Drug Cartels and an Absent Media

Even by drug cartel standards, the eruption of violence south of the Arizona border was unprecedented. For a few days in May, dozens of people were killed or missing in the state of Sonora, hundreds fled their homes, and the mayor of near paralyzed Sonoyta would not give any interviews because his life was threatened if he did. Once again, the cartels were fighting over lucrative drug routes to the US and, frankly, just for the hell of it. Let the bullets land where they may. And there was no stopping them until they tired of it.

The US State department issued a warning that travel in Sonora can be “extremely dangerous.” Those who risk it should stick to the main roads in daylight.

If this isn’t a story, what is? Yet the major American media hardly touched it, if that. Preoccupied with the threat from Isis, half a globe away, the purveyors of news to the American people ignored the much closer, equally violent danger across the border. Only a few publications near Mexico like the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson covered the turmoil.

The neglect extends even to this side of the border. In mid-February, thirty-one members of a big Mexican money-laundering ring were arrested in Chicago, a hub of drug trafficking. US Attorney Zachary Fardon said this kind of business is responsible for “countless devastated lives and ravaged communities,” meaning both here and in Mexico. Again, hardly any media coverage.

The drug cartels, earning an estimated 6o billion dollars a year from voracious American consumers, have wrecked much of Mexico and are an increasing presence in this country. Their danger is not just the drugs they purvey but the corruption that follows and reaches into many areas of American lifeĀ  – business, politics, law enforcement. In an important new book, “The Accidental Super Power,” author Peter Zeihan analyzes the interconnected US-Mexican crime scene and concludes: “More than China, more than Russia, more than Iran, it is the expansion of the Mexican drug wars to all of North America that is emerging as the single greatest geopolitical threat to the American way of life.”

If only we knew about it. Why doesn’t the media tell us? There are a number of possible reasons. First is Fast & Furious, the Obama Administration’s delivery of weapons to the cartels despite their brutality that equals any on earth. Reputable gun dealers were forced by the ATF to sell arms to known criminals. If they refused, they could lose their licenses. The stated aim was to trace the guns across the border to higher ups who could then somehow be brought to justice. But the guns were never followed, and meanwhile they were used to kill many Mexicans and a few Americans. We await the real explanation of this debacle.

Faced with scandal, President Obama for the first time claimed executive privilege to prevent the release of key documents. Attorney General Holder asked the media to be “reasonable” in its coverage in what was after all a big story. The media complied and didn’t look into it very hard. The exception was CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who dug too deeply and for that was hounded by the White House in various ways and finally removed from investigative reporting and resigned. The media took note. Time to be reasonable about covering border affairs. Let’s not lose access to the White House.

There’s understandable fear of the cartels who have murdered dozens of Mexican journalists. If they can avoid it, they don’t want to harm Americans – bad for business. But as they continue to expand in this country, who knows? Prudence dictates pursuing less dangerous stories, though the media might at least pay tribute to the Mexicans who take the risk, like Anabel Hernandez, who was given round-the-clock bodyguards after exposing the links between cartels and government. She writes in her book “Narcoland:” “Currently, all the old rules governing relations between the drug barons and the centers of economic and political power have broken down. The drug traffickers impose their own law. The businessmen who launder their money are their partners, while some local and federal officers are viewed as employees to be paid off in advance, for example by financing their political campaigns.”

The cartels finally came close to seizing Hernandez when a group of armed thugs raided her house in December. Luckily, she was not at home and decided it was time to go. She now lives in California. If she isn’t worth a story, who is? But try to find one in our media.

Much of the media is financially strapped today and in search of help. With wealth to spare, the cartels could lend a hand but at a price of course: no unfriendly coverage. Despite the clear lack of news of Mexican crime, no element of the media has been accused of succumbing, though rumors abound. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, one of the world’s richest men, has suspected but no proven ties to the cartels. A few years ago, he lent 350 million dollars to a needy New York Times and has since become the NY Times Company’s largest stockholder. Let’s see if the paper runs any cartel stories.

It’s said these drug bosses seek power as well as wealth. It could be as stalwart Mexicans, they’re aiming at a reconquest in their own way. Revenge on President Polk and his invaders who grabbed so much of Mexico. Now there’s a story!

Finally, an element of ideology. Neocons, assorted arm chair warriors and profiteers all want US participation in the inconclusive Middle East wars to continue indefinitely. Reports of actual danger from across the border would be a definite distraction and might lead to a rearrangement of US priorities and commitment. Please media, plead our warriors, don’t do that and let Americans know what’s happening in Mexico. That would be in the national interest, it’s true, but not in ours.

The cartels fear only one thing: legalization of marijuana. As their main product, they would be crippled, maybe be put out of business. If US lawmen don’t have to cart bales of marijuana around, they would be free to concentrate on the harder drugs and any other crimes the cartels commit. Meanwhile, the media could help by actually covering the story and producing for once a good, solid analysis of the power of the cartels and the extent to which they control Mexico and intrude on the US. Is this too much to ask?

One thought on “Drug Cartels and an Absent Media”

  1. Once perceived as a safe haven for exiled journalists from their home, as Espinosa and his colleagues did, Mexico City now finds its self in the crosshairs of the violent drug war that has mired its country for several years. This was the armored city, and now it s broken, said a colleague at Espinosa s funeral.

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