Heading Down Mexico Way

On Friday, once this week's Chronicle has been put to bed, I hop in the pick-up and head for Mexico for a month or so of on-the-scene reporting on the drug war south of the border. If all goes according to plan, I'll be spending a week in Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, and Matamoros, the major Rio Grande Valley border towns on the Mexican side, where the Mexican government sent in the army a couple of weeks ago. After that, it's a week in Mexico City to talk to politicians, marijuana activists, academics, drug treatment workers, and others in the Mexican capital. Then, I'll head to the beaches of Oaxaca for a weekend, then up the Pacific Coast, stopping in the mountains above Acapulco to talk to poppy farmers, human rights observers, and whoever else I can find. A few hundred miles further north, in Sinaloa, I'll be trying to make contact with pot farmers, as well as seeing what the impact of the Sinaloa Cartel is on the ground in its home state. I will also, of course, be making a pilgrimage to the shrine of San Juan Malverde, patron saint of drug traffickers, on the outskirts of Culicacan. And then it's back toward Gringolandia, with a few days on the Tijuana side of the border, provided I have any money left by then. In the meantime, I'd like to share with you something that appeared last week but that got little attention. It's an analysis of drug situation in Mexico from Austin-based Strategic Forecasting, Inc, and it's pretty grim. Titled The Geopolitics of Dope, the analysis is a steadfastly realistic look at what drug warrior can hope to accomplish fighting the cartels. You should read the whole thing--it's very, very chewy--but here are the last few paragraphs:
The cartel’s supply chain is embedded in the huge legal bilateral trade between the United States and Mexico. Remember that Mexico exports $198 billion to the United States and — according to the Mexican Economy Ministry — $1.6 billion to Japan and $1.7 billion to China, its next biggest markets. Mexico is just behind Canada as a U.S. trading partner and is a huge market running both ways. Disrupting the drug trade cannot be done without disrupting this other trade. With that much trade going on, you are not going to find the drugs. It isn’t going to happen. Police action, or action within each country’s legal procedures and protections, will not succeed. The cartels’ ability to evade, corrupt and absorb the losses is simply too great. Another solution is to allow easy access to the drug market for other producers, flooding the market, reducing the cost and eliminating the economic incentive and technical advantage of the cartel. That would mean legalizing drugs. That is simply not going to happen in the United States. It is a political impossibility. This leaves the option of treating the issue as a military rather than police action. That would mean attacking the cartels as if they were a military force rather than a criminal group. It would mean that procedural rules would not be in place, and that the cartels would be treated as an enemy army. Leaving aside the complexities of U.S.-Mexican relations, cartels flourish by being hard to distinguish from the general population. This strategy not only would turn the cartels into a guerrilla force, it would treat northern Mexico as hostile occupied territory. Don’t even think of that possibility, absent a draft under which college-age Americans from upper-middle-class families would be sent to patrol Mexico — and be killed and wounded. The United States does not need a Gaza Strip on its southern border, so this won’t happen. The current efforts by the Mexican government might impede the various gangs, but they won’t break the cartel system. The supply chain along the border is simply too diffuse and too plastic. It shifts too easily under pressure. The border can’t be sealed, and the level of economic activity shields smuggling too well. Farmers in Mexico can’t be persuaded to stop growing illegal drugs for the same reason that Bolivians and Afghans can’t. Market demand is too high and alternatives too bleak. The Mexican supply chain is too robust — and too profitable — to break easily. The likely course is a multigenerational pattern of instability along the border. More important, there will be a substantial transfer of wealth from the United States to Mexico in return for an intrinsically low-cost consumable product — drugs. This will be one of the sources of capital that will build the Mexican economy, which today is 14th largest in the world. The accumulation of drug money is and will continue finding its way into the Mexican economy, creating a pool of investment capital. The children and grandchildren of the Zetas will be running banks, running for president, building art museums and telling amusing anecdotes about how grandpa made his money running blow into Nuevo Laredo. It will also destabilize the U.S. Southwest while grandpa makes his pile. As is frequently the case, it is a problem for which there are no good solutions, or for which the solution is one without real support.
This is the situation the Bush administration wants to throw $1.4 billion at in the next couple of years. Maybe it and Congress should be reading Strategic Forecasting analyses, too.
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

Yoiu sound like an Anti-American Communist.

Have fun in you new found land.. And please stay there.

And You Sound Like a John Bircher from the 1950s

Please go back to the 1950s and stay there.

psmith's picture

Damn...busted! How did you figure it out?

Long live the Fourth International!

Smash the fascist parasite that preys upon the people!

All hail Gonzalo thought!

Go Big Red, Beat State!

A drug reformer with big balls

really scares the shit out of you nut job authoritarians. GOOD!

Turn about is fair prey.

borden's picture


Phil could tell you that I'm doggedly nonpartisan in my approach to DRCNet. Still, I've noticed that anything on our site that can be misconstrued as "leftist" will draw a comment about that from someone on the right, yet we never draw criticism from the left when we quote or write about the work of right-leaning legalizers.

I have to say that this one goes to a new level. I've looked through Phil's blog post, and I'm unable to find anything justifying the characterization of "Anti-American Communist," unless merely visiting Mexico gets you that label.

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC


You don't sound communist, I think people need to go back to school and learn what communism is.
But I would disagree with this website, guns and liquor is legal yet people still transport them, and make it illegally. Mexico used to have these drugs legalized, and loose laws, look at what happened. The drug war will never stop, never. You think its a politically impossible thing to do in the US, in Mexico its also seen as impossible, thorough the eyes of civilians & politicians. Unless your a druggy.
France stopped in the 60s. The Miami cartel stopped in the 80s, there are some many examples of success when people have said its impossible.

Your take on kids of the Zetas using that money for good is crazy. There are already museums, schools, infrastructure, etc... being funded by wealthy, corporate Mexicans not cartels. Those cartels are already super-rich and they don't give a bit about Mexico's welfare.
To assume Mexico's capital is due to drugs is crazy. Its due to oil, tourism, immigrant money, construction. Yo need to look more into the place you are going to visit, hopefully it'll open your eyes more.

psmith's picture

Hmmm, I think you're mistaking Stratfor's views for mine.

They're the ones who said the stuff about the Zetas.

borden's picture


The premise here is wrong -- Mexico didn't have these drugs legalized.

David Borden, Executive Director
StoptheDrugWar.org: the Drug Reform Coordination Network
Washington, DC

"But I would disagree with

"But I would disagree with this website, guns and liquor is legal yet people still transport them, and make it illegally. "

liquor is hardly ever sold illegally. the only reason that guns are sold illegally is because killing someone with a legally registered gun allows the police to find the killer (in case you don't know, the bullet fired from a gun is evidence of the individual gun it was fired from).

If drugs were legal they would hardly ever be sold illegally.


I find it unfortunate that people are reading what you quoted and responding as if you wrote it. Are you going to be reporting while in Mexico or saving it for a large article when you're back?

- Michael Blunk


Be safe , down there. We don't need one of our own dead because of their, useless, fight against prohibition! We don't need another dead body, added to the statistics, proving "why drugs are so bad".

Big balls

Its takes some mighty big balls to do what you are doing.

Good luck. Take care.

May the god's protect you.

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