The U.S. border town Douglas, Arizona, has set an example of how to deal with a Mexican drug cartel. Seizing an opportunity, a cartel sent over a flamboyant youngster to run for mayor of Douglas. He won the election and promptly started to turn Douglas into a replica of a Mexican cartel town. That was too much for the citizenry who rebelled and ran an opposition candidate in the next election – a Mormon with ten children. He won, the cartel favorite scampered away, and Douglas, with some adjustments, was able to return to normal.
The circumstances of Landers (pop: almost 3000) in the southern California desert are different, but the spirit could be the same. At the small post office, which comprises the center of the town, I met two elderly residents who described their plight. They are surrounded by cartel marijuana farms. They stink,” says one, meaning in a number of ways. They produce trash whch they don’t bother to clean up. They steal water needed in great volume for the marijuana plants. Their pesticides destroy wildlife, even two bears, not to mention the slow moving tortoise always threatened with extinction.
Patricia Domay, who lives in Landers, complained to a local newspaper that the name should be changed to “Potlandia.” My postoffice companion doesn’t want her name mentioned because of the possible danger. In Mexico anyone making this kind of trouble for a cartel would be promptly killed. She says townspeople are understandably intimidated by the spreading maijuana farms. “They are nervous, frustrated and some are scared as they have every right to be.” But a recent community meeting of some 200 people considered ways to combat the ominous newcomers, including, to be sure, harsher laws against them.
The cartels would like us to leave so they can take over, says this impassioned Landers resident. No way. Let them leave.
For better or worse in this democracy of ours, Landers can’t expect much help from U.S. higher-ups. Complacent dreamers in Washington might even consider the cartel intrusion as a kind of prank. Look at what those silly Mexicans are up to now. Besides, the people of Landers are not our kind of people. Our kind are now bringing “peace and democracy” to various parts of the world.
No dreamers, the cartels are aware of this attitude in Washington. They looked no doubt with astonishment on the tolerance of the recent burning and looting of major American cities. We don’t do this kind of thing, they would say. Surely, the indulgent U.S won’t interfere with our harmless marijuana farms.
In fact, they are much involved. While their farms are quite distant from one another in the desert, they are hardly alone. Free from border restrictions, they sell directly to the U.S, which requires all kinds of intermediaries to make the deliveries and the sales. They tie into the inner city gangs which profit mightily from their participation and mimicking Mexico, fight among themselves for control of the traffic. How much of this is responsible for the destruction in the cities? No one bothers to look.
Let small town America – a Douglas, a Landers – show the way out.