Calderon says US bears huge responsibility for drugs

“[E]ither the United States and its society, its government and its congress decide to drastically reduce their consumption of drugs, or if they are not going to reduce it they at least have the moral responsibility to reduce the flow of money towards Mexico, which goes into the hands of criminals. They have to explore even market mechanisms to see if that can allow the flow of money to reduce,” says outgoing Mexico President Calderon.

The dirty truth of course is that much of the literal blood money from drugs ends up being laundered by corrupt US hedge funds and investment banks, which makes them every bit as criminal as the drug cartels themselves.

And why do Americans take so much drugs? We need to face this unpleasant truth and ask why, and what can we do to change it. But the underlying problem is that we have a parasite, criminal financial class that doesn’t care how many die, are tortured, or become addicts, so long as the money keeps coming in.

Huge Arizona drug bust just a fraction of smuggling

Federal and state law enforcement recently made three mass arrests of drug smugglers in Arizona, resulting in a staggering amount of confiscated drugs, weapons, and money. In total, 76 suspected smugglers were arrested. Over 20 tons of marijuana, 160 pounds of heroin, 210 pounds of cocaine, almost $760,000 in cash, and 108 weapons were seized.

Yet, Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu says this is just a tiny fraction of the drugs coming through and that these busts will slow the cartel down but certainly not stop it.  Perhaps even more unsettling, two of the weapons found in the arrests were tied to the botched Fast and Furious attempt by ATF to allow guns to pass across the border into the hands of the cartels so they could be tracked.

The drug traffickers are believed to be part of the massive and powerful Sinaloa Cartel, who some think seem to be curiously untouchable and immune from arrests, although that’s certainly not what happened this time.  They have complete control of the Mexico / Arizona border and are the biggest of all the drug trafficking organizations. They ship cocaine from Columbia as well as their own marijuana, heroin, and meth (The Sierra Madres provide an ideal growing climate for poppies).  Their leader is the elusive Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán who somehow managed to escape from a maximum security prison in a laundry truck in 2001. He is Mexico’s most-wanted, and the DEA considers him the “godfather of the drug world.”

Arizona drugs mostly come in through an 80 mile corridor between Yuma and Sells. This is rugged, barren land with few roads. A large portion of it runs through the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Some roads there are closed in the winter. The enormous Barry M. Goldwater Air Force Range is directly north of Cabeza Prieta, so I’m guessing smugglers wouldn’t be going through that way! For one thing, any arrests there would automatically be under federal jurisdiction and penalties much harsher. 

Rte 85 goes from the border at Lukeville through Organ Pipe, connecting with I-8 at Gila Bend. This seems a probable route for drug traffickers, even if it is heavily watched by law enforcement. Most of the rest of the 80 miles is on Tohono O’Odham land. There is a network of small roads heading south from Sells but there are no obvious crossing points at the border.

This border land is mostly unremittingly hostile to humans. It is rugged terrain with little water, scorching temperatures in the summer, and the usual assortment of Arizona desert flora and fauna that bite, sting, and imbed themselves in you. The geography of the land makes it is one of the few areas in the entire US / Mexico border that has no fences, nor is it easy to patrol. That’s why smugglers use it.

I can understand how a few hundred pounds of heroin and cocaine can be backpacked across the borders. But transporting twenty tons of marijuana requires large vehicles which probably can’t maneuver well on remote dirt roads and thus would have to go on highways like Rte. 85.

Think about it. These busts, massive as they are, probably won’t even cause much panic in their destination cities because vast quantities continue to be smuggled in. This is our problem too, not just Mexico’s.

(crossposted from AZIVN)

US military weaponry being used by drug cartels in Mexico

DJ was right. He’s long maintained that while drug cartels may be getting some weapons from straw buyers in the US this couldn’t possibly account for the huge numbers of weapons they have nor are such weapons powerful enough.

He recently commented on a post here about straw gun buyers being arrested in Arizona.

Always the accountant, I note that 38 guns [bought by one person arrested] is a mere fraction of a percent of the 30,000-odd guns confiscated in Mexico each year. We now know that it happens. But to what degree?

If I was a drug cartel purchaser, working for an organization with unlimited money and excellent skills at covert shipping, I wouldn’t spend $450 (plus bribes) to buy an AK-47 semi-automatic rifle that can be gotten by the handful across the border. No, I’d by caseloads of full-auto AK-47s at $100 apiece (or less) from Somalia and other places around the world.

Anyone using an American-bought AK-47 semi-auto would be seriously outgunned.

As it turns out, much of the weaponry is indeed coming from the US. But it’s not via small purchases from gun shops. Narco News presents convincing evidence based on Wikileaks cables and their own investigations that seriously heavy weaponry used by the US military is finding its way, sometimes legally sometimes otherwise, to Mexico and the cartels. This is military-grade weaponry and is not available in gun stores. (That semi-auto AK you can buy in some US gun shores is comparatively, a pea shooter. Full auto AKs, while legal in some areas, are strictly controlled by the federal government and require a special license. They are also very expensive, like $15,000 vs. $100 in Somalia. Thus, they aren’t trafficked in the States.)

Narco News

Those [firearms] exports are approved through the State Department, under a program known as Direct Commercial Sales. A sister program, called Foreign Military Sales, is overseen by the Pentagon and also taps U.S. contractors to manufacture weapons (such as machine guns and grenades) for export to foreign entities, including companies and governments.

The State Department cables recently made public by WikiLeaks do seem to confirm that the U.S. government is very aware that much of the heavy firepower now in the hands of Mexican criminal organizations isn’t linked to mom-and-pop gun stores, but rather the result of blowback from U.S. arms-trading policies (both current and dating back to the Iran/Contra era) that put billions of dollars of deadly munitions into global trade stream annually.

Narco News says weapons sent to the Contras by the US have been refurbished and are now being used by drug cartels. They note that a shadowy company here in the States has been shut down after being accused of illegally trafficking for years in firearms, including gun barrels.

As the death toll mounts in the drug war now raging in Mexico, it pays to remember that weapons trafficking, both government-sponsored and illegal, is a big business that feeds and profits off that carnage.

So, we have the despicable spectacle of major US banks admitting they laundered money for drug cartels (and getting off with fines and not prison for those responsible) while US military grade weaponry somehow keeps finding its way to those same cartels. Sounds like Third World corruption, doesn’t it?

Among the blowback from the odd refusal of the US to imprison money launderers or to stop trafficking of military weaponry is a new genre of video, that of real-life torture and murder by one cartel against the captured members of another cartel or law enforcement.

A dramatic video has surfaced titled “brother of Patricia González la piñata,” where various masked men assault a man with a bat and an electric stungun. The victim is presumably Mario González, brother of a former prosecutor for the state of Chihuahua, whose previous interrogation videos were released on YouTube.

Let’s legalize drugs, all of them. Portugal decriminalized use of all drugs ten years ago and their drug usage has dropped compared to the rest of the EU. This would also put an end to the violence and corruption. Hey, Joe Kennedy was a bootlegger who went legit when Prohibition ended and a generation later, his son became president. It’s not like we don’t have a precedent for legalizing what was once illegal.

Why money laundering matters

Bank Info Security

“It is easy to forget and/or never really truly understand why this is such an important issue if you only see anti-money laundering as a paperwork detail,” Sullivan says. “Just look at what is going on at the border currently; you have got the drug lords and their gangs who are absolutely running wild.”

And how do the drug lords finance their activity? Money laundering.

“I don’t mean to speak on some sort of moral high horse here, but there is much more to this AML stuff than just shuffling papers across a desk, and it is really not an issue of Big Brother looking over the average guy’s shoulder,” Sullivan says. “This stuff cuts to the very fabric of who we are as Americans and the future of our children and our country. And if we are able to put a damper on the means to commit and/or continue the various organized criminal activities, then that must be our combined focus to do.”

There are powerful forces in this country who profit mightily from laundered money and thus who do not want this flow of literal blood money to stop. This includes corrupt banks, dirty hedge funds, and no doubt plenty of politicians too.