The Other War

The war in Ukraine is brutal and destructive with a Russia determined to prevail at whatever the cost. The U.S. is not involved except on the periphery by sending military aid to Ukraine, yet evidence is mounting that it was more engaged than assumed in the build-up to the war. The CIA and special operations were giving advice and training to the Ukrainians. A number of biological research labs with leftover Soviet weapons were under U.S. supervision. If as seems likely, Russia finally overcomes the stalwart Ukrainian defense, Hilary Clinton, among others, predicts an insurgency to follow, modeled on the one that defeated the Soviets in Afghanistan some thirty years ago.

If so, it doesn’t seem likely that U.S. attention will turn any time soon to the other war on its border which from almost any point of view is far more threatening to the country. The ambitious, heavily armed, well organized drug cartels make no secret of their aim to fleece the U.S. and ultimately cripple it. That would be revenge, some say, for the U.S. grab of half of Mexico in the 1840’s war. Their tools are the endless drugs and unknown people they pour across the broken U.S. border without let-up. They’re also expanding their illegal and highly profitable marijuana farms in California and Oregon, again with no serious resistance. Their operatives can be found throughout the U.S. directing drug distribution and billions of dollars in payments to helpful hands.

In the past they have tried to avoid harming Americans while ruthlessly murdering Mexicans who get in their way or, frankly, just for the fun of it. But that seems to be changing. Recently, some cartel gunmen opened fire on the U.S. consulate in the border city Nuevo Laredo, apparently in revenge for the arrest of one of their chiefs. No one was hit, but the U.S. took people and families out of the consulate with the ambassador to Mexico expressing “grave concern” to its government.

Cartel Map by Region of Influence, Stratfor Global Intelligence

That followed the usual script that Mexico is a sovereign country with an inviolate border – at least on its side – when in fact it’s a narco state run by the drug cartels who will no doubt dismiss the ambassador’s plea. It might be asked why the U.S is willing to have Russians killed while sparing the cartels. Are they any less threatening or evil? Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr is alarmed at the size of the threat. In a recent TV interview he recalled a Mexican attempt to arrest a cartel boss that was thwarted by 700 cartel para military troops with machine guns mounted on trucks. He sees a “president down there who believes in hugs, not bullets and has lost control of the country. And we have no control over that territory and no control of the border.”

The U.S. may not believe in hugs but its reaction has not been a great deal more strenuous. The obvious solution is to put U.S. troops, now scattered in dubious activities around the world, on the embattled border where they can confront the cartels and if necessary cross the border to pursue them in what is a lawless land. Are Americans, increasingly poisoned by Mexican fentanyl disguised as drugs of common usage, not as deserving as Ukrainians? In a year’s time 100 thousand Americans have died in this manner.

Then there are the Mexicans who live in a slaughterhouse almost totally ignored by the U.S. media. For example, the cartels are in the habit of raiding funerals of rivals or other offenders where their targets are sure to show up. After a recent attack in the town of San Jose de Gracia, the number of victims couldn’t be determined since the gunmen cleaned up afterwards and removed the bodies. Maybe seventeen, and had they been dismembered or skinned alive?

A war for the liberation of Mexico is not in the offing, but a resolute U.S. stand on the border would be a start.

Bullets Along the Beaches

Come enjoy our beautiful beaches, sparkling waters, lively bars, fabulous food, and picturesque towns, boast the tourist ads for Mexico. All too true, but one activity is conspicuous in its absence from the promotion – shootings courtesy of the drug cartels.

They are on the rise in the vacation wonderland along the Caribbean in the state of Quintana Roo. In late January shootings killed two Canadian tourists in a five-star hotel in Playa del Carmen. Close by a few days later a beachfront bar manager was murdered. In December a group of men riding ski jets opened fire on a beach at Cancun, killing a drug dealer and wounding four tourists. In November visitors in Puerto Morelos were locked in their hotel rooms as gunmen opened fire on the beach, killing two people. In October an attack in a bar in Tulum left two tourists dead, one of them a U.S. travel promoter.

Homicides have dramatically increased along the beaches as tourism has risen. Where people congregate so do drugs for use and sale. The cartels arrive to pick up some loose change along with their massive U.S. profits and violence is sure to follow. Its minor compared to the mayhem elsewhere in Mexico, but important enough for the U.S. State Department to issue a warning about travel in the region. The CDC had added its own alert to the high incidence of Covid 19 in Mexico.

Armed guard with bathers on the beach. Photo by: Business Insider

Politics have played a part in the crime wave. Elections were recently held for mayor and police chief in various towns along the coast. That meant that cartels were going to have to make new arrangements with authorities to continue to operate. It also has led to renewed violent competition among the cartels for the best location at beaches, bars, and casinos.

Foreign gangsters from Russia – where else? – and Romania have joined the action, concentrating mainly on money laundering and sex trafficking. A Romanian boss who used to enjoy a cozy relationship with top Mexican officials has been caught and imprisoned, but crime fighters caution that his operation continues to function. As in the case of the local cartels, removing the man at the top hardly matters. He is quickly replaced given the money involved.

Hardy visitors to the beaches can take comfort in the fact that the cartels don’t wish them harm. They are business and killings are bad publicity. The international media is indifferent to the endless murder of Mexicans, but foreigners are another matter. Hands off. The cartels get the picture. Accidents can happen despite their best efforts of killing only their own. Bullets can go wrong. But it also should be kept in mind that there are limits to cartel patience with intruders, however innocent, on their domain. Occasionally bullets are a warning. Don’t forget who is in charge here.

Meanwhile, adventurous travelers can enjoy the reasonable prices and spectacular setting of Quintana Roo. With a little caution like not criticizing drug cartels while drinking in a bar or harassing the armed guards who mingle with tourists on the beach, it can be a fun vacation.


Reckoning in Tijuana

Mexico is not at war, but its people can hardly tell the difference. Cartel violence is an equivalent, racking up one of the world’s highest homicide rates and killing more journalists than any other place on earth, nine last year and more the fifty since 2018. So far this year, three have been killed for their courage to report the doings of the drug cartels which virtually control Mexico and brook no opposition. The penalty is invariably death.

The question is how the journalists manage to carry on, but they know their work is vital since no other country. including the U.S., takes much interest in what they face. Mexico’s overwhelming violence is studiously ignored while media and government attention is focused on the possibility of violence half a globe away in Ukraine. It’s a close ally, we’re told. But what is neighboring Mexico?

Three years ago, Mexican President Lopez Obrador held a press conference in Tijuana, especially susceptible to violence. Reporter Lourdes Maldonado Lopez told him, “I fear for my life “, referring to a dispute she had with a former employer, the boss of a media outlet and a top regional politician – read drug cartel. The president said he would investigate. That didn’t prevent her from being shot to death in her car in Tijuana in January.

Lourdes Maldonado Lopez. Photo by: BBC News

On learning of this, the president said – not very accurately – he hadn’t been aware of any likely violence. But then his policy has been one of forbearance toward the cartels. He says he looks forward to an era of good feelings: “we must purify public life so that materialism doesn’t dominate us, so that ambition, ego and hate are set aside.” But are the cartels listening?

To pacify whatever critics may exist across the border, Mexico has established a protection program for endangered journalists, including a panic button for emergencies. None of this helped Lopez in her hour of need, but then was it meant to? The cartels decide who lives or dies in Mexico.

Earlier in January, photo newsman Margarito Martinez, who covered crime in Tijuana, was shot and killed after numerous threats on his life, and reporter Jose Luis Gamboa, who connected local authorities with organized crime, was stabbed and left dying on a street in Veracruz state. The killers are hardly ever caught, much less put on trial. After all, they’re working for the state – the drug cartels.

We can imagine the uproar if this many journalists were killed in the U.S. Yet Mexico is right next door. Perhaps the same attitude prevails as it does on the border. Drugs are allowed to pour across, in particular fentanyl which can kill by overdose or by any dose since it’s regularly laced to other drugs that can be swallowed unaware.

Someone is benefiting from this extraordinary pillage. Along with drugs, many billions in drug money spread around the U.S. If those who profit care little for the American lives lost to drugs – 100 thousand a year – why should they care about Mexicans? American eyes, currently fixated on distant Ukraine, should turn south, and focus on the genuine U.S. enemy, the drug cartels.

A Happy New Year for the Drug Cartels

Anxious and depressed, Alexandra Capelouto, 19, a student at Arizona State University, noticed an ad for the opiate oxycontin in social media on the internet. She made the purchase and swallowed the pill, not knowing it was laced with deadly fentanyl. She soon died of suffocation. Her grieving father Matt said “she was a casualty of a war not being fought.The terrorist organization which is responsible for more American deaths than any other is operating unabated just a few miles south of our border.”

Alexandra Capelouto. Photo by: https://druginducedhomicide.org/

The Mexican drug cartels, in fact, are blamed for100 thousand American deaths from overdose in a year’s time – a record probably to be surpassed this year, making it a very Happy New Year for the cartels. if for nobody else. The  2000 mile border is largely open to migrants of all countries and attitudes and to drugs. Fentanyl is the choice and the most dangerous. Yet the current U.S. Government is more preoccupied with the Ukrainian border than its own. Some elements are even urging war with Russia rather than with the immediate threat of the cartels now inside the country.

Seizing the opportunity of a seemingly complacent U.S, the cartels have moved fast. When I was in the Mojave desert of California last July, people talked of a thousand cartel farms in the region. Now the Louisville Courier Journal reports some ten thousand of varying size in Mendocino alone, a county in northern California. Local law enforcement is overwhelmed. Twenty-one police must patrol an area of 3506 square miles. “I’m fighting a dragon with a needle,” Sheriff Matt Kendall told the Courier Journal in its week long investigation, a rarity for a mostly indifferent media.

The aim of the cartels is to undercut the legitimate marijuana growers who are subject to taxes and regulations. With this advantage the cartel farms keep to themselves, well protected by guns, fences, security cameras and pit bulls. Signs warn “Keep out.” People do in a climate of fear. Dead bodies have turned up along with unexplained disappearances. Are we becoming Mexico? people ask, noting despondently the excessive trash around the farms, the poaching of water in a time of drought, the chemicals contaminating the soil and killing wildlife.

Marijuana Farms. Photo by Frank Giles

The Epoch Times reports a similar situation in Oregon, where hundreds of workers  are brought north from Mexico to work at the farms in a kind of “narco-slavery.” People living quietly in rural areas are astonished by the sudden onset of noisy  night and day operations with trucks coming in and out, guns firing, music blaring. Still, property prices have skyrocketed. Residents can’t afford to buy, but cartels can. With the legalization of marijuana in much of the U,S., the cartels must grow it here to keep its share of the market. This they do by selling it throughout the country. They are also aware that they thrive best where the state is weakest. That is how they basically took over Mexico, according to a new book by Benjamin West, “The Dope,” a history of Mexican narcotics. The cartels used to have to pay authorities to do business. Now they are the authorities who collect the pay. It may be no coincidence that the farms are sprouting in states like Oregon and California which are in disarray from crime and poor government and thus vulnerable to cartel intrusion. The question is how far will it go?

Border Crisis 1

Texas Governor Greg Abbott calls the town of Roma the “hottest spot” on the border. With reason. The increasingly aggressive drug cartels are now shooting across the river in the direction of the Border Patrol who are not allowed to fire back. So far no one has been hit, but if he is?

The cartels who basically control the Mexican side of the border like to taunt the Border Patrol and see how far they can go. We’re told they harbor political ambitions beyond drug profits. Time to avenge the Mexican War of the 1840’s when half of their country was lost to the U.S.?  The cartels are sufficiently ruthless, organized and wealthy beyond dreams of avarice to act on their ambition.

Photo by www.latimes.com

Their presence is felt in Roma and across the Rio Grande – the border – in the Mexican town Miguel Aleman. Having paid $10 thousand or more to the cartels or forced to carry their drugs to reach Roma, desperate migrants can be spotted daily. The river is shallow and easily crossed, and there are not enough border guards to be constantly on the watch.

“They come night and day,” says an employee at Jack in Box close to the river. Nothing special, she says. It’s just routine. “It’s easy to hide here,” says a saleswoman at the Dollar Store nearby. Migrants will duck behind the many tables of merchandise. The Border Patrol comes searching for them in a continual game of hide and seek

Some of the newcomers don’t even have to wade into the water. They try to cross the bridge from Aleman. They can be very inventive, says a U.S Customs agent on the bridge. “We get everything.”

The governor has sent the National Guard to the border, but they are unarmed and cannot detain the immigrants. They can only call the Border Patrol who may arrive too late to make an arrest. To keep bad news away, Border Patrol agents are told not to talk to outsiders like reporters. Please go to my superior, one will say, and the superior says the same all the way up to where? The White House? Out on the road, maybe a very dusty road, the BP tends to open up. They have a job to do and are doing it as best they can.

Miguel Aleman is a brisk sunny walk across the bridge from Roma. It’s quite similar to other Mexican border towns – colorful facades of shops that line the streets, lively people at work and play, and an abiding sense of poverty with the continuing background hum of drug cartel control. The town has been the center of a violent dispute between the Zetas and Gulf cartels with dead bodies appearing from time to time.

 A group of undocumented immigrants wade across the Rio Grande at the U.S.-Mexico border in Roma, Texas. (credit: John Moore/Getty Images)

But Americans still arrive for good dentistry at a third of the cost back home. All kinds of other goods, respectable or not, are on sale at bargain prices. Is it safe to come and buy? Yes, provided you stick to your purchases and don’t go out of your way to antagonize anyone, especially a cartel member

A resident says that these days you don’t have to worry just about the cartels but also their imitators. Cartel violence is contagious and others have picked up the habit without the cartels’ more astute strategy. The cartels don’t like this, but they have only themselves to blame.

There are a few rather dowdy hotels in town which fill up with illegals on their way across the river. I’m told the cartels have also removed the town planting along the Rio in order to make a speedy getaway for migrants headed for Roma.

As Roma goes, it seems, so goes the border

A Drug Cartel Bonanza

Apparently, the Mexican drug cartels, masters of the border, were taken unawares by the Haitian surge to the U.S. But have no fear. The cartels quickly adjusted, and it looked as if they had planned the whole event themselves.The congestion of some 15 thousand Haitians at the border town of Del Rio drew under manned U.S. Border Patrol from other ports of entry that were then open to an invasion of cartel drugs – a clear bonanza. They could only agree with American progressives: the more immigration the better.

Soldiers unload bundles of seized marijuana before incinerating the drugs at a military base in Tijuana, Mexico. Photo by wired.com

How other Americans may react to the increased fentanyl coming across the border is another matter. A record 92,183 Americans died from an overdose of drugs in 2020, largely attributable to fentanyl, deadly even in tiny bits which make them easier to smuggle. They are insidious. NBC News reports a young woman at Arizona State University who swallowed an oxycodone pill for pain that turned out to be laced with a lethal amount of fentanyl.

The Border Patrol cannot cope because there are not enough of them. Some 600 agents were moved from Laredo, Texas, upriver to Del Rio. Abandoning Laredo, the largest point of entry to Mexico, meant loss of control of the border. The cartels caught on and began furnishing buses to bring still more migrants to Del Rio.

There are long stretches of the 2000 mile border which are unprotected. One can spend a good part of the day going back and forth between the two countries without being detected. Clear sailing for the cartels who operate mainly at night. Even the projected wall, if completed, would be only a partial deterrence. There would still be significant gaps to be exploited by the cartels. 

The solution is more manpower, e.g., U.S. troops protecting this country along with all its patrons abroad. They need to have the power to enforce the law, and if cartels make trouble on the U.S. side of the border, they should be able to pursue them if necessary into Mexico.

The U.S. media is understandably sympathetic to the plight of migrants but tends to overlook a main reason for their flight – the violence around them, mostly due to the cartels. Despite the inroads made by billionaire George Soros in financing prosecutors who don’t prosecute, the U.S. remains much safer than nations to the south. The best way to make life better for their people and to stop their coming to in great waves to the U.S. is to curb the power of the cartels. Fewer drugs means less violence. This entails greater care for the addicted here whose depression is not helped by media hysteria over one thing or another. A suitable calm is prescribed which is better for everyone.

The Deity of the Drug Cartels

Everybody has its own religious taste, but by any standards this is an unusual one. Many adherents of the Mexican drug cartels pay homage to Santa Muerte – Saint Death – a skeleton goddess dressed as a bride adorned with hundreds of pieces of glittering gold jewelry served up by her devoted followers. Hardly the comfortable image of a Christian saint, but suitable enough for those habituated to the violence that has consumed Mexico. Saint Death is a symbol for everyday life, which is death for so many Mexicans. Those causing it can take comfort in a saint that seems to absolve them of their crimes. She is one of them quite large.

The Holy Death by Dori Hartley

Like so much of cartel life, Saint Death is crossing the U.S. border. She is popular in prisons, and her figure stands in many front yards. Decals of her are seen on cars and pick-up trucks. Some proudly display their Saint Death tattoos. The American media have even caught up with her The Watters World on Fox tv described her rise with appropriate and repulsive video. A good start, but there could be a misleading implication. If only the cartels had a decent religion, they could change their ways.

This overlooks the fact that they do have a religion well beyond Saint Death: the worship of money. This is a bountiful deity indeed that supplies its worshippers with something close to one hundred billion dollars a year in drug sales to Americans. Who then is the true god of this religion? Unwitting Americans whose drug habit makes the cartels possible? For some reason the media avoid making this obvious connection. Saint Death is an easier target than the powerful American interests supporting an indefensible status quo.

Restricting drug demand is an uphill battle. No doubt more could be done, but a growing number of Americans will have their drugs come what may. Supply is another matter. That can be sharply curtailed by sealing the U.S.-Mexican border where most of the drugs arrive. Given the weakness of current border control, an estimated thirty thousand U.S. troops could make the difference along with another ten thousand to uproot the cartel marijuana farms in the California desert and keep others from starting with their attendant activities. That would be just a fraction of the U.S army of 480,000, and troops might prefer defending their homeland rather than remote places and questionable enemies a long distance away.

Use of the military on domestic soil is a challenge to custom and not lightly undertaken. But the cartels can be considered an enemy power – they basically run Mexico – and a clear present threat to the U.S., including increasing conflict with the Border Patrol on our side of the border. Less provocation than this has led to military action elsewhere in the world. It’s time to confront the gods of greed and violence here at home.