While the cherry trees blossomed along the streets of Washington DC in the Spring of 2012, Mexican authorities uncovered a grotesque scene that much of the world would expect to be set outside of Aleppo, Syria or Mosul, Iraq.
“Mexican authorities found at least 49 decapitated and dismembered bodies along a highway in a northern border state Sunday morning, officials said. The remains were left along the road in Nuevo Leon state, between the cities of Monterrey and Reynosa. A message written on a wall nearby appeared to refer to the Zetas drug cartel.
“This continues to be violence between criminal groups. This is not an attack against the civilian population,” said Jorge Domene, Nuevo Leon’s state security spokesman. He said it appeared as though the victims were killed a day or two ago, somewhere else, and that their bodies were then dropped off.
Officials said they had not ruled out the possibility that the victims could be Central American immigrants or residents of another state, telling reporters Sunday that there had not been many local missing persons reports in recent days.”
This massacre was carried out less than one hundred miles away from U.S. cities. The use of such sadistic tactics by Mexican drug cartels has remained virtually constant, and American apathy or obliviousness has followed the same trend.
It has now been over a year since the face of American journalist James Foley dominated all major national headlines, and the explosive national outrage on both sides of the aisle has since faded into a solemn dread that the U.S. has (thus far) lost the fight against ISIS. In an unfortunate case of déjà vu, as over 3 million civilians flee war-torn Iraq, Europe is beginning to feel the pressure of refugee migration much like America has for years. In both cases, dangerous insurgencies are driving the flight; the only difference is that one is fueled by a radical ideology, and the other is fueled by an insatiable lust for money.
The GOP is making the wrong argument
As the Republican presidential race continues to intensify in both ads and ad hominins, a central issue that has defined and distinguished many of the candidates is their respective stance on immigration reform and border security.
Donald Trump has drawn constant fire for painting Hispanic immigrants with a notoriously broad brush (labeling them rapists, criminals, and products of a Mexican conspiracy against the U.S. economy). Meanwhile, more moderate candidates such as Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush approach the issue with their passion instead focused on sympathy, creating an aura of weakness on the subject. Rand Paul maintains his libertarian stance; attributing the problem to the “war on drugs” which allegedly began the vicious cycle of violence in Latin America: a platform upon which he appears to stand alone.
But in spite of the conflicts brewing within the pool of GOP candidates, there is a general consensus around the need for a closed border and much stricter security. However, much of the discussion surrounding this facet of the debate has been directed at protecting Americans from the dangers that accompany illegal immigration. As a result, the GOP is often accused of being callused towards the hardships of Hispanic families and (in many cases) racist.
While the accusation of outright racism should never be taken lightly, its weight can be felt in the impact of nearly every fistful of mud slung in the American political arena. In response, the GOP has come back time and time again with a flat denial of the charges, declaring that border security simply isn’t racist.
This has always been (and will continue to be) a losing argument.
The first answer to the epidemic of persistent illegal immigration, as well the phantom notion of GOP racism is to make it clear that border security won’t just save the lives and jobs of Americans, but of Hispanics as well. In fact, innocent Hispanic families have more to gain than their U.S. counterparts.
The second answer lies in the GOP embracing what is patently a conservative position: decriminalizing marijuana. A common talking point among the right is that “the government’s job is to protect us from foreign threats; not from ourselves.” However, they then seem to forget this when it comes to drug policy, ironically suggesting that the government ought to bar the individual from personal freedom in the name of the collective. Although most 2016 presidential candidates view this solution as nearly unpalatable as the aroma it facilitates, in practice, its positive results are desperately needed – again – not just for Americans, but also for Hispanics throughout Latin America.
Understanding the scale of violence
While the genocide occurring in Iraq and Syria is undeniably horrific and should in no way be minimized, the magnitude of the drug cartel killings inside of Mexico – a civilized nation in America’s back yard – is shocking:
“…ISIS is leaving a trail of rape, beheadings, dead children and mass graves. The numbers are terrifying: More than 5,500 people have been killed in Iraq since June, according to the United Nations.
But here are some numbers – also terrifying – from just across the U.S.-Mexico border: In 2013, Mexican drug cartels murdered more than 16,000 people, and Human Rights Watch estimates more than 60,000 people were killed in drug-related violence from 2006 to 2012.”
The author of this report was citing the findings of Musa al-Gharbi, who is a research affiliate of the Southwest Initiative for the Study of Middle East Conflicts and an instructor in the Department of Government and Public Service at the University of Arizona. In his full analysis, al-Gharbi further explains that according to FBI statistics, every half-hour for the past seven years, a Mexican citizen has been viciously murdered by cartels. What is worse is that he further speculates that it could be far higher, given that Mexican officials have been known to under-report homicides by nearly 50%.
Even more gruesome is the fact that in some cases, drug cartels use methods of torture which have not yet even been utilized by ISIS, such as dissolving victims in vats of burning oil, skinning victims alive, and participating in organized cannibalism. Mexican cartels have blazed this trail of systematic inhumanity long before the Islamic State took root, and the radical jihadists in Iraq and Syria have followed in their footsteps; copying the cartel “playbook” from recruitment to execution.
It is easy to become numb to the numbers and terrorism when they are beyond comprehension, but this is the reality which lurks far too close to home for tens of thousands of Hispanic civilians. These are fathers who were wrenched away from their families. These are mothers that wished they could have told their children that they loved them one last time. These are sons and daughters that never lived to walk down the aisle, arm-in-arm with their soulmate.
If one still doubts the reasonability of the comparison between ISIS and cartels, as Bill Nye would eloquently say, “consider the following” findings of al-Gharbi:
“…Westerners across various political spectrums were outraged when ISIL seized 1,500 Yazidi women, committing sexual violence against the captives and using them as slaves. Here again, the cartels’ capture and trafficking of women dwarfs ISIL’s crimes. Narcos hold tens of thousands of Mexican citizens as slaves for their various enterprises and systematically use rape as a weapon of war.”
For parents living in the poorer areas of Mexico, there is a unique sense of dread when their daughters leave the home. Thousands of families now face the eternal uncertainty concerning the fate of their children; wondering if their souls have been put to rest, or if they live in the horrors of modern slavery. Although human trafficking is rampant in Mexico, few victims reach out to authorities out of fear for their family’s safety.
“The victims’ fear stems from the traffickers’ constant threats to harm their family and children.” Traffickers make it clear to their victims that they know where their family lives. They take away their babies and threaten girls with never seeing their children again,” [Juana Bautista, the head of the Mexico City prosecutor’s human trafficking office] said. Prosecutors rely heavily on information from local residents to build a case against traffickers, she said.
Mexico is a “large” source and destination for forced labor and sex trafficking, with adults and children forced into sex work in tourist cities like Cancun and Acapulco, according to the U.S. State Department’s 2014 Trafficking in Persons Report.”
There are few Americans who can even begin to fathom the sheer terror of having their beloved child kidnapped, habitually raped, cruelly beaten, and left to die in the gutters of a distant city once they are too weak to be of use.
Meanwhile on the domestic front, Americans have been “increasingly getting caught in the deadly crossfire.” While public anxiety has been spiked by threat of “lone wolf attacks” inspired by ISIS, many are unaware of what could be termed “wolf pack attacks” which have killed a terrifying number of U.S. citizens in recent years.
In Al-Gharbi’s analysis of FBI homicide figures, he made a startling discovery:
“The cartels’ atrocities are not restricted to the Mexican side of the border. From 2006 to 2010 as many as 5,700 Americans were killed in the U.S. by cartel-fueled drug violence. By contrast, 2,937 people were killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Over the last decade, some 2,349 Americans were killed in Afghanistan, and 4,487 Americans died in Iraq. In four years the cartels have managed to cause the deaths of more Americans than during 9/11 or either of those wars.”
It should be noted, those are just the citizens that were murdered domestically – this does not include those wounded, raped, or killed across the border.
It has also been reported that much of the loss has been in the U.S. law enforcement community. For instance, Chicago, one of the bloodiest cities in America, has attributed much of its urban violence to the presence of the powerful Sinola Cartel according to Jack Reily, the director of the DEA’s Chicago office. Furthermore, police in North Carolina contend that they have been “outmanned and outgunned” by cartel insurgents. From kidnappings and home invasions from Atlanta to Phoenix, over one thousand U.S. cities have suffered at the hands of drug lords.
While current figures no longer show drug cartels outstripping the Islamic State in terms of mass killings, the bloodshed in Mexico is intensifying. In the past year, Mexican authorities have made a concerted effort to target and capture drug kingpins such as El Chapo who (as a not-so-minor side note) replaced Usama Bin Laden as the “most wanted man in the world in the wake of the SEAL Team 6 raid in Pakistan.
Though these raids have largely been successful (not taking into account El Chapo’s incredible escape from prison), the subsequent splintering of groups has caused a new phase of terror to engulf areas of Mexico, exposing the populous to even more mass murder.
As the violence in Iraq, Syria, and Mexico continues to claim thousands of innocent lives and rip apart thousands of families, those who seek to lead the United States must be able to overcome the initial barrier of faux racism to succeed in the fight against such evil. This will require reframing the debate about border security away from a discussion about simply defending Americans to defending innocent Hispanic civilians from mass slaughter.
Breaking the stranglehold
The cartels’ strategy to fill their blood-soaked coffers is comparable a python’s strategy to devour its prey: strangle and consume.
As powerful gangs seize entire regions of Mexico, they intimidate the populous, bribe law enforcement and government officials, and create safe havens of criminality. The resulting chaos suffocates the dreams and aspirations of countless Hispanics in Mexico and greater Latin America.
As this venomous python tightens its coils around the neck of Mexican society, it slithers northward through major interstates, sinking its fangs into all who oppose it. This deadly dynamic creates a situation in which an estimated thirty-nine billion dollars in American drug payments pour back across the border, funding continued bribery, the production of more drugs, military-grade weaponry, and the voracious lifestyles of kingpins who have carved their fortune from the backs of the innocent.
Thus the endless cycle of mass murder, slavery, corruption, and illegal immigration continues undisturbed. As outlined by Richard Burgess, who is a Marine Corps Staff Sargent and a homeland security analyst at the Department of Joint Military Operations at the U.S. Naval War College:
“The most effective way to influence transnational drug cartel operations in the near term is to disrupt the flow of bulk cash and weapons across the U.S.-Mexico border, and the State Department is ill-equipped to do so. Mexican drug cartels profit an estimated $30 billion annually (3-4% of Mexico’s GDP) from illegal drug trade with the United States. Much of this revenue returns to Mexico in the form of cash through the porous Southwest border. In turn, Cartels use cash profits primarily to arm and equip their forces; it is also used subversively to organize and recruit new members as well as corrupt federal, state, and local law enforcement.”
Arizona’s former Attorney General concurs with Sgt. Burgess’ contention, writing:
“A more effective border strategy starts with the money; the torrent of cash pouring across the border into the drug cartel pocketbooks. The cartels are, first and foremost, business enterprises. Sophisticated organizations are formed not for any lust for power or to employ the bosses’ relatives, but because they maximize profits. Cartel agents do not threaten, terrorize, and kill because they love the work, or out of religious zeal. They do it because they are very well‐paid… Taking away the profit cripples the organization. Conversely, as long as the money from drug sales and human smuggling — which may total more than $40 billion a year — flows to the cartels, the violence in Mexico, the sophisticated smugglers crossing our border, and the perception that nothing is being done to defend the border will continue.”
Unless and until the United States finally makes the decision to effectively secure the border, the drug trade will endure; strangling Mexico and poisoning America. In order to end the cycle of violence, America must sever the critical veins through which illicit materials flow: America must cut off the head of the snake.
Empowering border patrol with the tools required to interdict both people and products will make great strides in saving the lives of Mexican civilians. It is truly heartbreaking to witness the flood of people pouring into the U.S. illegally. However, just as in the case of the current migrant crisis in Europe, the best way to save these innocent lives is by eviscerating the source of the genocide, which leads to the second facet of this solution.
Embracing individualism as a weapon
It is interesting to note that El Chapo Guzman of the deadly Sinola cartel has received the rare designation of “Public Enemy Number One,” which is exactly the same brand set upon Al Capone in the era of prohibition. The amount of parallels between prohibition and the drug war are startling, and one of the side effects of criminalizing marijuana is the government-sanctioned monopoly granted to some of the worst people on earth. A major step in protecting Americans (and especially Hispanics) from terrorist-style barbarism is ending cartel market domination.
Marijuana legalization has demonstrated that embracing individualism spears directly through drug trafficking organizations’ monopolistic Achilles heel. Now to be completely fair, it is not a silver bullet in and of itself, and cartels are actively scrambling to counter the blow. But coupled with stringent border security (which would block any compensatory product from being imported), the pair could prove to be an (ironically) killer combination.
As reported by Ioan Grillo (a seasoned journalist and author covering the Latin American drug trade), marijuana seizures among Mexican and U.S. authorities have simultaneously plunged by nearly one-third in just one year. He further elaborates:
“This fall appears to have little to do with law enforcement, however, and all to do with the wave of U.S. marijuana legalization. The votes by Colorado and Washington State to legalize marijuana in 2012, followed by Alaska, Oregon and D.C. last year have created a budding industry… Drug policy reformists tout this market shift from Mexican gangsters to American licensed growers as a reason to spread legalization. “It is no surprise to me that marijuana consumers choose to buy their product from a legal tax-paying business as opposed to a black market product that is not tested or regulated,” says Tom Angell, chairman of Marijuana Majority.”
While Grillo cites an arguably biased source on the topic, the stark evidence and explanation form a strong affirmation of Laissez-faire economics in which the GOP claims to believe: society benefits most when government refrains from dictating markets. Just as in the case of prohibition, illegalization of recreational substances has crushed the individual in the name of defending the collective from itself (disturbingly similar to the principles and effects which animated communism throughout the 20th century).
But Grillo continues in his analysis:
“This means less cash for Mexican cartels to buy guns, bribe police and pay assassins. Coinciding with legalization, violence has decreased in Mexico. Homicides hit a high in 2011, with Mexican police departments reporting almost 23,000 murders. Last year, they reported 15,649.”
This cannot be argued as an accident or a coincidence – this is precisely the mechanism needed to strip violent gangs of the resources they need to impose a living hell on the Latin American people. This financial shock was accurately foreseen in a 2012 report published by the Mexican Competitiveness Institute which predicted that drug revenues could drop by as much as 30% in the wake of marijuana legalization by Washington State, Colorado, and Oregon. The report was almost prophetic when compared to the above findings of Ioan Grillo.
This solution is actively saving Hispanic (and no doubt) American lives from animalistic demise.
Yes: there are dangers associated with the use of marijuana just as there are in the use of alcohol. However, when rancorous gangsters infiltrate our cities, rape and wound our people, execute our law enforcement officers, and mercilessly slaughter and sell our regional neighbors into slavery, the priority must be protecting the individual from the terrorist, not from themselves.
If the United States truly feels sympathy for the unimaginable loss of so many across this earth, it ought to go forth and ensure the utter destruction of the evil which has consumed the areas of the globe from which people are fleeing.
In Iraq and Syria, that means defeating the illegitimate and perverse interpretation of Islam as well as eliminating those who espouse it. In Mexico and other parts of Latin America, it means destroying criminal profits both by ending their monopoly and denying access to their largest consumer market.
This is how the GOP must frame the debate over immigration reform and border security. The presidential hopefuls of 2016 must make it overwhelmingly clear that those who support open borders are unwitting enablers of narcoterrorism against Mexican families. Further, republicans must make this and issue of morality – because it is. It is morally repugnant to oppose border security measures for the sake of harvesting new votes to stay in power. Exploiting a suffering ethnicity for personal gain (while simultaneously blocking solutions which would defend them) is arguably an actual occurrence of racism.
As long as republicans stay on the defensive when accused of racism as well as refrain from addressing the plight of Hispanic civilians with proven remedies, they will never be able to break the waves of innocent blood crashing against America’s doorstep.