The Rule of the Drug Cartels

The Mexican drug cartels can read the signs. Come on in. The weather is fine. They oblige and are now rapidly adding to the forces already here across an open border which is controlled by the cartels. It’s almost as if it’s their border, all 2,000 miles of it. Undermanned with no responding strategy, U.S guards hardly get in the way. Drugs and people flow freely in.

The last time I looked illegal migrants in El paso and across the river in Juarez were almost all vigorous males, not the least hesitant about entering the U.S. Robust and amiable, they patiently awaited the cartel command as to when and where to cross. They obviously don’t qualify for asylum and aren’t looking for jobs. These are assured on the vast drug cartel distribution network spanning the U. S. or among the tens of thousands of illegal armed marijuana farms proliferating in the American west – slices of Mexico recovered from what was lost to the U.S. in the 1840s war The cartels have their own notion of empire.

Almost all U.S. attention is focused on the hordes of illegal migrants now entering the country. While they are difficult and overwhelming some cites, they are rarely killing people. Drugs are, especially deadly fentanyl, which is combined with more everyday drugs, an unsuspected killer. This is tolerated because of the polarization in the U.S. between those who take the drugs and those who promote them, wealthy, well placed individuals and organizations who enjoy the profits and are indifferent to the victims. Perhaps this is the greatest inequality of all.

Much encouraged, the drug cartels are moving south as well as north. Ecuador is their present destination for a southern takeover. They demonstrate this by breaking into a tv studio in the port city of Guayaquil, brandishing their guns, threatening the staff and announcing who is boss in Ecuador until they are hauled off by late arriving police. Riots in prisons with kidnapping of guards have further signaled the arrival of the cartels – vast drug traffic along with a surge in murders and other violence to keep people in line.

Screen grab of live video of gunmen taking over television studio in Guayaquil (TC Television network)

And this in Ecuador of all places, one of the most peaceful countries in Latin America. If only it were not next to Colombia, a top producer of cocaine. Colombia had the traffic all to itself until a U.S. sponsored crackdown put it out of business. Then, as author Eduardo Gamarra explains, it’s a balloon effect. Squeeze in one place, the bulge appears elsewhere. Ecuador is now living with this deplorable bulge.

President of Ecuador Daniel Noboa (Fernando Sandoval / Asamblea Nacional, 23 November, 2023)

Newly elected Ecuadorean President Daniel Noboa has promised to react with an “iron fist” by imposing a state of emergency and using the military to bring the cartels under control. In this he is following the example of the Central American nation, El Salvador, where President Nayib Bukele has adopted harsh security measures and jailed close to 100,000 people to restore peace. Also under cartel control is Honduras, which like Mexico, is a virtual narco state. The cartels are the state. Other Latin American nations face a similar threat. The iron fist reaction is not kind to customary civil liberties, but the people are desperate for relief from this especially violent rule.

The Carlson Conundrum

The usual choice for a Vice President is a conventional politician sufficiently obscure not to overshadow the Presidential candidate. All the more surprising, then, that a hugely popular and highly controversial TV commentator, Tucker Carlson, is under serious consideration for the running mate of former President Trump who has a commanding lead in the polls. Does this make sense?

Not to the many critics of Trump who view Carlson as almost as objectionable. Here are two combative, combustible personalities with no respect for convention or normal rules of order, double trouble for the electoral system. But that’s just the point, insists Revolver News, which has close ties to Trump. Carlson reinforces Trump’s populist instincts and as Vice President would assure his legacy after his final four years in office. The conventional politician, shifting with the wind to suit his ambition, could not be counted on.

Tucker Carlson

That legacy doesn’t appeal to critics, even frightens them as an antidemocratic trend to something much worse. Words like fascism arise. Scare words, scoff Trump or Carlson who say they want to revive an imperiled democracy. At issue, in particular, is the formulation of U.S. foreign policy dominated by the neocons since the turning point of 9/11. Going their own way under both Democratic and Republican administrations, they have promoted a series of wars and other military interventions that have turned out badly and made a mess of the Middle East and surrounding areas. Israel would supposedly benefit, though it is now in greater danger than ever and the Arab world is enflamed.

This war making is an example of the Deep State in action that escapes the notice of the public. Timely intervention is needed. In fact, a Carlson on hand could prevent such a lapse as the neocon-driven assassination of top Iranian general Soleimani. Aside from the fact that assassination is a cowardly form of warfare that seldom achieves what it intends, Soleimani was just the kind of adroit international operator with whom a Trump could do business.

Critics pounce on Trump’s seeming indifference to overseas conflicts and his talk of scuttling NATO, which was set up to deter an aggressive Stalin who no longer exists. Isolationism, they claim. But the military doesn’t have to be called on to solve everything. There are other ways to deal with competitive or adversarial nations. The U.S. can try its hand once again at diplomacy and skillful use of its prestige and economic maneuver to accomplish its ends. In his own way ambitious, anti-West President Xi of China is doing exactly that. His moves across the global chessboard may be challenging and unsettling, but they avoid the catastrophe of war.

Standing in the way of the development of a coherent foreign policy is the enormous roadblock of money. Lavishly pouring out of various lobbies, its many millions promote policies that can be irrelevant or injurious to the body politic, a society of greater economic inequality than ever before. The top one percent thrives at the expense of the remaining ninety-nine per cent. Reform is stymied because the politicians in charge are beholden to this money to win elections and keep their jobs.

That being the case, let’s speculate. It would be truly democratic as well as populist to submit any proposed war or serious military intervention to the vote of the entire American public, a national referendum. The outcome from a commonsensible population would be far better than the money-driven policies of a compromised leadership. Probably all the recent useless wars, including the one fizzling to an inglorious end in Ukraine today, would have been voted down. It’s not exactly what the Founding Fathers, far-seeing as they were, had in mind. But who could have predicted this tyranny of money?