Saturday, January 05, 2008
Mexico's Crime Lords - Rising Threat to U.S. Tourists
Baja California near San Diego has become more dangerous for Americans who have enjoyed Baja beaches for years.
Motorists on toll roads have been stopped by cars with flashing lights that resemble Mexican police cars - only to have property stolen by armed men. Women have been raped by these thugs. It's unnerved enough people that business has plummeted in these tourists areas.
This was not the case in Mazatlan when I visited. It and remote Cabo San Lucas have been spared, but the trend is not positive. There is something going wrong in Mexico and we need to pay attention and figure out how to reverse this detrimental security situation
The problem is that, like Al Capone during prohibition, the illegal drug trade has become so profitable that it has spun off more crime. Police are paid so little that corruption is easy and endemic. One police captain was almost assassinated after he promised to take on the drug cartels. Journalists who write about it are killed.
The usual solution is to throw money at the problem; Bush has proposed $500 million for Mexico. It hasn't worked before and I doubt it will work now for a simple reason. The drug business generates over $200 billion a year in profits. $500 million is nothing against that.
But even investing $200 billion wouldn't change anything unless we invested it in creating jobs south of the border -- so that it pays more to grow flowers or veggies instead of coca or pot. Spending that much on the military has not worked either.
We give too little to economic development to make a alternatives to illegal activity more attractive.
In fact, we will never beat the gangs until we do what we did that broke Al Capone -- who was also an illegal drug dealer -- we need to seriously consider decriminalizing the stuff. This makes sense especially for low end stuff like medical marijuana so authorities can focus on more serious substances (like heroin, opium and Oxycontin).
One Presidential candidate, Ron Paul, agrees. he points out that alcohol, a drug kills about 100,000 year and tobacco, another drug, kills 350,000/year - versus a fraction of that (Paul quotes 3,600/year) who die due to illegal drugs.
The end of prohibition of alcohol (which is a drug) eliminated the trade in booze by the mafia and put the profits back into legitimate businesses who took over.
Until we take out the billions in profits from this business, the problem with these increasingly international gangs --and their violence against Mexicans and Americans -- will continue to grow and get worse. With $200 billion a year in tax free profits, drug thugs can buy a lot of underpaid police, assassinate the non-corrupt at will, and kill at random.
History has shown what works and what doesn't. But we have yet to learn from it. Until we do, our security will worsen, as chillingly described in the article above.