now they have to look to other opportunities, or look for ways to deal in high-quality cannabis, to make up for lost profits, or just accept the hit in their finances.

This was a predictable outcome of legalization, but still a big deal and welcome news. One of the major arguments for legal pot is that it will weaken drug cartels, cutting off a major source of revenue and inhibiting their ability to carry out violent acts — from mass murders to beheadings to extortion — around the world. And cannabis used to make up a significant chunk of cartels’ drug export revenue: as much as 20 to 30 percent, according to previous estimates…

❝Will this be enough to completely eliminate drug cartels? Certainly not. These groups deal in far more than pot, including extortion and other drugs like cocaine and heroin.

Still, it will hurt. As the numbers above suggest, marijuana used to be a big source of drug cartels’ revenue, and that’s slowly but surely going away…But it’s a potentially huge win for Mexico and other Latin American countries.

Which is exactly what was predicted by the example of other nations more enlightened than Congress and the average flavor of American politicians. This is what anyone who examines the results of prohibition – and the end of prohibition – around the modern world would expect.

The rest is silence – and cowardice.

Keeping up with Mexican drug cartels — New Generation

Click to enlargephotos from Getty, EPA, etc.

A shootout between members of a powerful drug cartel and Mexican security forces in the western state of Michoacan left at least 40 people dead Friday, according to Mexican officials.

The violence unfolded in the morning near the town of Tanhuato, along Michoacan’s border with the state of Jalisco, a troubled region where two drug cartels have waged a long-running battle and where attacks against Mexican authorities have recently spiked.

Mexican authorities offered few details Friday afternoon about the killings, which involved the New Generation cartel of Jalisco and a convoy of federal police and soldiers. The governor of Michoacan, Salvador Jara, said on a radio address that at least one policeman died, as well as 42 gunmen, although those numbers were not confirmed…

A priest at a nearby church, Manuel Navarro, said that he and his parishioners could see black smoke rising at the scene of the violence but that the townspeople continued to work and go out in the streets.

“The people must be scared,” he said. “But what are we going to do?

The New Generation cartel has grown into one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs and has been involved in several large-scale attacks against authorities in recent months. In April, the group ambushed a convoy of state police officers as they drove through a rural gorge, killing 15 of them. This month, gunmen shot down a Mexican military helicopter with a rocket-propelled grenade, killing six soldiers.

Over the past two years, the gang has battled Michoacan’s dominant cartel, the Knights Templar, as well as members of the citizens militia group that emerged there to combat the drug gangs’ killing and extortion. Authorities in Jalisco have expressed concern that they are not getting enough help from the federal government to halt the expansion of the New Generation cartel.

I have no idea what “army” is needed to sort out the history of Mexico’s corruption. It is as deeply ingrained within the structure of everyday life and governance as any failed state in history.

Although the comparative casualty rate of Federales vs gangsters was pretty impressive this time. Ahem, assuming this account is the truth.

Why should Americans care about protests – and murder – in Mexico?

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Christy Thornton is earning a doctorate in Latin American history at New York University and is a board member of the North American Congress on Latin America.

In early October, I attended a rally outside the Mexican consulate in New York City to protest the disappearance of a group of students taken by police in the state of Guerrero two weeks earlier. On a busy midtown Manhattan street, a dozen people gathered to call attention to the missing students and demand their return. A passerby, puzzled by the commotion, stopped a protester to ask what they were shouting about. When he was told what had happened, he asked incredulously, “But they were Mexican students? Killed in Mexico? Why should we care here?”

Indeed, why should ordinary Americans care about the rampant corruption, extrajudicial violence and culture of impunity that has overtaken Mexico in the eight years since then-President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels? Why should they care about 100,000 dead and at least 20,000 disappeared, some of whose remains are being uncovered in a quickly metastasizing map of mass graves? Why should they care about the 43 teachers in training, rounded up by police and turned over to a gang of killers who, it is alleged, burned their bodies and dumped what remained in a local river? Why should they care about the surging protests, the tens of thousands marching in the streets of Mexico’s cities and towns, calling for the renunciation of President Enrique Peña Nieto and declaring “Fue el estado” (It was the state)?

Here’s why Americans should care: We are collectively funding this war. Our tax dollars, in the form of security aid, provide the equipment, weapons and training to state security forces responsible for an ever-lengthening rap sheet of human rights abuses. U.S. drug habits, in the form of an insatiable market for narcotics, marijuana and amphetamines, provide the liquid cash that has proved so corrosive when it has come into contact with every level of the Mexican state.

This is our war, on our drugs. We have created the Mexico from which we now distance ourselves — but we can’t afford to turn our backs any longer.

Since 2007, the U.S. government has spent roughly $3 billion on security aid to Mexico, through the George W. Bush–era Mérida Initiative, which was extended indefinitely by President Barack Obama, and through counternarcotics programs run by the Defense and Justice departments. Those funds served to militarize the war on drugs and contributed to the extraordinary increase in violence under Calderón…

The aid provided by the U.S. government pales compared with the estimated $30 billion a year that the sale of drugs in the United States sends to Mexico. And it is that money that is coursing through Mexico’s political veins, infecting everyone from small town mayors and state governors to federal security officials, rotting the Mexican state from within and leaving the protesters without recourse. Small wonder that many in Mexico have taken up the slogan that brought down the Argentine government in 2001: Que se vayan todos (Throw them all out).

The U.S. government’s response to the demands of the Mexican people for respect, answers and justice has been tellingly quiet. No word from Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. So far, we have only the pleas of a State Department spokeswoman for “all parties to remain calm.” This statement was triggered by fears that the protests will turn violent, an outrageous worry, given the scale and brutality of state violence that provoked them.

The White House continues the great American tradition of deciding for the rest of the world whose violence counts and whose doesn’t. If people rise up to strike out against corruption that has nothing to do with the management of official America’s response. As usual, money talks. Policy set in motion decades ago by some of the most useless politicians in our history – are accepted as holy writ.

Thanks, Mike

In small-towns in every state, business as usual for Mexican cartels

Less than a mile off a county road in Ivanhoe near the Black River, federal drug agents and local authorities found exactly what their informant had promised.

“We saw what looked like, as far as you could see, marijuana plants,” said Drug Enforcement Administration agent Michael Franklin…

“The people we were really focusing on were not the guys tending the field. The guys bankrolling the field were the target,” he said. Those guys, according to the DEA’s source, were members of La Familia Michoacana, a Mexican drug cartel that the Justice Department says focuses primarily on moving heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine into the southeastern and southwestern United States…

Franklin said the case is one in a growing list of cartel-linked busts he is seeing in largely rural southeastern North Carolina. The area’s Latino population has grown considerably in the past 20 years, and authorities say cartel operatives use Latino communities as cover…

News of cartel machinations are common in cities near the border, such as Phoenix, and the far-flung drug hubs of New York, Chicago or Atlanta, but smaller towns bring business, too. In unsuspecting suburbs and rural areas, police are increasingly finding drugs, guns and money they can trace back to Mexican drug organizations…

In 2009 and 2010, the center reported, cartels operated in 1,286 U.S. cities, more than five times the number reported in 2008. The center named only 50 cities in 2006.

Target communities often have an existing Hispanic population and a nearby interstate for ferrying drugs and money to and fro, said author Charles Bowden, whose books on the Mexican drug war include “Murder City: Ciudad Juarez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields.”

“I’m not saying Mexicans come here to do crime, but Mexicans who move drugs choose to do it through areas where there are already Mexicans,” he said.

Santa Fe says 15% of the county population is illegal. If they admit to that – you can presume it is more. That community is afraid to contact the police for obvious reason. They’re afraid of being shipped home to Mexico. Also – you tip off the local police you run the risk of cartel flunkies in the police department informing on you. The basic undocumentado Lose – Lose equation.

RTFA. Some parts will ring true and inform. I find it disjointed and repetitive of common knowledge on the streets of America. Anyone who travels this country already knows this stuff.

When I was still on the road fulltime in the early 1990’s I knew Las Vegas, NM, was a distribution center for drugs from Mexico. A few years later the city council hired an investigator to vet the police department and city officials and their involvement in gang activity. He quit after a few weeks – saying his efforts were only window dressing and city officials didn’t really intend to use his information to clean up the town.

Since then we’ve had a few really overt examples of corruption and complicity come to light – like the police chief and city council members in Columbus, NM, busted for running guns to the cartels. And on and on. North Carolina ain’t especially different nor is East Bumfart, Texas and probably a half-dozen small towns anywhere in any northern tier state.

Stupid laws governing drug use, corrupt and “moral” officialdom up to and including the highest elected officials are stock in trade for gangsters. As they were in early days of the Mafia. As they are today. None of this is a discovery.

Gangsters don’t stay in business without paying off cops and politicians. Part of the cost of doing business.

U.S., Mexico establish new political direction over drug gangs

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

The $1.4 billion Mérida Initiative, an anti-drug package designed under the Bush administration, ends next year. In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, the senior official outlined Obama administration priorities in supporting the government of President Felipe Calderón in its battle with the cartels and the violence and corruption they engender – much of it along the Texas border.

U.S. and Mexican officials are looking for ways to gradually move the focus of their efforts from dismantling and disrupting cartels to strengthening Mexico’s weak democratic institutions and weeding out corruption, the official said.

“Corruption remains a pretty significant concern,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “That’s a serious, serious problem. It’s gotten better than it was, but we need more trusted counterparts to mount effective operations.”

The bleak assessment is shared by some Mexican officials. The battle has “exposed Mexico’s corruption and vulnerabilities and weak judicial institutions,” Joel Ortega, Mexico City’s former police chief, said recently at Columbia University in New York City.

“To win this war, we will need the full participation of society, including the media and law enforcement,” Ortega said. “We’re facing the biggest threat to our country’s national security…”

In recent weeks, officials from the two countries have been meeting in Washington and Mexico City to coordinate efforts beyond the Mérida Initiative

The Obama administration will seek to fund a counternarcotics package to Mexico and Central America, though under a different name to reflect the administration’s shift in priorities, the official said. Those priorities include focusing on training judges and law enforcement officials and working with communities to create job opportunities to prevent young people from seeking jobs with cartels…

RTFA. Overcoming Mexico’s tradition of institutional corruption, supporting a barely-existing movement for democracy and freedom – ain’t ever going to be easy. The same structures that enforced national unity brought all the trappings of fiefdom, as well.

Usually unspoken, racist traditions of “Spanish” families over Indios dominate whole provincial elections. They are exploited as thoroughly by the drug cartels as populist – and reactionary – class divisions within Mexican society.

Not so easy for the United States to overcome when the same traits stain our own border states.