Check out the short film above, by Mexico based filmaker and activist Greg Berger, aka Gringoyo, who’s been travelling around Latin America for over 10 years making insightful and funny films about the exploitation of the continent by capitalism and US imperial interests. He’s now asking viewers to contribute directly, so he can make 100% viewer funded films challenging the lies of the corporate media.
As the film explains, in 2006 Mexican President Felipe Calderon decided that, faced with massive power of the drugs cartels who control the flows of cocaine and other drugs into the US, he would use the military to take them down. The reason they are so powerful is that keeping drugs illegal in Mexico and the US means that those who traffick them stand to make immense profits from a completely unregulated market. They can then use this vast wealth to corrupt police forces, politicians and anyone that threatens their ongoing bonanza. Recently in Ciudad Juarez, the local paper appealed to drug lords as the “de facto rulers of the city” to explain what they should and should not published, after several of their journalists were murdered. Drug cartels love prohibition.
But Calderon’s solution wasn’t to start thinking about a rational, sane drugs policy, which recognises that humans have always
Felipe Calderon and Obama: united in wanting maximum profits for US arms manufacturers
and will always take drugs, and that this should be something that is legally regulated instead of left in the hands of gangsters. Oh no, he had a much better idea: send in the army, and go to war with cartels that are so heavily armed that fighting them amounts to a civil war. Since then, violence has spread throughout the country to many previously peaceful regions, and by the government’s own estiamtes 28,000 people have been killed, many of them after being horrifically tortured.
Last week US secretary of state made clear the position of the Obama administration on the whole mess, when she called for an equivalent of Plan Colombia for Mexico. In 1999, faced with a CIA assessment that the left wing FARC rebels were capable of taking power within 5 years, the US decided to pour money into the Colombian armed forces, making it the second biggest recipient of US military aid after Israel. The results were predictable, with intensified conflict and many more civilian deaths. But I suppose pouring petrol on the fire makes sense when you’re selling the petrol: US arms manufactures are growing fat on the profits of drug wars in Colombia and Mexico.
Sensationalist media coverage has helped bolster support for these policies in the US. To be fair, a lot of the cartels sound like they have been made up by the guy that wrote The Expendables on crack. For example, there’s La Familia, the Christian fundamentalist methamphetamine manufacturers, who in June ambushed a federal police convoy in Mexico killing 12. Their leader, Nazario Moreno — aka El Mas Loco, or The Craziest One — has written his own bible, and holds prayer meetings before going out on attacks. Their also funding political candidates to try and take over the government of their home state of Michoacan.
As you can see, Los Zetas are not short of guns
Then there’s the real action movie characters, Los Zetas. They started out as a an elite Mexican military special forces unit, trained by the School of the Americas and Israeli commandos. But then they realised there was more money to be made running the drugs trade than fighting it, defected and set themselves up as a well armed, highly trained paramilitary drugs cartel.
Hearing about some of the grisly antics of these mad bastards, you’re mind maybe does jump to the solutions you’ve been trained to think of by the entertainment industry – crush them with loads of guns. But what the story of Los Zetas shows is that will never work. There is literally no level of government that can’t be corrupted by the huge profits resulting from an unregulated drug market. And those same huge profits mean that no matter how much money the Mexican and US governments spend on fighting them, they’ll always be able to employ, train and equip soldiers.
Ironically, when Clinton advocated Plan Colombia for Mexico, it was in response to a question asking about what the US government was going to do about “the flow of drugs coming north and guns going south” (cartels arm themselves mainly in the US due to its insanely lax gun laws). It’s time countries like the US and UK woke up and realised that our prohibitionist policies don’t only cause huge harm to communities here: they also fuel brutal wars in countries like Mexico, Colombia and Afghanistan, and the only people happy about it are drug lords and western arms manufacturers.
Bonus: The single best news source on the Latin American drug wars is Narco News. Check it out all the time!